Where we like to live: Peter Chittenden

Where we like to live: Peter Chittenden
Where we like to live: Peter Chittenden

Cities are ever changing environments that are continuously evolving and they reflect the varied and always developing needs of the population.

The complexity of the population is naturally reflected in the make-up of the housing market and while fashions change, our underlying housing preferences appear to be somewhat more rigid than might be expected. And so the question will always be – are we matching demand and how we market to this audience

It appears that at times we have a disconnection between where we live and where we would like to live. Work, family, finances and lifestyle balance all play their part, alongside our national, still very dominant desire to have our own homes. This area is still driven by emotion and aspiration. There’s a lot of emotion in almost all parts of the housing market and the desire for homeownership is also closely tied to a feeling of achievement, personal growth and self-worth.

In almost any casual conversation we are often asked, where do you live? And where do you work and what do you do? Where we live in particular is very much seen as part of who we are, and so the character of the housing market is a constant source of fascination.

A Large House Near The City

In research published by the Grattan Institute, a large house near the city was seen as the most desirable goal for many people, but the actual structure of our housing market is somewhat different.

Homeownership is falling, and the numbers of people renting is on the rise. Both trends were evident. When measured in the last census in 2011, homeowners (either owned or with a mortgage) was around 67%, and rental accommodation sat around 29.6%, but the falling trend among homeowners has been constant and was closer to 75% in the 1960’s.

At the same time rents and mortgage repayments have been on the constant increase, and one particular measure remains on an upward trend and that’s the number of households where rent or mortgage payments are taking more than 30% of incomes, with rents at 10.4% and mortgage loan repayments at 9.9%. It’s a trend that the 2016 census is bound to see continue as house prices have increased over recent years.

There’s also a link between the size of families and their incomes and the ability to buy a home. Couples and sole parents with children account for 60.5% of households with both parents being employed either full or part-time making up 25.4%, with only 15.7% being households with just one parent working full-time, and even less with one parent in part-time employment at just 5.4% supporting the household.

Most of Us Still Live in Detached Homes

Where we live and the impact that has on household size and the importance of location also shows some related trends. As the figures above might help reinforce, families are more concerned about the size of a home.

The split is currently 75.6% living in detached homes, but that figure is gradually falling, 9.9% then live in semi-detached and 13.6% in apartments, with both are on an upward trend. The fall in the numbers of people living in detached homes is shown by the fact that in 1976 the figure stood at 78%, and while the decline is not huge, it’s now a constant trend and may well be more marked with recent trends towards the popularity of apartments.

What is somewhat a surprise is that evidence points to the popularity and demand for medium density housing, in reality the supply of semi-detached homes and townhouses has been falling way behind demand. Medium density sits somewhere between high-rise apartment living and the larger more traditional detached home and this would help explain, not surprisingly why these homes are so popular. And when it comes to size, we see that 3-bedroom and 4-bedroom homes together account for 73.9% of housing stock, with the demand for 4-bedroom homes on the increase.

When Location Is Key

While for families home size and the number of bedrooms are the most important factors, location is much more important as we get older and it’s also the same for singles.

While families are concerned about house size, as we get older we look for closer connections to work, being closer to family and facilities like transport, and the same goes for singles as they look for wider community connections. For these groups a central or CBD location and all that it entails is driving demand and pushing prices as sites are absorbed.

Then we also find that across all groups affordability always comes into the picture. This will then influence size, condition, access to transport and the key suburbs people are most attracted to. Our housing preferences are well-established but changing.

However as is clearly demonstrated by some of the shortages being experienced in Sydney, meeting all aspects of household demand isn’t easy. There are many layers that add time, cost and complexity to meeting demand. Finding suitable sites in very popular areas, the time to deliver the finished projects, planning delays and the costs involved will explain why in some markets demand is not being met.

Demand is being seen from the inner-city to major new growth regions on the city fringe. Then some housing preferences, like the demand for more mid-range medium density housing may be falling short. There’s a fine balance between location, cost and size that all buyers have to navigate when making a choice of where to live, and prices are reflecting the key areas of demand.

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International. He can be contacted here.

Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International.

Growth Housing Development

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