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Census 2016: renting more common, but owners finding it easier to make mortgage repayments

The numbers are in – and there are some fascinating statistics to come out of the Census 2016.

It appears that Australia’s renters are on the rise, with almost as many Australians renting as there are people who own their property outright. Since 2011, the proportion of renters has risen by 10 per cent to 30.9 per cent. That compares with a total of 31 per cent of the population who own outright, and 34.5 per cent who own a home with a mortgage.

Twenty-five years ago, the 1991 Census showed that 26.9 per cent of Australians rented, while 41.1 per cent owned outright. In Sydney, it’s a stark trend, with renters making up over 34 per cent of all households.

However, at almost 35 per cent, those owning a home with a mortgage was the most common type of housing tenure in Australia. And for those who do own a home with a mortgage, the Census found that they’re finding it easier than ever to make repayments on their homes.

While the median household rent had jumped substantially ($335 a week in 2016 compared with $285 in 2011), median household mortgage repayments dropped to $1755, from $1800 in 2011. That’s likely due to lower interest rates, with the official cash rate having dropped by more than 3 per cent per annum since August 2011.

Mortgage repayments that are less than 30 per cent of a household’s income increased to 92.8 per cent, up from 90.1 per cent in 2011, and mortgage repayments that are equal to or greater than 30 per cent of a household’s income decreased to 7.2 per cent, from 9.9 per cent at the last Census.



Census figures show we are increasingly living in dense accommodation such as flats and apartments.

Apartment living on the rise

A big trend in most capital cities – predominantly Sydney and Melbourne but to an extent Brisbane – was the trend towards medium to high density living.

Separate houses continued to account for the largest proportion of Australian homes, although the figure decreased from 76 per cent of households in 2011 to 73 per cent in 2016. However, we are also increasingly living in dense accommodation. Flats, apartments, semi-detached, row housing or town housing now make up 26 per cent of the housing stock. But people’s homes are also increasingly likely to be a caravan, cabin, houseboat or even a tent!

Chris Johnson, chief executive of developer lobby Urban Taskforce, told domain.com.au “there’s no doubt in my mind the [apartment living] trends are going to continue.”

“There’s a trend towards renting, which comes with the apartment market, but it’s also to do with global cities as well. As cities like Sydney and Melbourne increase their populations over the next 40 years both will become cities of eight million people. This is the same size as the current populations of London and New York so we must plan for this type of city in the future.”

Recent analysis of the Census figures by CoreLogic revealed a move toward medium density housing. In Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra, medium density housing experienced the biggest increase in stock in the five years between the 2011 and 2016 Census collection periods. The most significant increase was Melbourne, at 61 per cent.

CoreLogic research analyst Cameron Kusher said that while approvals for high and medium density housing had fallen recently, it was anticipated that construction of these housing types would remain elevated. “I believe… the shift towards a greater proportion of capital city housing being medium and high density will continue over the coming years,” he told Finder.com.au.

Census stats at a glance

  • Australia’s estimated population at December 31 was 24.4 million people
  • NSW remains our most populous state, with 7,480,228 people counted, ahead of Victoria (5,926,624) and Queensland (4,703,193)
  • The Census showed that the ACTs population increased 11.2 per cent to 406,403 people, up from 357,222 in 2011
  • Greater Sydney is Australia’s largest population centre with 4,823,991 people, growing at 1656 every week since the previous Census
  • Almost one household in four was a person living alone, compared with one in five households in 1991
  • Australians are getting older with 664,473 additional people aged 65 and over since 2011
  • Of all Australian residents, just more than a quarter of people (26 per cent) said they were born overseas, with England remaining the most common country of birth other than Australia. For the first time in our history, the majority of people born overseas are now from Asia, not Europe
  • Nationwide, the median weekly income for an individual has increased $85 in five years – it now stands at $662, up from $577 in 2011. For families, median weekly income is at $1734, up from $1481 in 2011


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Lisa Llewellyn

Lisa started her working life as a property and financial journalist, working for media outlets including BRW, Radio 3AW and Australian Investment magazine. She turned her hand to PR and opened a boutique PR consultancy in 2001.

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Homeloans Ltd.