Malcolm Turnbull

The 'great Australian dream' even further from becoming reality

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A report has revealed the number of homeowners in Australia is falling, and is likely to dip below 50 per cent of adults next year.

Soaring childcare costs and spiralling house prices are just some of the trends revealed in the latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) report.

The data, put out by the University of Melbourne, shows the rate of people owning their own home has fallen from 57 per cent in 2002 to less than 52 per cent, and predicts that by next year fewer than half of all adults will own their own home.

The report’s author, Roger Wilkins, said the numbers painted a bleak picture – and the reason for the sharp decline was simple.

“It’s one single factor and that’s house prices,” he said.

The opposition’s treasury spokesman, Chris Bowen, said the government had an opportunity to do something about this – and failed.

“Governments have to ensure the policy settings are right. And the figures out today are yet more evidence, if Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison needed it, that the current policy settings are not right," he said.

“We don't want to be a nation in which the great Australian dream of home ownership is a memory, not a reality."

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison said while he wholeheartedly agreed that the issue needed to be addressed, leaders must be careful not to apply a one-size-fits-all solution.

“You've got to be very careful about how you apply those measures that are available at the federal level and the financial system because while they might improve things in the suburbs of Melbourne, they can make things very difficult in the suburbs of Adelaide or Hobart, he said.

“That is why we are always much more focused on how we can work with the states, work on cities' policy, on infrastructure policy, things of that nature which can improve the affordability of housing and accessibility of housing".

Professor Wilkins said the increase in the price of homes over the past two decades or so had not been matched by income growth, meaning many people were being left out of the market.

And he said young Australians were being hit particularly hard.

“The decline in home ownership is very much concentrated among younger people, particularly those aged under 45,” he said.

“It’s very much an inter-generational story".

He pointed to financial insecurity as one of the main reasons why people were having children later in life.

Prospective homeowner, Keely Malady, agreed.

Together with her partner, she’s been trying for years to get a foot on the property ladder, turning to house-sitting in an effort to save enough for a home deposit.

“For us it’s about a sense of stability for our future and a place to have a family in the future,” she said.

They’ve also cut back on social expenses, and make do with a quieter, more budget-conscious way of life.

Melbourne University’s Professor Wilkins said young Australians weren’t just missing out on entering the property market, but building up their wealth as well.

“We’ve seen quite large gains in wealth particularly among those aged 65 and over, whereas among those aged 25-34 there’s basically been no change,” he said.

Childcare costs have also continued their meteoric rise, increasing by around 109 per cent between 2002 and 2014.

According to the report, grandparents were being used more and more for informal child care, particularly in single-parent families.

Mother-of-three Deb Kozaris said the help was invaluable.

Twice a week her twins Christian and Isaac are at childcare, while the third is looked after by parents.

But even with their support, she said her family still struggled.

“It’s quite expensive, we’re generally out of pocket $240 or so a week just for the twins, so to then put another child in there as well – we have to weigh up the costs, she said.

“Is it ideal for me to return to work, are we going to be able to afford it, is there any point?”

The findings also showed an uncertain future for the jobs market, with small businesses employing fewer people.

As for the future, the University of Melbourne’s Professor Wilkins believes Australians need to face some home truths, and predicts we’re likely to see more of the same.

“The economic data clearly shows that the boom is over, he said.

“Household incomes haven’t grown at all since 2009, wealth has been stagnant over the same period, and I don’t think there’s any reason for that to really improve over the near term.

“I think overall the picture is one of much more moderate growth in incomes and wealth if any growth,” he said.

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