Confirmed: Australia’s housing affordability crisis deepening

An aerial view of housing in suburban Sydney. File photo.

By TILEAH DOBSON

While Sydney has long been the most expensive city in Australia, the Harbour City’s incredibly high house prices have hit a new apogee, with 29 suburbs now exceeding $4 million dollar median purchase prices. Meanwhile, with dozens of suburbs exceeding $3 million, more areas are predicted to join the club.

Due to a combination of housing shortages, the Covid-19 pandemic and low-interest rates, this is Sydney’s biggest housing boom in three decades. In Melbourne, only one suburb exceeds the $4 million dollar median. Brisbane, Perth – and in fact, the rest of Australia – do not have any suburbs where house price medians eclipse $4 million.

In Sydney, recent additions to the $4 million-plus price club include Castlecrag, Coogee, Cremorne, Fairlight, Greenwich, Queens Park, Roseville Chase, South Coogee and Waverley. The prices in these areas jumped up more than 35 per cent during 2021, by an average of more than $1 million dollars.

This house in Queens Park recently sold for more than $6 million dollars. Photo: realestate.com.

Rental stress explodes

It’s not only the top end of the market that’s skyrocketed, nor is the housing crisis solely about house prices. A report by the Productivity Commission has confirmed the current housing crisis has pushed many Australians to poverty or homelessness, with a lack of social housing available and an explosion in rent prices.

In 2021, a startling 45.7 per cent of Australians receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) were spending more than 30 per cent of their income on rent – which is the definition used for housing stress.

This alarming statistic has jumped from 2019’s 40.5 per cent. 2020 was significantly lower, 29.4 per cent due to the coronavirus supplement payment offering temporary relief.

The data gathered in the report highlights older Australians as the most vulnerable to the price spike in rents. Of those receiving CRA, almost one-third paid more than 30 per cent on rent.

“The Australian rental market now resembles a great white shark, swallowing family incomes almost whole.”

– Kate Colvin, national spokesperson, Everybody’s Home

To make matters worse, the social housing supply has not been able to keep up with population growth. Since 2012, the population has continued to grow at 13.2 per cent, but the supply of social housing has sluggishly grown by 4.5 per cent.

National spokesperson for Everybody’s Home, Kate Colvin, has noted Australians being crushed at both ends of the housing system.

“The Australian rental market now resembles a great white shark, swallowing family incomes almost whole. It’s simply astounding that even after receiving rent assistance, almost half of households are still under housing stress,” Colvin said.

“The supply of affordable homes is rapidly vanishing for people on low and modest incomes as rents skyrocket. When federal politicians talk about a supply problem, they need to get their priorities straight, we need more social and affordable housing to give people on modest incomes real choice.

“Covid has completely warped our housing market. The benefits are being funnelled to those who already own housing while people in the rental market are forced into a brutal contest for survival.”

This graph by the Productivity Commission breaks down housing and homelessness, and the way residents enter secure housing. Image: Australian Government.

The end of the Australian Dream?

According to a survey conducted by Australia Talks in 2021, an alarming 65 per cent of Australians don’t see owning a home as an option for young Australians. And the fear of home ownership remaining out of reach for future generations is high, with many saying the ‘Australian Dream’ is dead in the water.

The Grattan Institute has suggested the federal government create a ‘social housing future fund’ in order to construct the thousands of social housing dwellings needed. A starting fund of $20 billion could support the construction of up to 6,000 social housings per year.

Colvin said tens of thousands of new social housing properties were urgently needed.

“The best way to address this is to lift the historically low rates of social housing investment. We need at least 25,000 new social housing units built per year just to begin closing the widening housing gap,” she said.

“We also need a serious adjustment to Commonwealth Rent Assistance that reflects the reality of surging rents in Australia.”

Tileah Dobson is the news and queer editor of the Sydney Sentinel.

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