In the current environment of rising rents and house prices, housing affordability has once again become a hot topic for political debate.
While mortgage interest costs for existing home owners have fallen over the last few years, rents have risen rapidly in many parts of the country, leaving many households financially vulnerable.
The fourth Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre housing affordability survey, covering 4000 respondents from across three states (Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland), uncovered a tale of two tenures with improved affordability for existing owners but growing pressure on low to moderate income renters.
Twenty per cent of private renters in the survey regarded their housing as unaffordable compared to 9 per cent of owners with a mortgage.
With half of renters paying more than 30 per cent of their income in rent, one in six paying more than 50 per cent, and 55 per cent having no money left over to save at the end of the month, the goal of home ownership has never seemed further away.
In fact, many low-income renters are more concerned about keeping a roof over their head.
More than 40 per cent of renters would find a 10 per cent increase in rent to have a major impact on their financial position.
Rent assistance recipients were most likely to be affected.
Many state governments have made welcome announcements around large-scale investments in social housing supply and this is absolutely critical to provide a safety net for vulnerable renters. More is needed.
NSW and Victoria have also proposed changes around stamp duty.
The BCEC survey asked respondents what they would like to see happen to stamp duty reform.
Surprisingly, a third wanted to retain the upfront stamp duty payment and just 12 per cent wanted an annual land tax.
Just over half wanted to be able to choose between the two payments. Not such a simple decision after all.
The survey also asked questions around the impact of COVID-19.
One in five households said COVID has changed what they want from their housing, including more than 40 per cent of current renters who now want to own their own home.
Many are looking for a dwelling more suitable for working from home, with additional indoor and outdoor space, access to amenities and better internet connectivity.
This creates some interesting challenges around delivering housing density, with quality housing design set to become even more important.
Professor Steven Rowley and Dr Amity James are from theSchool of Accounting, Economics and Finance, Curtin University. Professor Alan Duncan is director of the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre.