Housing affordability and the ever-growing Australian curse: Robert Simeon

Housing affordability and the ever-growing Australian curse: Robert Simeon
Housing affordability and the ever-growing Australian curse: Robert Simeon

Yes, those two words that keep trending every day on the 24-hour news cycle for 365 days each year – housing affordability.

So why can’t anyone come up with a logical explanation on how to fix this ever-growing Australian curse? Well first, nobody is really drilling down to find the precise definition and what will lead to the likely cure and allow me to tell you that massive new high density construction in the major cities is not going to fix the problem.

Sydney is a prime example although first we need to pin point a year when housing affordability really started to change for the worse and for me that year would be 1990 which is when the Australian economy embarked on its unprecedented 25 years of economic growth.

Yes house prices boomed in 1987 to 1989 which really was Sydney’s last massive housing boom which then was brought crashing down with the recession of the early 1990’s. In the late 1980’s our population was not really going anywhere, for example in Mosman in 1987 Cremorne Girls’ High School closed its doors to then see it acquired by SCEGGS Redlands.

In 1989, Balmoral Beach Infants’ School was closed and mysteriously sold to Queenwood Girls’ School the night before the site was due to go to public tender. Beauty Point Public School, Middle Harbour Primary School, Mosman Primary School and Mosman High School all were facing closure as attendance records were well below the Department of Education acceptable levels for operation requirements.

Today, all these schools are at maximum attendance levels. The closure of schools over this period was happening all over NSW – it was not an isolated event.

Back then property prices in Mosman were ten to fifteen times lower than where they find themselves today. The cash rate was sitting at 17.00 to 17.50 per cent on 23 January 1990 where today it sits at 1.50 per cent.


The “Baby Boomers” born the decade after World War II (now roughly aged 47 – 65) were all jumping into that family tradition of buying real estate. The problem here is that the strong concentration of the boomers all wanted to live in the Sydney CBD – which remains the same patterns that we see today. The missing link here in this housing affordability discussion is that transport infrastructure was frozen to the extent that 25 years later despite a massive upswing in our population we are still using the same archaic transport infrastructure.

For the past 25 years, our elected politicians have all been caught up in a transport infrastructure brain freeze where sadly today there is no big picture for Sydney, although we could name an abundance of other major cities around the world who have successfully addressed growing populations with transport infrastructure.

This explains exactly why we now have raging property prices today, which certainly would not be the case if we had a transport infrastructure where a 200-kilometre radius around Sydney was inter connected with state of the art fast train services. It really should not be that difficult to pinpoint the problem. Although it is very clear why so many have extreme difficulties when attempting to define housing affordability and what needs to be done to correct these huge problems facing so many Australians.

Exorbitant stamp duties payable on the purchases of properties have played a major role in seeing record low stock levels across Sydney, although there is another part of this mystery puzzle that keeps sailing under our property radars. Look again at the baby boomers who would be Australia’s largest property owners in the home ownership and investment portfolios. They are astute businesspeople who know that they will not get any returns with cash sitting in the bank where we now have the lowest cash rate on record. In recent years, they have been enjoying huge capital gains on their principle place of residence, so they have held – off selling for most obvious reasons.

This in turn has significantly impacted the supply side of the equation where such collaborative actions have driven prices higher, and in all probability this will continue in 2017. Although having said that all eyes will be on Trump, Brexit and how Europe reacts together with the goings – on in China and Russia. Of course, we can’t ignore this week’s unemployment rate which hit 5.8 per cent being the worst calendar year result since 2013.

It is hard to see the Reserve Bank of Australia lowering the cash rate further from the present 1.50 per cent so it would be fair to suggest that we are at the lowest possible rates.

So, in 2017, I will be closely watching the baby boomers simply because at the first sight of severe head – winds they will be first to cash – up which in turn would see stock levels increase significantly. In the meantime, we just sit back and observe the property market machinations with great interest.

Next week, NSW will appoint its seventh premier in 12 years – what does that tell you? No doubt the allergy to economic reform will remain in isolation.

ROBERT SIMEON is a director of Richardson Wrench Mosman and Neutral Bay and has been selling residential real estate in Sydney since 1985. 

He has also been writing real estate blog Virtual Realty News since 2000.

Robert Simeon

Robert Simeon

Robert Simeon is a director of Richardson Wrench Mosman and Neutral Bay and has been selling residential real estate in Sydney since 1985. He has also been writing real estate blog Virtual Realty News since 2000.

Housing Affordability Property market


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