Housing is not too expensive, but Gen Y expects to have it all

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Getting into the property market for the first time is tough, there’s no doubt, but there are many factors impacting on why people view this as a major problem.

High expectations

Gen Y are living at home longer than ever before. They are saving longer and accruing bigger deposits. Interest rates are low. So why can’t they afford to buy? 

In many cases it’s not that they can’t afford to buy property, it’s that they can’t afford to buy what they want. Expectations are too high. Many people expect be able to buy a reasonable property in a desirable location close to the lifestyle amenities they want. This, obviously, is very difficult. There is a sense of wanting to have it all straight away. Australian households are paying more than they can afford for housing, with more than 740,000 renters and over 380,000 mortgaged home owners reporting significant financial stress. Sometimes you just have to take baby steps. 

This aversion to moving out of the inner city (where the lifestyle amenities are) is going to lead to a generation of renters, and the Aussie dream of home ownership will be sacrificed for lifestyle. This of course, will push up rents because of the simple rules of supply and demand. 

More than 75% of Australians live in and around our major cities along the eastern and south-eastern coastal areas. And that’s where they want to stay. The limited land available in these locations, along with a growing population of buyers and immigrants, naturally puts pressure on Australia’s metropolitan prices.

Small will become the new big

That leaves two options: a bigger property in an outer-ring location, or a (much) smaller property that is more centrally located. Gen Yers are willing to sacrifice space for location, so will more and  more opt to live in high-density housing (apartments, etc.) that are located close to where they work and play than a bigger place further out.

Governments will need to help out

If affordability issues are pushing people to the ‘burbs, governments will need to create business activity centres where people can work close to home in the outer areas. Lack of infrastructure is still a problem in many outlying areas, and this is preventing people from wanting to relocate to outer-ring suburbs.

In addition, the federal government should be looking at introducing a flexible and secure savings scheme for first-home buyers that is tax free and places no limits on the entry or exit time frames and amounts held in the account. This would go a long way to assist first-home buyers.

Banks need to drop interest rates

Banks will also need to play their part in solving the affordability crisis. The Reserve Bank does its bit to keep rates low and try to stimulate the economy but it’s up to individual banks to pass on those rates to consumers. The GFC, the lending crisis in the US and the experience in parts of Europe have left our banking sector overly cautious when it comes to lending. It’s harder now to get a loan than it has been in a long while. Although I don’t agree with the former US approach of basically handing out an unsecured loan to anyone who asks, if lending criteria were loosened up a bit more people would be able to jump into the property market much more easily.

We have to remember however that, overall, interest rates are a lot lower than they were 20 years ago. Gen Y didn’t live through that. They don’t understand the pressure of the threat of losing your family home to the bank. 

Housing isn’t that expensive

Speaking of the rest of the world, on international standards, housing is Australia is still relatively affordable. 

If affordability was a real issue, then why do we have so many investors continuing to buy up residential property?  Again, the issues lies with first-home buyers, not the market overall. 

Growth is good!

We want our economy to grow and we want our property market to grow with it. It’s good for the whole country. Many people are doing very well investing in property and will continue to do so. Ultimately, people need to lower their expectations, bite the bullet and start off with a property they can afford while still making a good purchase decision in terms of potential for capital growth. There are lots of great, affordable properties out there. You just need to be prepared to live in one of them!

By Melissa Opie
Property Observer

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