On the surface, the latest census tells us home ownership has changed little over the past five years.

Between the 2016 census and this census in 2021, the share of Australians owning their homes remained steady at about 66%.

First Home Owners

The proportion of renting also changed little, climbing from 30% to 30.6%.

But a closer look reveals bigger long-term changes.

While the proportion of owning has slipped only two percentage points from 68% to 66% between 1996 and 2021, the proportion of owning outright (without a mortgage) has plummeted from 42% to 31%.

The proportion mortgaged is nine percentage points higher.

The proportion of renting is four percentage points higher.

Most of the shift occurred between 2001 and 2006, which were the early years of the sustained home price boom.

As prices climbed, more Australians rented, and owner-occupiers took on larger mortgages that took longer to pay off.

Tenure Type By Dwelling

It’s for those under 40s for whom things have changed the most

In younger age groups, the proportion of owning a home has dived.

Between 1996 and 2021, the share of owners in households headed by 25-34-year-olds sank from 50% to 43%.

This is part of a long-term decline that began in 1981.

Homeownership rates have also dived among Australians aged 35-44 and 45-54 too, but at a slower pace than for Australians aged 25-34.

Home Ownership Rates By Age Of Household Reference Person

A prepared by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows homeownership rates among Australians aged 65+ ticked up from 78.4% to 79.4% between 2016 and 2021 after sliding in the previous two censuses.

The downward trend in homeownership among the young and the upward trend in mortgaged rather than outright ownership show no signs of reversing, despite significant spending on first homebuyer subsidies and guarantees.

It depends on where you live

The changes have not been uniform throughout the country.

In South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania the proportion of households renting has barely changed since 1996.

In the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory, it has slipped.

But in Victoria, the proportion of households renting has jumped 3%, in NSW it has jumped 4%, and in Queensland 3%.

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