Home ownership falls, mortgage stress rises in Sydney, census reveals

Public concern about housing affordability has grown in NSW after several years of rapid property price growth. At the end of March the median price of a detached home in Sydney was just under $1.6 million having risen 21 per cent in the previous year, Domain figures show. Although some indicators suggest prices have eased a little in the past few months.

Grattan Institute economist Brendan Coates said Sydney’s home ownership rate declined despite very favourable conditions for home buyers including historically low interest rates and a range of government support programs including the HomeBuilder scheme.

“Housing is just so expensive that an increasing number of young Sydneysiders can’t afford to buy a home in their own city,” he said.

“Home ownership will continue to fall unless we fix the underlying drivers for why housing is so expensive in the first place. That means fixings land use planning laws and scaling back some [housing-related] tax breaks.”

The share of Sydneysiders who own their own home outright has fallen from 39 per cent to 27.8 per cent since 2001.

The census showed Sydney’s median monthly mortgage repayment grew by $327 between 2016 and 2021 despite very low interest rates during that period.

Home borrowers in the eastern suburbs statistical region had the highest median monthly mortgage repayment of $3298, followed by the Northern Beaches with $3124.

The census also revealed big differences in incomes and housing types across the city. The eastern suburbs statistical district had Sydney’s highest median family income of $177,000. That’s $80,000 more than the median family income in the city’s south-west statistical district taking in Liverpool, Fairfield and Bringelly ($96,200).

The median annual family income across Greater Sydney was $123,448.

There is a growing contrast in the types of housing across the metropolitan area. In the city and inner south statistical district, which includes the CBD, Redfern and Botany, almost 70 per cent of dwellings are a flat or apartment while 10 per cent are stand-alone houses. However, in the Baulkham Hills and Hawkesbury statistical area just 8 per cent of dwellings are a flat or apartment while 83.3 per cent are detached homes.

Other Sydney statistical districts with a high share of flats and apartments are the eastern suburbs (58 per cent), inner west (49 per cent) and North Sydney and Hornsby (46 per cent).

Across Greater Sydney 31 per cent of households now live in a flat while 56 per cent occupy a detached house.

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