The great Aussie dream fades – Kylie Davis

The CoreLogic Perceptions of Housing Affordability survey, reveals the emergence of an increasingly dependent generation, with young people battling housing affordability resigned to living with their parents for longer.  The report shows that almost two-thirds of those living at home – 62% – can’t afford to move out, while 21% of those aged 18 or over and living in the family home expect to remain with their parents until they are at least 30 years old.  This phenomenon could see the rise of ‘Cubby House Syndrome’, whereby parents try and fashion some sort of independent living arrangements for their adult children in their existing premises. Kevin discusses the report with Core Logic’s Kylie Davis.
Kevin:  Well, by any measure, housing affordability has worsened over the past 15 years. You’ve only just got to listen to the current reports and what people are talking about. It is all about housing affordability. The cost of buying a dwelling currently takes 7.2 times the annual income of a typical household, up from 4.2 times the income 15 years ago.
This is the headline in the executive summary of the CoreLogic report that deals with housing affordability, looks at the total issue – a great report. And the author of that report joins me, Kylie Davis, who is the head of property marketing at CoreLogic.
Kylie, thank you for joining us today on the show. There is no way that we can get through every piece of this report but let’s just deal with a few of the key issues.
How critical is housing affordability right now?
Kylie:  Australia is one of the most unaffordable places to live in the world, and what we’re seeing is a growing gap between who can afford property and who can’t. What we’re seeing is increasingly, property is being owned by people who are older, who have higher incomes, and, slightly ironically, families with small children.
But really it’s about if you’re already wealthy or you’re very lucky, you can afford to buy property, whereas everyone else is really struggling. And I think that is in contradiction to Australia’s cultural belief that everyone deserves a fair go and that we should all be equal.
Kevin:  Yes. And there is another belief, too, that everyone should have their own home. It’s the great Australian dream, isn’t it? It’s becoming more unrealistic.
That first statement you made there about Australia being the most unaffordable country in the world to buy property, really boiling that down, you’re talking about two major capital cities here, Sydney and Melbourne, aren’t we?
Kylie:  No, no. We’re not. An organization called Geographica, at the beginning of the year, did an affordability study around the world, and we are number two in the least affordable major housing markets. All of the capital cities in Australia fall under an unaffordable ranking according to Geographica and, in fact, even most of the regions do. The only ones that came up is affordable under their modeling were some very regional areas that often had mining in them, and because of that they said, “Yeah, we’re not actually very sure.”
By all criteria, regardless of where you live across Australia, when compared to other countries – and those countries are like the U.S. – everywhere that you want to live is quite unaffordable.
Kevin:  There are some countries around the world where they’re taking a very creative approach to house ownership or living in a property or owning a property. Scandinavia is one where they’ve had some very creative ways to get people into a property, and I think there the focus has been not so much about making a profit out of housing but actually having housing to live in. There is a bit of a difference, isn’t there?
Kylie:  Yes, there is. I guess one of the issues for Australia as an economy is that real estate and property ownership and residential property is such an important part of our wealth. We have close to $7 trillion in money and investment tied up in residential property, and that compares to $2.2 billion for superannuation and other investments. Real estate is very dear to our hearts.
Kevin:  Let’s have a look at the report, and as I said at the outset, we can’t go through every piece of it. By the way, too, if you’d like to get a download of this report it is available. How much is it?
Kylie:  The full report is available for $49, or you can see just a quick executive summary for free.
Kevin:  We’re going to put that executive summary on both of our websites, Real Estate Talk and Real Estate Uncut. Just go to the blog section, have a look at the article there that’s been written by Kylie about housing affordability, and you’ll be taken to the link there.
Kylie, let’s have a look at some of the summary or some of the findings that you’ve come up with in this report. Were there any areas that surprised you?
Kylie:  There were. The things that really surprised us were around generations. We all hear that cliché that the kids won’t move out of home and they’re getting older and older and staying at home, but we saw in the research that really is happening.
30% of people generally have never owned a property but 60% of millennials have never owned a property. We’re seeing that millennials are living at home. Most of them are moving out between 25 and 29, but a growing number are starting to move out after 30.
Kevin:  In the report, have you been able to foreshadow any solutions to housing affordability, and really, are there any?
Kylie:  There are. The issue with housing affordability is that there’s not one magic bullet or one button you can press and fix everything, because Australia has three layers of government and each of those layers is responsible for a different element that affects the overall picture of housing affordability. There really needs to be coordination across the different levels of government.
What we see that will make property most affordable is increasing supply, and the work that needs to happen there is better infrastructure. So better public transport that’s linking our regional cities to the capitals, better public transport that’s linking different parts of our city rather than always feeding into the capital – into Sydney city or Melbourne city or Brisbane city – making orbital links, because that then encourages jobs and employment, and allowing people to move easier means that you open areas that are currently more affordable to more people and it takes the pressure off the center of town.
Then also looking at zoning and planning and having a big picture of how we need to be living. At the moment, a lot of the apartment approvals that are going through are for very big apartment blocks that are one or two bedrooms. That’s not a forever home. We really need more apartments or townhouses that are focused on being an alternative to a house but that you can live in and move in as a couple and then have a couple of kids there and not feel like you’re completely constrained.
Kevin:  Did you reach any conclusions in your report about the impact of things like First Home Owner Grant and incentives that we will give people to buy property in terms of whether or not that actually does inflate property prices?
Kylie:  I think we saw with the New South Wales government – looking at an example that I can remember – the trouble with grants is that they flood a proportion of the market with a bit of money and often supply on the other side hasn’t been dealt with, then simply what happens is that prices actually go up even higher.
Grants are great but they also need to be done in a bigger picture of “Okay, if we’re going to give a particular section of the market more money or make it easier for them to collect the money to go and to spend on a property, how do we make sure that on the supply side that there’s enough out there for them to buy so that that doesn’t just simply push prices up?”
When the First Home Owner Grant came out in New South Wales, pretty much the bottom end of the market, prices just lifted because suddenly people had more money to spend.
Kevin:  We did see in Queensland, didn’t we, where the state government has said that you won’t get a First Home Owner Grant unless you’re buying a new property, that is a new build. Is that part of the solution? Is that what you’re talking about?
Kylie:  Yes. I think grants need to be used to encourage more stock to come onto the market as opposed to simply pushing up the price of existing stock.
Kevin:  Yes. It does come back to supply, doesn’t it, which is what you said right at the outset?
Kylie:  Yes. It always does.
Kevin:  Was that the bottom line in the report – that it is about supply?
Kylie:  It is. There are some things in some legislation across different states that are discouraging people from selling their homes. We saw that one of the biggest impediments to a lot of people actually selling as opposed to buying was stamp duty.
What we can see in the research is, yes, stamp duty is a big barrier if you’re trying to save for deposit and buy a home in the inner city of Sydney and Melbourne especially, because our stamp duty proportions are a lot higher than Queensland.
That can be an add-on that becomes extraordinary expensive. If you’re going to buy a property that’s over $1.5 million in Sydney – which is not an uncommon thing – you’re looking a stamp duty bill of around $90,000, which is in most people’s minds – especially, baby boomers who are more likely to own the houses that would effect – dead money.
What we’re seeing is people are saying “Look, I’m not going sell then because if I sell I have to go through all the trauma of selling. I then have to find something to buy. I’m not convinced I’ll find something better than what I have, so I’ll just renovate now.”
We’re seeing that stamp duty issue hitting both sides of the market. It’s a major barrier to people who are trying to buy and it’s a major issue for people who are thinking are selling because they see that they then are going to have to pay stamp duty to buy something new and they think “Oh, that’s too hard. I don’t want to do it.”
Kevin:  The report is certainly the most comprehensive report that I’ve ever seen on housing affordability. It’s available now. Just go to our websites, Real Estate Talk or Real Estate Uncut. Have a look at the blog section. Look for the article written by Kylie Davis. It will take you to a link where you can actually see this. You can also see an executive summary of this report.
Kylie Davis has been my guest. Kylie is the head of Property Marketing at CoreLogic.
Kylie, thank you very much for your time.
Kylie:  Thanks, Kevin. Lovely to talk to you.

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