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Exclusive Australian Bureau of Statistics data has revealed the staggering difference in wealth of older Australians in owner-occupied households compared to those that rent.
In 2017-18, the ABS found that property-owning households — where at least one of the occupants was 65 and over — had a median net worth of $960,000.
Similar households that were still paying off a mortgage had a median net worth of $934,900.
In stark contrast, the median net worth of similar households that rent was just $40,800.
"People who are not in the housing market will find it more difficult over time," ANZ economist Felicity Emmett told 7.30.
"I think we will see a situation where wealth inequality and particularly intergenerational inequality rises."
Nicki Hutley, partner at Deloitte Access Economics, believes Australia is in danger of creating a separate class of Australians who will not reap the many benefits that come with home ownership.
"Are we allowing one class of Australians to build for their retirement more easily than another class of Australians? The answer to that is unequivocally yes," she said.
Ms Hutley has warned that Australia is in the grip of a housing affordability crisis that will lock a growing number of people out of the property market.
Analysis provided to 7.30 by the Reserve Bank of Australia confirms rates of home ownership fell among every age group between 2011 and 2016.
"When house prices are growing strongly, you see a big drop-off in the number of people moving into home ownership," Melbourne University professor Roger Wilkins said.
Saving a 20 per cent deposit for a house in any Australian capital city now takes nine years for a typical household, while a median-priced property in Sydney now costs more than eight times the average household income, according to CoreLogic.
That is despite the recent correction wiping almost 15 per cent from Sydney property values.
Nationally, property prices are rising again and are predicted to recoup their recent losses by May.
"What's happening now is real, but it's not sustainable," Ms Hutley said.
"We can't keep having our house prices rise to these sorts of levels.
"We certainly have a housing affordability crisis in Australia."
'We're likely to see fewer Australians own their own home'
The Grattan Institute's household finances program director Brendan Coates points to sharply declining rates of home ownership among younger Australians.
The number of homeowners aged 18 to 39 in Sydney and Melbourne has plummeted since 2002, picking up only slightly during the recent downturn.
In 2002, 34 per cent of 18 to 39-year-olds in Melbourne were home owners. By 2018 that figure had dropped to 22 per cent, according to the HILDA Survey.
"It's hard to see that that's anything other than worsening affordability that's driving that trend," Mr Coates said.
"It is a crisis where, over the course of the next couple of decades, we're likely to see fewer and fewer Australians — particularly poorer Australians — own their own home, and that will have enormous consequences for all aspects of Australian life."
Hoping to achieve what their parents never could
In a typical year, Dominic and Trudie Harris earn about $120,000 between them.
They are hoping to achieve what their parents never could — buying a property that their eight-year-old son Liam can call home.
But the odds are stacked against them. In the Queensland suburb of Newport, where they currently rent, it takes, on average, 11 years to save a 20 per cent deposit for a house.
"Thinking it's another 11 years to save to get into the market is crazy," Ms Harris said.
"I'll be 52 and Liam will be a teenager," Mr Harris said.
The couple hopes to cut the deposit to 5 per cent by being one of the 10,000 Australians to qualify for the Federal Government's new first home deposit scheme.
"It would be nice to get a hand up, not a handout," Mr Harris told 7.30.
"I think the 5 per cent is a lot more achievable than 20 per cent."
Housing deposit scheme 'won't have much of an impact'
Economists who 7.30 spoke to questioned whether the Government's home deposit scheme would make housing more affordable.
"I think the first home deposit scheme is another example of a policy that sounds good," the Grattan Institute's Mr Coates said.
"It ends up being a policy that really benefits vendors of the kinds of homes that are attractive to first-time buyers, and that's exactly what we've seen with stamp duty concessions for first home buyers in Victoria, and with first-time buyers grants in the past."
Deloitte Access Economics' Ms Hutley likened the scheme to previously tried "bandaid measures" that had not made housing more affordable overall.
"What I'd see as the underlying solution for housing affordability is to build more houses in the places where people want to live," she said.