Are there any affordable homes left in Australia?
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Are there any affordable homes left in Australia?

Only one in four Australian houses sell for less than $500,000 today

By Bronwyn Allen
Fri, Nov 17, 2023 2:58pmGrey Clock 3 min

Twenty years ago, almost all houses and apartments sold in Australia were priced under $500,000. Ordinary families routinely bought houses on quarter-acre blocks and only the affluent elite were buying real estate above the million-dollar mark. At the time, we called them ‘millionaires’ and the term meant uber-wealth.

Over the next decade-and-a-half, the magnitude of change to home values was immense. After a period of very strong price growth over the 2000s and early 2010s, only 50 percent of the housing stock was selling below the half-million mark by 2015. And today, the proportion of homes selling below $500,000 has hit an all-time low at 24 percent of houses and 39 percent of apartments, according to a report by Ray White. Many families are adopting apartment living due to affordability constraints, and first home buyers in Sydney and Melbourne are routinely purchasing starter homes for $1 million or more.

Australia has not always been a rapid-growth property market. Price growth was extremely subdued between 1880 and the 1950s. Prices began moving up in the post-WW2 era due to accelerated population growth and the end of government property price controls in 1949, explains PropTrack economist Paul Ryan. Then came the credit boom after Australia’s finance industry was deregulated in the 1980s and 1990s. Ordinary citizens en masse were able to access funding to buy their own homes, and property prices have grown exponentially ever since, with one of the biggest spikes in values occurring in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Sydney has been the powerhouse of Australia’s property price growth over the past two decades, with the median value of a house now exceeding $1.1 million. Nerida Conisbee, chief economist at Ray White, says that over the past 12 months, less than 10 percent of all Sydney properties sold for less than $500,000. “Affordability is better in regional Australia, however, finding a low priced home in regional NSW is getting particularly difficult,” Ms Conisbee said. “Well under a third of all properties are now priced under $500,000.”

Nerida Conisbee says regional areas represent greater affordability for buyers, but that is starting to change.

Over time, property prices in large regional towns with good road access to Sydney have boomed as people accepted a commuter lifestyle in exchange for the affordability that regional NSW offered. Today, those satellite cities are expensive themselves. For example, the median house price in Wollongong is $975,000, and on the Central Coast it is $890,000, according to CoreLogic data. A similar phenomenon has occurred in Victoria. The pandemic brought about the work-from-home era, which prompted many people to leave Australia’s two most expensive cities – Sydney and Melbourne – for more affordable markets, pushing up prices significantly in regional areas across the country.

Over the past five years, a change has occurred across the capital cities, with the two most affordable cities recording the strongest price growth. CoreLogic data shows Hobart house values have grown the most over the five years ending 31 July, with a 62.5 percent uplift to the median house price to $710,000, followed by Adelaide with a 46.7 percent increase to a median of $675,000.

Today’s rental crisis and the ongoing affordability challenges faced by young people have caused much political debate about how to boost Australia’s housing supply as quickly as possible. History shows that new supply is the key to keeping property prices affordable, and many experts argue that new high-density housing in areas with established infrastructure such as roads and services is the fastest way to provide more housing for the country’s rapidly growing population.

Ms Conisbee points out that high levels of apartment development in certain markets have kept prices more affordable. “Places where we have seen extremely high levels of apartment development have the most availability of low priced apartments,” Ms Conisbee said. “Gold Coast and Melbourne are expensive places to buy houses but there are a lot of low priced apartments in Melbourne CBD, Surfers Paradise and Southport.

“For houses, a strong development pipeline has kept outer Perth cheap with Baldivis and Armadale having the most houses being sold under $500,000 over the past 12 months. Canberra’s rapid building program has meant that the proportion of apartments sold under $500,000 drastically exceeds the number of houses sold under this price point.”


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Wild cities and concrete corridors: How AI is reimagining the landscape

A new AI-driven account by leading landscape architect Jon Hazelwood pushes the boundaries on the role of ‘complex nature’ in the future of our cities

By Robyn Willis
Wed, Dec 6, 2023 2 min

Drifts of ground cover plants and wildflowers along the steps of the Sydney Opera House, traffic obscured by meadow-like planting and kangaroos pausing on city streets.

This is the way our cities could be, as imagined by landscape architect Jon Hazelwood, principal at multi-disciplinary architectural firm Hassell. He has been exploring the possibilities of rewilding urban spaces using AI for his Instagram account, Naturopolis_ai with visually arresting outcomes.

“It took me a few weeks to get interesting results,” he said. “I really like the ephemeral nature of the images — you will never see it again and none of those plants are real. 

“The AI engine makes an approximation of a grevillea.”

Hazelwood chose some of the most iconic locations in Australia, including the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, as well as international cities such as Paris and London, to demonstrate the impact of untamed green spaces on streetscapes, plazas and public space.

He said he hopes to provoke a conversation about the artificial separation between our cities and the broader environment, exploring ways to break down the barriers and promote biodiversity.

“A lot of the planning (for public spaces) is very limited,” Hazelwood said. “There are 110,000 species of plants in Australia and we probably use about 12 in our (public) planting schemes. 

“Often it’s for practical reasons because they’re tough and drought tolerant — but it’s not the whole story.”

Hazelwood pointed to the work of UK landscape architect Prof Nigel Dunnett, who has championed wild garden design in urban spaces. He has drawn interest in recent years for his work transforming the brutalist apartment block at the Barbican in London into a meadow-like environment with diverse plantings of grasses and perennials.

Hazelwood said it is this kind of ‘complex nature’ that is required for cities to thrive into the future, but it can be hard to convince planners and developers of the benefits.

“We have been doing a lot of work on how we get complex nature because complexity of species drives biodiversity,” he said. 

“But when we try to propose the space the questions are: how are we going to maintain it? Where is the lawn?

“A lot of our work is demonstrating you can get those things and still provide a complex environment.” 

At the moment, Hassell together with the University of Melbourne is trialling options at the Hills Showground Metro Station in Sydney, where the remaining ground level planting has been replaced with more than 100 different species of plants and flowers to encourage diversity without the need for regular maintenance. But more needs to be done, Hazelwood said.

“It needs bottom-up change,” he said. ““There is work being done at government level around nature positive cities, but equally there needs to be changes in the range of plants that nurseries grow, and in the way our city landscapes are maintained and managed.”

And there’s no AI option for that. 


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Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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