Australia is a nation in transition, particularly when it comes to our homes and how we live in them.
It’s no surprise to anyone that more and more families in Australia will spend time renting an apartment while their children grow up. Why? People are buying houses later in life and having children later in life. While the cultural norm has long perpetuated this idea of the ‘Great Australian Dream’, the expectations surrounding where we live have become far more liberal in recent decades, due to rises in living costs, issues of housing affordability, as well as our desire to live closer to capital cities and the lifestyle it fosters.
According to the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, “housing affordability in Australia has broadly declined since the early 1980s, seeing a shift from outright ownership to owning with a mortgage, and a shift from overall home ownership to private rental.” Aside from the glaringly obvious, with the gap between average annual earnings and the cost of housing continuing to rise, more and more Australians are finding home ownership out of reach – instead choosing to stay at home longer, or rent well into their thirties and forties.
What factors contribute to this, and where do apartments come in?
Firstly, the market we currently face is remarkably different to that of our parents.
Back in 1984 the average full time employee earned around $19,000 a year, with the average house costing less than $150,000. Today, there are few people born in an Australian city who can afford to buy the house they grew up in. To do so you’d need to earn a considerable amount more than your parents did, or move somewhere far away from where you were raised. The cost of living is becoming increasingly expensive, and households today are largely double income. Couples are also having less children – or having them later in life – motivated in part by the future of our environment and sustainability, as well as the desire to firmly established and secure in their career.
Compared to the 1980s, first homebuyers are also typically older, and while we reflect on the current state of Australian housing, it’s clear that we’ve become a nation that spends a considerable amount of our available income on a place to live – much more so than we ever did before. And spending all that money is only part of the problem: housing availability isn’t keeping pace with our growing population.
30 years ago our population was around 16 million; today it’s over 23 million. Our life expectancy has increased and our national median age has risen from 30 years to over 37.
Historically, space and affordability are not synonymous with inner city living.
However, apartments are already changing our idea of home. Australia’s changing trends in lifestyle has inspired a rise in apartment living, with one in 10 families choosing not only to downsize, but to rent, as well as sacrifice size for location, and the pressures of permanency for the freedom of flexibility.
The majority of Australians live in the capital cities where the closer you are to the CBD, the closer you are to jobs, to universities, to public transport and cultural hubs. The community created around apartments transforms high density locations into desirable living areas, and these areas are usually desired for their close proximity to inner cities and the convenience of quicker commutes, safer communities, and more affordable living.
Families with children now comprise a quarter of Australia’s total apartment population, with the number increasing by 56 per cent between 2011 and 2016, according to data from the 2016 census. At the same time there’s a clear trend towards apartment living for future demographics – including families with children – as rising property prices continue to impact our choices of where they live, and in what.