Secure and affordable housing is fundamental to the wellbeing of Australians. Home ownership continues to be a widely held aspiration in Australia, providing owners with security of housing tenure and long–term social and economic benefits (AIHW 2018). In recent times, there has been much public debate about the rate of home ownership and housing affordability. See Housing affordability and Housing assistance.

In 2016, there were nearly 8.3 million households in Australia, according to Census of Population and Housing data.

Where household tenure was known:

  • 67% (5.4 million households) were home owners:
    • 32% (2.6 million households) without a mortgage
    • 35% (2.9 million households) with a mortgage
  • 32% (2.6 million households) were renters; where landlord type was known:
    • 26% (2.1 million households) were renting from private landlords
    • 3.7% (300,000 households) from state or territory housing authorities
    • 1.3% (105,500 households) from other landlords
  • 1.0% (79,000 households) were other tenure, including households which are not an owner with or without a mortgage, or a renter (ABS 2017c).

While Census data provides the most comprehensive view of housing tenure among Australian households, it is limited to once every 5 years. Other survey data can be used to monitor changes in housing circumstances during non-Census periods. Survey of Income and Housing data shows that in the past 20 years to 2017–18, there has been a decline in the proportion of households owning their home without a mortgage, and increases in households with a mortgage and in private rental agreements (Figure 1).

Trends in home ownership

Home ownership data from the 2016 Census show a home ownership rate of 67%, down slightly from 68% in 2011. While the home ownership rate remained around 67–70% from the mid-1960s, the rate for different age groups has varied markedly over this time. The rates among different age groups can be determined using the age of the Census household reference person. Specifically, the number of private dwellings by age of household reference person and tenure type can be used to calculate the proportion of homeowners of specific age groups from total households (excluding not stated).

The home ownership rate of 30–34 year olds was 64% in 1971, decreasing 14 percentage points to 50% in 2016, according to Census data. For Australians aged 25–29, the decrease was similar—50% in 1971, decreasing to 37% in 2016. Home ownership rates have also decreased among people nearing retirement. Since 1996, home ownership rates have gradually declined; rates for the 50–54 age group have seen a 6.6 percentage point fall over these 20 years (80% to 74%) (AIHW 2019).

To further illustrate these changes in home ownership rates, Census data can be presented by birth cohorts (Figure 2). The rate has fallen for each successive birth cohort since 1947–1951. Home ownership rates of Australians born during 1947–1951 increased from 54% in 1976 (when they were aged 25–29) to 82% 40 years later in 2016 (when they were aged 65–69). By contrast, the home ownership rate of those born during 1987–1991 was 37% in 2016 (when they were aged 25–29), 17 percentage points lower than the 1947–1951 cohort at the same age.

Financial support for home buyers

Governments provide financial support to assist people to buy a house. The three main types of support available to home buyers are home purchase assistance, First Home Owner Grant scheme, and First Home Super Saver Scheme.

Home purchase assistance includes a range of financial assistance, such as direct lending, concessional loans and mortgage relief, to eligible low-income households to improve their access to, and to maintain, home ownership. Households may receive more than one type of home purchase assistance (AIHW 2018).

First Home Owner Grant scheme, introduced nationally 1 July 2000, is funded by the state and territory governments and administered under their legislation. A one–off grant is payable to low–income first homeowners who apply and satisfy eligibility criteria.  Examples are that at least one applicant must be a permanent resident or Australian citizen, each applicant must be at least 18 years of age, and temporary residents do not qualify to receive the grant (AIHW 2018).  

First Home Super Saver Scheme, introduced by the Australian Government in the 2017–18 Federal Budget, supports first home buyers who meet the eligibility criteria to save money for a house deposit using their superannuation fund. They can voluntarily contribute up to $15,000 in any one financial year, and $30,000 in total under the scheme. They receive the tax benefit of saving through their superannuation contribution arrangements (ATO 2019; Australian Treasury 2017).

In 2017–18, around 42,400 instances of home purchase assistance were provided across Australia. Of these:

  • almost half (49%) of the main applicants receiving assistance were aged 25–44
  • one-quarter (26%) of recipients earned a gross income of less than $700 per week ($36,400 per annum)
  • more than two-thirds (71%, or 30,200) of households receiving home purchase assistance were in Major cities, 14% (5,900) in Outer regional areas and 12% (5,000) in Inner regional areas. Only a small proportion were in Remote (3% or 1,000) or Very remote (less than 1% or 300) areas (AIHW 2019).

The number of dwellings purchased by first time home buyers—those likely to access First Home Owner Grant payments—decreased, from around 135,800 dwellings in 2009–10 to 98,200 in 2018–19. This decrease is further reflected in a fall in the proportion of all dwellings financed by first home buyers—29% in January 2009 to 18% in January 2019 (ABS 2019b).

Trends in the private rental market

The proportion of households renting from private landlords has had a disproportionate impact on younger households over recent years, with a sharper increase in the proportion of young Australians renting than older Australians (Figure 3).

What factors are influencing these changes over time?

Changing household demographics and population increases have influenced home ownership trends and a move from home ownership to renting privately. They have also influenced changes to the dwelling type need of households (ABS 2017d; COAG 2018; Yates 2015).

Family and household composition

Family composition and marital status are related to housing tenure (Baxter & McDonald 2005; Stone et al. 2013). Over recent decades, the average household size has decreased and the number of single-people and single-parent households has increased, tending to have lower home ownership rates than other household types (Yates 2015). In 2016, for example, 16% of single-parent households with dependent children rented privately, an increase from 6.3% in 1981.

Population growth

Population increases in Australia are driving demand for housing, other services and infrastructure (COAG 2018). More than two-thirds (67%) of the population increase in 2016–17 occurred in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney (ABS 2018). Overseas migration has contributed to increased housing demand (Daley et al. 2018). Most immigrants move to major cities, leading to an increase in demand for housing in these areas. International students have also had an impact on the private rental market, predominantly in major cities (Parkinson et al. 2018). The subsequent pressure on housing stocks in these areas highlights the need for coordinated and well considered urban planning strategies.

Changes in dwelling types

The types of dwellings Australians live in has changed over time. The proportion of households occupying separate houses (see glossary) has decreased in the past 20 years, from 76% of all households in 1996 to 73% in 2016, offset by increases in semi-detached and townhouse households. In 2016, around 13% of households lived in semi–detached row or terrace and townhouses, up from 9% in 1996. A total of 13% lived in flats or apartments in both 1996 and 2016 (ABS 2017a).

Where do I go for more information?

For more information on home ownership and housing tenure, see:

References

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2011. Census Dictionary, Australia, 2011. ABS cat. no. 2901.0. Canberra: ABS.

ABS 2017a. 2016 and 2001 Census QuickStats. Viewed on 27 February 2019,

ABS 2017b. Census of Population and Housing, 1971 to 2016, customised report. Canberra: ABS.

ABS 2017c. Census of Population and Housing: Community Profile, DataPack and TableBuilder Templates, Australia, 2016. ABS cat. no. 2079.0. Findings based on TableBuilder analysis. Canberra: ABS.

ABS 2017d. Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia—stories from the Census, 2016. ABS cat. no. 2071.0. Canberra: ABS.

ABS 2018. Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2016–17. ABS cat. no. 3218.0. Canberra: ABS.

ABS 2019a. Housing Occupancy and Costs, Australia, 2017–18. ABS cat. no. 4130.0. Canberra: ABS.

ABS 2019b. Lending to households and businesses, Australia, May 2019. ABS cat. no. 5601.0. Canberra: ABS.

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2019. Housing Assistance in Australia 2019. Cat. no. HOU 315. Canberra: AIHW.

ATO (Australian Tax Office) 2019. First home super saver scheme. Viewed 6 March 2019.

Australian Treasury 2017. First Home Super Saver Scheme key fact sheet. Canberra: Australian Government.

Baxter J & McDonald P 2005. Why is the rate of home ownership falling in Australia? Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) Research and Policy Bulletin issue no. 52. Melbourne: AHURI.

Burke T, Stone W & Ralston L 2014. Generational change in home purchase opportunity in Australia. AHURI final report no. 232. Melbourne: AHURI.

COAG (Council of Australian Governments) 2018. COAG meeting communiqué, 12 December 2018. Canberra: COAG. Viewed 14 December 2018.

Daley J, Coates B & Wiltshire T 2018. Housing Affordability: re–imagining the Australian Dream. Report no. 2018–04. Melbourne: Grattan Institute.

Hulse K, Burke T, Ralston L & Stone W 2012. The Australian private rental sector: changes and challenges. AHURI positioning paper no.149. Melbourne: AHURI.

OECD (Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development) 2018. Household debt (indicator). doi: 10.1787/f03b6469–en. Viewed on 30 October 2018.

Parkinson S, James A & Kiu E 2018. Navigating a changing private rental sector: opportunities and challenges for low-income renters. 2018. AHURI final report no. 302. Melbourne: AHURI.

Stone W, Burke T, Hulse K & Ralston L 2013. Long-term private rental in a changing Australian private rental sector, AHURI final report no. 209. Melbourne: AHURI.

Yates J 2011. Explaining Australia’s trends in home ownership. Housing Finance International winter: 6–13.

Yates J 2015. Trends in home ownership: causes, consequences and solutions. Home Ownership Submission 3. Sydney: University of Sydney.

Alternative text for figures

Figure 1: Proportion of households by housing tenure type, 1994–95 to 2017–18

This line graph shows that the proportion of owners without a mortgage declined from about 42% in 1994–95 to 30% in 2017–18. This line graph shows that the proportion of owners with a mortgage increased from about 30% in 1994–95 to 37% in 2017–18. This line graph shows that the proportion of renters renting from private landlords increased from about 18% in 1994–95 to 27% in 2017–18. This line graph shows that the proportion of renters renting from state or territory housing authorities declined slightly from about 6% in 1994–95 to 3% in 2017–18.

Figure 2: Home ownership rate by birth cohort and age group

This line graph shows that the home ownership rates of those in the birth cohort 1947–51, who were 25–29 in 1971, increased from 54% in 1971 to 82% by 2016, or 40 years later when they were 65–69. Home ownership rates decreased in birth cohorts compared with the previous cohort at all age groups. In contrast to the 1947–51 cohort, the home ownership rate of those 25–29 years old in 2016 (the 1987–1991 birth cohort) was 37%, 17 percentage points lower than the 1947–1951 cohort at the same age.

Figure 3: Proportion of households in the private rental market, by age of household reference person, 2006, 2011 and 2016

This vertical bar graph shows that the proportion of households in the private rental market has increased between 2006 and 2016. In 2016, 54% of households where the reference person was under 35 years old, 27% of households where the reference person was between 35 and 54 years old, and 11% of households where the reference person was 55 years old and over were in the private rental market.