As we’re caught up in what feels like an endless conversation about home ownership I thought it would be interesting to look at some facts around home ownership, both just what’s the pattern in Australia, but also by international comparison. This shows some interesting figures and trends.

The international figures published by a range of organisations and governments reveal that the two countries with the highest rates of ownership are very different, they are; Romania at 96.4%, followed perhaps less surprisingly by Singapore at 90.8%.

In a table of the top 50, Australia comes in at 38th, in a cluster that we share with several other similar economies as follows:

 

Why Romania & Singapore
These are two very different countries and despite the fact that Singapore ranks 7th in terms of GDP and Romania 41st they do share some things in common. For comparison Australia’s GDP ranking is 21st, and all rankings are out of 228.

Both Romania and Singapore have been termed ‘Tiger Economies’ but the main shared factor is direct government policy, albeit from very different perspectives. Romania is a transformed Eastern Block Country, so inherited a bulk of state housing and Singapore also has a policy of state housing with 80% of the population living in HBD (Housing and Development Board) homes

An insight into HBD policy emphasises the important investment that the government has on housing, and affordable housing. According to the HBD these state policies have been very important for social stability and Singapore’s nationhood alongside a long-term approach to planning and public housing as two very important policy pillars.

Our Approach is Very Different
With our local housing market being dominated by private development the picture here is very different. Direct government intervention into the housing market is limited and piecemeal with varied incentives coming and going. The delivery of social or affordable public housing is also mainly a matter for the States, our local home ownership rates have been static for a long time.

A Reserve Bank submission to the Senate Inquiry into Home Ownership in June 2015 contained some detailed information. It appears that we are good at having inquiries into the housing market.

The report noted: that the level of home ownership should not be presumed as only appropriate at 100% and that countries with higher rates have not necessarily achieved ‘better’ outcomes. According to the RBA the important outcome was for all Australians to have access to housing that is appropriate to their needs. An interesting policy?

The report also noted that the prevalence of home ownership in Australia had increased considerably over the past century, but has been broadly stable at around 70% since the 1960s.

The increases were concentrated particularly after World War II (WWII), and were noted as a result of significant government assistance.

A Resurgence of Regional Markets
In the current debate around affordability there, has been suggestions that home buyers should look to the regions. In the absence of supporting infrastructure, in particular better transport that’s an over simplistic statement.

However, it might be a good policy because in the first half of last century the RBA notes that there we also saw a marked convergence in home ownership rates in metropolitan and regional areas.

In the early 1900s, the rate was significantly higher in our regional areas. Today that gap has closed and since the late 1950s, home ownership has been much more pronounced in metropolitan areas.

Now home ownership rates in regional and metropolitan areas area very similar, even though housing prices are generally significantly lower in most regional areas.

When considering home ownership there still appears to be a role for direct government support and a generally more active role, that covers all areas of housing including the rental market and infrastructure delivery, but that really comes as no surprise.