Trends in home ownership in Australia: a quick guide

28 June 2017

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Alicia Hall
Statistics and Mapping Section

Data on home ownership rates can be derived from the Australian Bureau of Statistic (ABS) Census of Population and Housing (the Census), the ABS’ Survey of Income and Housing and the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey. The Census is collected on a five yearly cycle, the ABS Survey of Income and Housing is currently run every two years, and the HILDA Survey is run annually.

This paper presents results from these data sources by a range of metrics over time, including age, income, household composition and geography.

Methodological concerns

The figures in this paper are provided at a household level, as housing tenure typically relates to the entire household, and housing costs and income are more easily calculated at the household level.

The data in this paper on tenure type[1] relates to the dwelling in which the household is residing at the time of the relevant survey.[2] As such, the paper does not present data on those who own a property but are currently renting, or data on investment properties.

There will be slightly different results across the three datasets, as the Census aims to enumerate Australia’s entire dwelling stock, whilst the Survey of Income and Housing and the HILDA survey are based on a sample of households. In addition, each of these three sources has different methodologies for collection and methodologies within each source change over time.[3] As such, it is important to look at the broader trends, and compare results across the data sources.

The 2016 Census results have been progressively released from 27 June 2017. Selected 2016 data has been included in this analysis.

Trends in overall home ownership rates by household and person

Census data indicates that overall household home ownership rates (including those dwellings where there is a mortgage over the property, as well as those dwellings owned outright) have not changed substantially since the 1960s, hovering around 70 per cent over the past 50 years. The following table shows the five yearly rates from 1947 to 2016.

Proportion of owner occupied private dwellings, based on Census data

 

1947 1954 1961 1966 1971 1976 1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 2011 2016

%

53.4 63.3 70.2 71.4 68.8 68.4 70.1 70.4 68.9 69.0 69.5 69.8 68.5 67.1

Source: 1947, 1954 and 1961 figures sourced from ABS, Social Indicators, 1992 (cat. no. 4101.0), p. 315. Hard copy held by Parliamentary Library. 1966 to 2006 figures sourced from ABS, Housing Occupancy and Costs, 2005–06, Feature Article: First Home Buyers in Australia (cat. no. 4130.0.55.001.) 2011 figure sourced from ABS, 2011 Census of Population and Housing, Community Profiles, Time Series Profile, Table 18. 2016 figure sourced from ABS, 2016 Census of Population and Housing, Community Profiles, Time Series Profile, Table 18. Further details on these sources (and methodologies) are provided in the Appendix.

However, if we look at the Census data in combination with other more recent and regular sources, it is possible to discern a slow but marked decline in levels of home ownership since the early 2000s. The ABS’ Survey of Income and Housing indicates that owners represented 70.6 per cent of all households in 1999–00, falling to 67.2 per cent of all households in 2013–14.

Estimated proportion of households that are owner occupiers, based on ABS Survey of Income and Housing

 

1994–95

1995–96

1996–97

1997–98

1999–00

2000–01

2002–03

2003–04

2005–06

2007–08

2009–10

2011–12

2013–14

%

71.4

70.9

69.7

70.3

70.6

70.4

69.5

70.0

69.3

68.3

68.8

67.4

67.2

Source: ABS, Housing Occupancy and Costs, 2013–14, cat. no. 4130.0.

The HILDA survey data also suggests a decline in home ownership rates, falling from 68.8 per cent of households to 64.9 per cent in the period between 2001 and 2014 (a fall of 3.9 percentage points).

Estimated proportion of households living in owner occupied dwellings, based on HILDA survey

  2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014

%

68.8

68.4

68.2

68.1

67.7

67.7

67.9

67.6

66.6

66.7

64.9

65.3

64.8

64.9

Source: Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey: Selected Findings from Waves 1 to 14, 2016.

It is also possible to examine home ownership rates for individuals, rather than by households. The HILDA survey indicates a significant recent decline in the level of individual home ownership in Australia, with a decline of over five percentage points from 2002 to 2014.[4] These figures are lower than the household rates as a number of people live in homes that are owner occupied, but themselves are not the owners. [5]

Estimated proportion of individuals aged 18 and over who are legal owners of the home in which they live, based on HILDA survey

  2002 2006 2010 2014
% 57.0 55.8 54.4 51.7

Source: Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey: Selected Findings from Waves 1 to 14, 2016.

Trends in home ownership rates by age

Although overall home ownership rates in Australia have not declined greatly over the last fifty years, rates of home ownership have changed markedly for certain age groups. The following table, reproduced from Judith Yates’ article in The Conversation ‘Explainer: What’s really keeping young and first home buyers out of the housing market’, shows home ownership rates by age since 1961.

Home ownership rates by age of household reference person, based on Census Data

% 1961 1966 1971 1976 1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006 2011
AGE  
15–24 34 30 26 25 25 26 24 22 24 24 25
25–34 60 58 56 60 61 58 56 52 51 51 47
35–44 72 71 71 73 75 74 74 70 69 69 64
45–54 75 76 76 76 79 79 81 79 78 78 73
55–64 78 78 79 78 81 82 84 83 82 82 79
65+ years 81 80 80 75 78 80 84 82 82 82 79
All households 72 70 69 68 70 70 72 69 70 70 67

Source: The Conversation (Yates, Judith). ‘Explainer: What’s really keeping young and first home buyers out of the housing market?’ Home ownership rates by age of household reference person (Special request tabulations from Census data; data for 1966 interpolated). Please note that there are slight differences in total household rates from those quoted previously, presumably due to methodological differences in calculations.

This data indicates that home ownership rates for younger households have declined. For example, in the 25–34 years age range, home ownership rates declined from 60 per cent of households in 1961 to 47 per cent in 2011. Similarly, in the 35–44 years age range, home ownership rates fell from 72 to 64 per cent of households. This has not resulted in an overall decline in home ownership levels, due to high levels of home ownership for older households combined with the ageing of the population.[6]

The ABS’ Survey of Income and Housing and the HILDA survey suggests an even more dramatic decline in levels of home ownership for those households with a reference person aged 25–34 years in recent years, with the ABS reporting a fall to 38.6 per cent in 2013–14, and HILDA reporting a fall to 29.2 per cent for 2014 (see the following tables).

 Home ownership rates by age of reference person, based on ABS Survey of Income and Housing

% 1995–96 2013–14
AGE  
15–24 18.3 12.8
25–34 52.2 38.6
35–44 72.9 62.6
45–54 81.6 73.5
55–64 85.1 80.4
65+ years 85.2 84.5
All households 71.2 67.2

Source: ABS, Housing Occupancy and Costs, cat. no. 4130.0, 1995–96, p. 19, Table 6. Also ABS, Housing Occupancy and Costs, cat. no. 4130.0, 2013–14, Table 10, All households, Selected household characteristics by age of household reference person.

Home ownership rates by age of reference person, based on HILDA survey

% 2002 2014
AGE  
25–34 38.7 29.2
35–44 63.2 52.4
45–54 75.6 67.4
55–64 75.1 72.9

Source: Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey: Selected Findings from Waves 1 to 14, 2016, p. 68.

Trends in home ownership rates in Australia by income

Between 1988–89 and 2013–14, rates of home ownership fell for all equivalised disposable income quintiles, except for the highest quintile. The largest falls in absolute terms was experienced in the second and third income quintiles.

Home ownership rates by equivalised disposable income quintiles for all age groups

  Equivalised disposable income quintile
% 1 2 3 4 5 All
1988–89 65.4 74.3 76.6 75.6 71.5 72.7
1995–96 62.7 67.9 72.9 75.2 75.8 70.9
2000–01 61.4 66.3 72.3 74.8 77.1 70.4
2005–06 60.4 67.5 69.7 72.0 76.8 69.3
2009–10 61.5 64.2 70.3 72.1 75.6 68.8
2011–12 60.2 65.3 66.7 69.5 75.4 67.4
2013–14 58.1 64.9 67.8 70.7 74.4 67.2
Difference –7.3 –9.4 –8.8 –5.0 +2.9 –5.5

Source: The Conversation (Yates, Judith). ‘Explainer: What’s really keeping young and first home buyers out of the housing market? updated to 2013–14 by Judith Yates. (Sourced by Yates from ABS Surveys of Income and Housing, derived from Confidentialised Unit Record Files.)

Trends in home ownership rates in Australia by income and age

As noted previously, younger households have experienced significant declines in home ownership rates. However, this has not affected all income quintiles in these age groups equally. If we examine the 25–34 years age range, we can see significant falls across all income quintiles, with the highest reductions felt in the second and third income quintiles.

Home ownership rates by equivalised disposable household income quintiles for the 25–34 age group

 

Equivalised disposable household income quintile
% 1 2 3 4 5 All
1988–89 42.1 56.1 67.2 65.8 60.2 59.7
1995–96 39.2 38.1 49.7 60.9 55.7 50.4
2000–01 26.5 35.8 57.4 57.5 59.1 50.8
2005–06 28.1 38.1 47.1 52.9 55.6 47.8
2009–10 24.8 28.9 42.6 53.1 53.5 44.8
2011–12 27.3 33.6 37.5 44.8 53.0 42.0
2013–14 23.7 31.2 32.5 43.7 48.8 38.6
Difference –18.3 –24.9 –34.7 –22.1 –11.4 –21.0

Source: The Conversation (Yates, Judith). ‘Explainer: What’s really keeping young and first home buyers out of the housing market? updated to 2013–14 by Judith Yates. (Sourced by Yates from ABS Surveys of Income and Housing, derived from Confidentialised Unit Record Files)

In the 35–44 years age bracket, the declines are lower in the lowest two income quintiles.

 Home ownership rates by equivalised disposable household income quintiles for the 35–44 age group

 

Equivalised disposable household income quintile

% 1 2 3 4 5 All
1988–89 60.5 72.5 79.8 79.1 73.6 74.4
1995–96 56.4 65.5 75.5 76.5 77.9 71.6
2000–01 49.5 62.2 67.8 80.2 77.6 69.1
2005–06 42.9 60.3 69.5 72.3 76.3 66.1
2009–10 41.7 52.5 67.5 69.9 75.9 63.6
2011–12 35.8 55.6 62.5 69.5 74.3 62.2
2013–14 36.7 51.8 65.6 72.8 75.7 62.7
Difference –23.8 –20.7 –14.1 –6.2 +2.1 –11.7

Source: The Conversation (Yates, Judith). ‘Explainer: What’s really keeping young and first home buyers out of the housing market? updated to 2013–14 by Judith Yates. (Sourced by Yates from ABS Surveys of Income and Housing, derived from Confidentialised Unit Record Files.)

Amongst the age groups 45–54 years and 55–64 years, the lowest equivalised disposable income quintile experienced the biggest declines in home ownership rates. Nearly all income quintiles in the 65+ age group increased slightly during the period 1988–89 to 2013–14.

Home ownership rates in Australia by household composition

Comparing home ownership rates over time between different household types is problematic due to changes in reference units, and family types across survey years.

Burke, Stone and Ralston[7] analysed the proportion of different household types who are purchasers across two different age groups between 1981 and 2011. This data relates to those who are not yet outright owners of their home (that is, they still have a mortgage). For the 25–34 years age group, the proportion of households who are purchasers declined across all household types, except for singles. For those aged 35–44 years, the proportion of households that are purchasers increased for singles, couples and couples with children, but declined for sole parents. In this context, Burke, Stone and Ralston (p. 43) comment that: ‘Dual incomes is now a necessity for home purchase, which is highly problematic given both the growth in single-adult-headed households and increasing rates of deferred marriage (being single for longer) and relationship breakdown.’

The following table is reproduced from the report.

Proportion of household types who are purchasers, percentage

Younger households – purchase rates between 1981 and 2011 

Source: T Burke, W Stone and L Ralston, Generational change in home purchase opportunity in Australia, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute with Swinbourne University, Final Report no. 232, November 2014, p. 27.

Home ownership rates in Australia by state/territory

The ABS’ Survey of Income and Housing shows the largest declines in Victoria and Queensland from 1994–95 to 2013–14 (see the following graph).

Home ownership rates (per cent) 1994–95 and 2013–14, from ABS Survey of Income and Housing

Home ownership rates (per cent) 1994–95 and 2013–14, from ABS Survey of Income and Housing

Source: ABS, Housing Occupancy and Costs, 2013–14 (cat. no. 4130.0)

Proportion of Australian households that own their home outright

Based on the ABS Survey of Income and Housing, the number of owners without a mortgage has declined since 1994–95, from 41.8 per cent of owners to just 31.4 per cent of owners in 2013–14 (see the following table). The 2016 Census data shows a similar trend, with the number of occupied private dwellings owned outright declining from 32.1 per cent in the 2011 Census, to 31.0 per cent in the 2016 Census.[8]

 

1994–95

1995–96

1996–97

1997–98

1999–00

2000–01

2002–03

2003–04

2005–06

2007–08

2009–10

2011–12

2013–14

Owner without a mortgage 41.8 42.8 41.3 39.5 38.6 38.2 36.4 34.9 34.3 33.2 32.6 30.9 31.4
Owner with a mortgage 29.6 28.1 28.3 30.9 32.1 32.1 33.1 35.1 35.0 35.1 36.2 36.6 35.8
Total owners 71.4 70.9 69.7 70.3 70.6 70.4 69.5 70.0 69.3 68.3 68.8 67.4 67.2

Source: ABS, Housing Occupancy and Costs (cat. no. 4130.0)

Other resources on home ownership

T Burke, W Stone and L Ralston, Generational change in home purchase opportunity in Australia, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute with Swinbourne University, Final Report no. 232, November 2014.

House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, Report on the Inquiry into Home Ownership, Canberra, December 2016.

T Kryger, Home Ownership in Australia: Data and Trends, Research Paper no. 21, 2008–09, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2009.

Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey: Selected Findings from Waves 1 to 14, 2016, the 11th Annual Statistical Report of the HILDA Survey, Melbourne, 2016.

National Housing Supply Council, abolished on 8 November 2013, has a range of reports on its website. http://www.treasury.gov.au/Policy–Topics/PeopleAndSociety/completed–programs–initiatives/NHSC

Productivity Commission, First Home Ownership, Report no. 28, Melbourne, March 2004.

Senate Economics References Committee, Out of Reach? The Australian housing affordability challenge, Canberra, 8 May 2015.

Senate Select Committee on Housing Affordability in Australia, A good house is hard to find: Housing affordability in Australia, Canberra, June 2008.

J Yates, H Kendig, B Phillips, with V Milligan and R Tanton, Sustaining fair shares: The Australian housing system and intergenerational sustainability, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Sydney Research Centre, RMIT – NATSEM Research Centre, Final Report No. 111, February 2008.

Appendix: Proportion of owner occupied private dwellings, based on Census data

1947, 1954 and 1961 figures

  • Sourced from ABS, Social Indicators, Australia, 1992 (cat. no. 4101.0), Table 7.1.2, p. 315. Hard copy held by Parliamentary Library.
  • This table is titled ‘Occupied Private Dwellings: Nature of Occupancy’.
  • It contains details of nature of occupancy from 1947 to 1986.
  • The data is provided in percentages (although there is a total absolute figure).
  • The five categories of occupancy are:
    • Owner
    • Purchaser
    • Tenant: Government (Dwellings owned by Government Housing Authorities).
    • Tenant: Other
    • Other (Includes rent free).
  • The proportion of owner occupied private dwellings in the period from 1966 to 1986 matches the proportions in the following source (except for 1976, where there was a difference of 0.1 per cent).

1966 to 2006 figures

  • Sourced from ABS, Housing Occupancy and Costs, 2005–06, Feature Article: First Home Buyers in Australia (cat. no. 4130.0.55.001.)
  • This table is titled ‘All occupied private dwellings by tenure type.’
  • It contains details of tenure type from 1966 to 2006.
  • The data is provided in absolute figures, as well as containing the proportion of owner–occupied private dwellings for each Census year.
  • The four categories of tenure are:
    • Owner without a mortgage
    • Owner with a mortgage
    • Renter
    • Other Tenure
  • The notes to the table advise that:
    • The total figures exclude not stated.
    • “Following the 1967 Referendum and a subsequent change in the Indigenous question wording in the Census in 1971, the Indigenous census count increased 45%. This change made a small contribution to the decrease in the measured proportion of owner occupied private dwellings.”
    • The 1976 and 1981 owner occupied private dwellings figures “includes ‘owner/purchaser undefined’ which account for 0.4% of the total in 1976 and 1.9% in 1981. In subsequent years only the specific categories of ‘owner with a mortgage’ and owner without a mortgage were included on Census forms, which may have resulted in some decline in measured ownership rates.”
    • In 1976 “due to budgetary restraints, the ABS was unable to complete the normal processing of the data and a 50% sample was processed. The impact of this on the measured proportion of owner occupied private dwellings is not clear.”
    • In 1996, 2001 and 2006 ‘owner with a mortgageincludes dwellings “being purchased under a rent/buy scheme....In previous years this tenure category was not separately catered for on Census forms, and it is not known how households with rent/buy tenure would have responded to the questions on tenure.”
  • The figures from 2001 and 2006 match the proportions calculated from the following source.

2011 figure

  • Sourced from ABS, 2011 Census of Population and Housing, Community Profiles, Time Series Profile, Table 18.
  • Figure includes ‘visitors’ only and ‘other non–classifiable households.’
  • Tenure type ‘not stated’ has been excluded.
  • Contains details of tenure type from 2001, 2006 and 2011.
  • The categories of tenure are:
    • Owned outright
    • Owned with a mortgage (including dwellings being purchased under a rent buy scheme.)
    • Rented: Real estate agent
    • Rented: State or territory housing authority
    • Rented: Person not in same household (comprises dwellings being rented from a parent/other relative or other person).
    • Rented: Housing co–operative/community/church group
    • Rented: Other landlord type (comprises dwellings being rented through a ‘Residential park (includes caravan parks and marinas), ‘Employer – Government (includes Defence Housing Authority)’ and ‘Employer – other employer.’
    • Other tenure type (includes dwellings being occupied under a life tenure scheme.)
    • Tenure type not stated.

2016 figure

  • Sourced from ABS, 2016 Census of Population and Housing, Community Profiles, Time Series Profile, Table 18.
  • Figure includes ‘visitor only’ and ‘other non-classifiable households.’
  • Tenure type ‘not stated’ has been excluded.
  • Contains details of tenure type from 2006, 2011 and 2016.
  • The categories of tenure are:
    • Owned outright
    • Owned with a mortgage (including dwellings being purchased under a shared equity scheme).
    • Rented: Real estate agent
    • Rented: State or territory housing authority
    • Rented: Person not in same household (comprises dwellings being rented from a parent/relative or other person).
    • Rented; Housing co-operative/community/church group
    • Rented: Other landlord type (comprises dwellings being rented through a ‘Residential park (includes caravan parks and marinas)’, Employer – Government (includes Defence Housing Authority)’ and ‘Employer – other employer.’
    • Rented; Landlord type not stated.
    • Other tenure type (include dwellings being occupied under a life tenure scheme).
    • Tenure type not stated.


[1] ‘Tenure type’ is defined in the ABS Survey of Income and Housing User Guide 2013–14 as: ‘The nature of a household's legal right to occupy the dwelling in which the household members usually reside. Tenure is determined according to whether the household owns the dwelling outright, owns the dwelling but has a mortgage or loan secured against it, is paying rent to live in the dwelling, or has some other arrangement to occupy the dwelling.’

[2] Question 56 of the 2011 Census asked: ‘Is this dwelling Owned outright, Owned with a mortgage, Being purchased under a rent/buy scheme, Being rented, Being occupied rent free, Being occupied under a life tenure scheme, or Other?’ The ABS’ 2013–14 Survey of Income and Housing questionnaire asks the household spokesperson to provide information on tenure type for ‘this dwelling’, whilst the household questionnaire for Wave 14 of the HILDA survey asks ‘Do you (or any other members of this household) own this home, rent it, or do you live here rent free?’

[3] For example, from 1976 to 1991, tenure (nature of occupancy) data in the Census was derived from mortgage and rent questions.

[4] HILDA also publishes annual person level figures for levels of home ownership. However, they consider that due to the methodology used in their creation, these figures are less robust than the figures outlined above.

[5] Yates argues that ‘data on persons in home ownership show even greater declines because they reflect the increasing tendency for younger persons to stay longer in the family home’, in The Conversation (Yates, Judith). ‘Explainer: What’s really keeping young and first home buyers out of the housing market?’ August 12, 2015, <https://theconversation.com/explainer–whats–really–keeping–young–and–first–home–buyers–out–of–the–housing–market–45716>.

[6] Yates, Judith, Submission to the House of Representative Standing Committee on Economics, Inquiry into Home Ownership, Submission 3, June 2015.

[7] T Burke, W Stone and L Ralston, Generational change in home purchase opportunity in Australia, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute with Swinbourne University, Final Report no. 232, November 2014.

[8] 2016 Census of Population and Housing, 2016 Census QuickStats, Australia. These figures exclude ‘visitor only’ and ‘other non-classifiable households.’

 

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