Property Australia

Big, bold ideas for affordable housing


Apps that tap into the sharing economy, high speed rail and co-living are just three of solutions suggested by our Future Directions leaders as they ponder the housing affordability conundrum.

The latest ANZ-CoreLogic Housing Affordability report finds housing affordability has improved much faster in the last two years than it had declined over the previous decade.

But despite house prices falling in some capital cities, Australia still has one of the world’s least affordable housing markets. The latest Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey says Sydney is the world's third most unaffordable market and Melbourne the fourth, topped only by Hong Kong and Vancouver.

It’s a daunting challenge for our growing cities – one that demands creative solutions.


Tapping into the sharing economy

Based on 2016 census data, almost half of Australia’s existing housing stock have two or more spare bedrooms. EY has estimated that there are 600,000 unused bedrooms in Sydney alone, which 350x350 Tegwen FDtranslates, hypothetically, into 190,000 dwellings.

APP’s assistant project manager Tegwen Hunter has an idea that responds to the growing number of spare bedrooms taking up valuable space in our cities.

“Imagine a home-sharing app which would enable couples to stay in their homes as their families downsize and sell space to others?

“Peer-to-peer marketing is an established channel in the property industry though timeshare and Airbnb-style apps. But let’s take the idea a step further. Property co-ownership can help us address housing affordability and environmental sustainability at the same time,” she says.


Affordable solutions for key workers

Renee McGuinn, an architect with Edmiston Jones, worries about the impact of housing affordability on key workers like nurses, teachers and emergency services personnel.030719 - Story 3 - Future Directions - Renee McGuinn

A 2018 report from the University of Sydney for the Teachers Mutual Bank, Firefighters Mutual Bank, Police Bank and My Credit Union, found a single enrolled nurse with five years’ experience would need to travel around 150 kilometres from central Sydney to find an affordable home to purchase. A single graduate teacher with a slightly higher income would need to travel 75 kilometres.

“There are suburbs where essential services personnel are priced out of the market, which forces them to commute significant hours to and from work. Their 12-hour shifts leave little to no time between the commute and much-needed sleep,” McGuinn says, adding that fatigue can hinder their ability to perform on the job.

In New South Wales, where wages for essential services personnel are capped under government legislation, long-term rental or rent-to-buy schemes would be “modest to implement,” McGuinn adds.


Keeping it in the family

“We need to shift our focus away from single dwellings to denser multi-dwelling housing or more communal style living,” says Emily Allen, a project planner with Barr Property and Planning.

030719 - Story 3 - Future Directions - Emily Allen

The City Future Research Centre at UNSW says one in five Australians already live in a multigenerational household; and in Sydney, the figure is one in four. And multigenerational living is on the rise.

“Multiple generations living under the same roof could become the normal in Australia. While mum and dad are off at work, grandma and grandpa could help with looking after the children. This has more benefits such as potential reduction in childcare costs, more division of housework and the social and health benefits of living with those you love.”

Allen says meeting the growing multigenerational market may require subsidies or incentives, as well as creative design solutions that address privacy, flexibility and accessibility.


Revving up our regions

Australia’s housing affordability story varies from place to place, and there is “no ‘one-size-fits all’ solution,” says Zac Neck, Turner & Townsend Thinc’s associate director.

030719 - Story 3 - Future Directions - Zac Neck

The ANZ-CoreLogic Housing Affordability finds that Hobart is now the least affordable capital city for renters, while Darwin is the most affordable for buyers. Sydney remains the least affordable market to buy in, followed closely by Melbourne.

Neck says strategic changes to first home buyer grants could encourage population growth in our regions.

“Someone who owns a property in Sydney could buy a property in Darwin and, provided they haven’t previously purchased in the Northern Territory, would be eligible for incentives. This could drive investment away from inflated markets and into contracting ones,” Neck says.

While tax reform must always be “carefully considered”, Neck says state stamp duties should be reviewed to also encourage more people to make the move away from the most expensive housing markets.


Connecting our cities with high speed rail

Eamon McErvale, a project manager with PDS Group, says investment in high-speed rail, especially if paired with planning to create growth corridors, can create new opportunities in our regions and ease pressure on housing affordability.030719 - Story 3 - Future Directions - Eamon McErvale.jpg

“Imagine being able to get on the train in Ballarat and be in the Melbourne CBD 20 minutes later? It's an attractive prospect that would help address housing affordability, provide an economic boost for regional areas and ease the pressure on urban localised infrastructure,” he says.

McErvale points to the Morrison Government’s promise to invest $2 billion in a “congestion-busting” fast rail between Geelong and Melbourne, which would halve the 80 kilometre journey to 32 minutes. But while this is a “step in the right direction”, regional high-speed rail needs to be considered throughout all major cities in the Australia experiencing rapid population growth”.

The Property Council’s Future Directions committees in each state and territory support young professionals to work together, build a network and develop their career. Future Directions events are held across Australia. Find your next event.