Australia has one of the world's highest rates of home ownership, not least because owner-occupied housing is treated favourably both as an investment and as a consumption good. The residual role of public housing (which accounts for just 5-6% of the housing stock) and the limited subsidy to private renters mean that, despite a lack of tax relief on mortgage interest, the attainment of owner-occupation is widely regarded as a cultural norm, a wise investment and a mark of success. Accordingly, over 70% of the population own, or are buying, their homes. The opportunity to become a home owner in Australia, as elsewhere, has varied over time (with changes in the availability and affordability of the owner-occupied housing stock). For any individual, the attainment of owner-occupation is therefore a function of birth cohort as well as the consequence of a variety of economic, demographic and life course factors. The effects of these correlates are, in turn, mediated by gender-a subject still neglected (especially with respect to two-adult households) in the many otherwise-excellent accounts of housing affordability, costs and benefits in the Australian context. To help redress an imbalance in the literature, this paper explores the gender dimension of factors associated with home ownership in some detail, drawing on the surveys of 2547 women and 2182 men conducted in 1986 as part of the Australian Family Project (AFP). The aim is to describe the predictors of home ownership and to explore some similarities and differences in men's and women's routes to, and experiences of Australia's dominant tenure. The findings should provide a sound basis for subsequent, more specialised, analyses of the rich life history data contained in the AFP.
Urban Research Unit, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University 1989