This research report documents that the ‘Australian dream’ of home ownership is no longer relevant in the contemporary era. Analysis of statistical trends for Australian tenure change and comparative analysis of the direction of ownership in equivalent countries are the basis for this conclusion. The analysis suggests that no single policy failure, no single political decision, no single market or state failure has eroded the ability to achieve the ownership dream. Instead, the change has come from complex shifts throughout the entire institutional environment.
- Despite the challenges of Australia’s changed institutional environment since the late 1970s the overall home ownership rate has held up well; it was at 67 per cent in 2016, only marginally less than the 68 per cent of 1976. The steady ownership rate over this period is largely attributable to Australia’s ageing population.
- However, there appears little chance of Australia sustaining home ownership at current levels. The rate is projected to decline by 2040 to around 63 per cent for all households, and to not much more than 50 per cent—down from 60 per cent in 1981—for households in the 25–55 age bracket.
- Declines in ownership seem likely by virtue of attributes of the Australian labour market; continued issues of affordability (despite the 2018–19 price downturn); the proliferation of building forms (apartments) more suited for rental than ownership; and the growth of the private rental sector, underpinned by favourable tax provisions and a housing industry now increasingly path dependent on the private rental sector.
- Both in Australia and internationally, home ownership policies have not been robust enough to increase ownership in the last decade or so. Changes in the broader institutional environment have been much more powerful in shaping tenure opportunities and constraints.