Why living 80s style would mean we'd need 1.2 million fewer homes
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Why living 80s style would mean we’d need 1.2 million fewer homes

The housing crisis could be addressed without the need for more dwellings, the RBA assistant governor says

By Bronwyn Allen
Tue, May 21, 2024 10:20amGrey Clock 3 min

The Reserve Bank assistant governor says how we live now is contributing to the housing shortage.

The National Housing Accord announced by the Albanese Government aims to build 1.2 million new well located homes over the next five years, starting from 1 July. The Accord is an agreement between the Federal Government and the states and territories to work together to raise the supply of homes. It begins with $3.5 billion in federal funding and the states and territories undertaking expedited zoning, planning and land releases to facilitate new building.

All of this is happening amid a housing crisis that has seen rents and home values both skyrocket by more than 40 percent since August 2020, according to CoreLogic data. Demand for social housing is also high, while post pandemic immigration has put further pressure on the market, and dwelling approvals per capita are at decade-lows amid high interest rates and higher materials and labour costs.

But there’s another way to fix it, says RBA assistant governor Sarah Hunter. We could just go back to living like we did in the 1980s. Back then, households were larger in size. That is, the number of people per household was higher at 2.8 people per home compared to 2.5 now. That may not sound like much of a difference, but Ms Hunter says if we reverted to this we’d need 1.2 million fewer homes right now.

In a speech last week on housing market cycles and fundamentals, Ms Hunter said that underlying demand for housing – be it rental or ownership – is determined by the size of our population, currently 27 million, and the average number of people living in each of our 11 million homes.

Ms Hunter said Australia typically has faster population growth than other advanced countries, driven by net overseas migration. In FY23, new overseas migration totalled more than half a million people. She also said the size of Australian households has been trending lower over the long term, mainly due to demographic factors. These include an ageing population, which means we have more elderly Australians living alone or in couple-only households; as well as a falling birth rate, which is reducing the average family size.

While the demographic trends that drive housing demand tend to occur slowly, the pandemic sped them up. During the pandemic, there was a shift in preferences towards more physical living space per person ... This was particularly the case for people who shared a home with non-family members, such as young people living in a flat share,” Ms Hunter said. This group shrank as a proportion of households, while the share living with their partner increased – as a result, the average household size declined.

She added: “The shift to working from home has also reinforced this change. While some people have returned to their workplace full time, there has been an increase in the proportion of people working from home – for many, a home office space is now highly desirable. This suggests that the recent falls in the average number of people per home will be at least partially permanent.

When housing demand rises, supply usually responds through new building activity. But the time this takes can vary, depending on rental and housing prices, underlying construction costs and the time required to design, approve and build. In the meantime, property prices and rents adjust in line with the extent of the demand and supply imbalance.

The pandemic period – and its aftermath – stands out as a particularly sharp cycle,” Ms Hunter said. Growth in demand for new dwellings slowed rapidly in 2020 before rebounding strongly, partly due to the HomeBuilder program. But supply did not respond normally, with completions trending lower over the past five years due to a “perfect storm” of challenges in the construction sector.

They began with COVID-related supply chain disruptions that made it difficult to source materials, fixtures and fittings. Materials and labour costs went up, and a combination of shipping delays and labour shortages significantly extended building timelines. Today, supply chains have normalised but costs remain nearly 40% higher than in 2019 and the pipeline of new builds is clogged.

Additionally, major new projects are typically funded by debt, so higher interest rates are also reducing the viability of new builds. Many developers have delayed projects because of higher costs relative to anticipated returns. Meriton founder Harry Triguboff recently told The Australian that government and council approvals take too long and “it is harder to sell apartments now than ever before” due to high interest rates and fewer Chinese buyers.

Ms Hunter said easing zoning and planning restrictions and streamlining approval processes could reduce costs and lift supply but it will not be a quick fix. She concluded: “upward pressure on rents and prices will remain until new supply comes online.



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Property values have experienced strong growth around the country, but there are two highly desirable areas where oversupply is putting downward pressure on sales

By Bronwyn Allen
Tue, Jun 18, 2024 2 min

While property values are rising strongly in most markets across Australia, it’s a vastly different story in Victoria and Tasmania, new data from CoreLogic shows. Over the 12 months to May 31, the median house price lifted just 1.8 percent in Melbourne and fell 0.6 percent in regional Victoria. The median dipped 0.1 percent in Hobart and ticked 0.4 percent higher in regional Tasmania. This is in stark contrast to Perth, where values are up 22 percent, and regional Western Australia, up 14.8 percent; as well as Brisbane, up 16.3 percent, and regional Queensland, up 11.8 percent.

CoreLogic Head of Research, Eliza Owen says an oversupply of homes for sale has weakened prices in Victoria and Tasmania, creating buyers’ markets.

On the supply side, there has been more of a build-up in new listings than usual across Victoria, even where home value performance has been relatively soft,” Ms Owen said. Victoria has also had more dwellings completed than any other state and territory in the past 10 years, keeping a lid on price growth. The additional choice in stock means vendors have to bring down their price expectations, and that brings values down.”

Melbourne dwelling values are now four percent below their record high and Hobart dwelling values are 11.5 percent below their record high. Both records were set more than two years ago in March 2022. The oversupply has also affected how long it takes to sell a property. The median days on market is currently 36 in Melbourne and 45 in Hobart compared to a combined capitals median of 27. It takes 55 days to sell in regional Victoria and 64 days in regional Tasmania compared to a combined regional median of 42 days.

Changes in population patterns have also contributed to higher numbers of homes for sale in recent years. Since COVID began in early 2020, thousands of families have left Melbourne because working from home meant they could buy a bigger property in more affordable areas. While many relocated to regional Victoria, a significant proportion left the state altogether, with South-East Queensland a favoured destination. Meantime, Tasmania’s surge in interstate migration during FY21 was short-lived. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the island state has recorded a net loss of residents to other states and territories every quarter since June 2022.

Record overseas migration has more than offset interstate migration losses, thereby keeping Victoria’s and Tasmania’s populations growing. However, the impact of migrants on housing is largely seen in the rental market, so this segment of population gain has done little to support values. Growth in weekly rents has been far stronger than growth in home values over the past year, with rents up 9 percent in Melbourne and 4.8 percent in regional Victoria, and up 1 percent in Hobart and 2.7 percent in regional Tasmania.

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This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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