The recently released ‘My City: the people’s verdict 2013’ survey from the Property Council of Australia reveals that only 36 per cent of people think Australian cities have affordable housing—the worst performing aspect of the 17 measurement categories of our cities that were assessed. The survey results, which measured the ‘liveability’ of Australia's capital cities from the perspective of people who live in them, reinforce the awareness that housing affordability and housing stress are important issues for Australians.
The ABS Survey of Income and Housing revealed that in 2011–12 nearly 1 in 5 of all Australian households (being 18% or 1 553 000 households) paid more than 30 per cent of their gross income (i.e. before tax was taken out) in rent or mortgage costs. In addition, the ratio of median rent to median income paid by tenants who rented privately rose to 27 per cent in 2011, up from a more affordable 19 per cent in 1981.
A household is considered to be in housing stress when it has an income in the bottom 40 per cent of the Australian household income distribution and pays more than 30 per cent of its income in housing costs. For lower income households, paying 30 per cent or more of their income on housing has a much greater impact on their ability to buy other essential goods and services (such as food, health care and education) than for more well off households, who may choose to pay more for housing to get benefits such as a more comfortable home or being in a better neighbourhood.