Secure and affordable housing is fundamental to the wellbeing of Australians. Home ownership continues to be a widely held aspiration in Australia, as it affords owners with security of housing tenure and both long–term social and economic benefits (AIHW 2022). In recent times, there has been much public debate about the rate of home ownership and housing affordability. See Housing affordability and Housing assistance.

In 2021, there were nearly 9.8 million households in Australia (ABS 2022a). Where household tenure was known:

  • 67% (6.2 million households) were home owners.
    • 32% (2.9 million households) without a mortgage
    • 35% (3.3 million households) with a mortgage.
  • 31% (2.9 million households) were renters.
    • 26% (2.4 million households) were renting from private landlords
    • 3.0% (277,500 households) from state or territory housing authorities
    • 2.4% (223,600 households) from other landlords.
  • 2.1% (192,200 households) were other tenure, including households which are not an owner with or without a mortgage, or a renter (ABS 2022a).

Although Census data provides the most comprehensive view of housing tenure among Australian households, it is only conducted once every 5 years. To monitor changes in housing circumstance during non-Census periods, other survey data can be used. Survey of Income and Housing data shows that in the past 20 years to 2019–20, there has been a decline in the proportion of households owning their home without a mortgage and increases in households with a mortgage and in private rental agreements (Figure 1) (ABS 2022b).

This line graph shows that the proportion of owners without a mortgage declined from about 42% in 1994–95 to 30% in 2019–20. This line graph shows that the proportion of owners with a mortgage increased from about 30% in 1994–95 to 37% in 2019–20. This line graph shows that the proportion of renters renting from private landlords increased from about 18% in 1994–95 to 26% in 2019–20. This line graph shows that the proportion of renters renting from state or territory housing authorities declined slightly from about 6% in 1994–95 to 3% in 2019–20.

Trends in home ownership

Home ownership data from the 2021 Census show a home ownership rate of 67%, down from 70% in 2006. While the home ownership rate remained around 67–70% from the early 1970’s, the rate for different age groups has varied markedly over this time. The rates among different age groups can be determined using the age of the Census household reference person. The following analysis uses the number of private dwellings by age of household reference person and tenure type to calculate the proportion of homeowners for specific age groups from total households (excluding not stated).

The home ownership rate of 30–34 year old’s was 64% in 1971, decreasing 14 percentage points to 50% in 2021 (Unpublished, AIHW analysis of Census data). For Australians aged 25–29, the difference was similar – 50% in 1971, compared with 36% in 2021. Home ownership rates have also gradually decreased among people nearing retirement. Since 1996, home ownership rates for the 50–54 age group has fallen by 7.9 percentage points over 25 years (80% to 72%) (Figure 2).

To further illustrate these changes in home ownership rates, data can be presented by birth cohorts (Figure 2). Home ownership rates of Australians born during 1947–1951 increased from 54% in 1976 (when they were aged 25–29) to 82% 45 years later in 2021 (when they were aged 70–74). By contrast, the home ownership rate of those born during 1992–1996 was 36% in 2021 (when they were aged 25–29), 18 percentage points lower than the 1947–1951 cohort at the same age.

Nationally, the rate of home ownership was lower for almost each successive birth cohort since the 1947–1951 birth cohort (Figure 2). The home ownership rate has been higher in only two instances; 0.2 percentage points for the 19771981 cohort in the 25–29 age group and 0.3 percentage points for the 1982–1986 cohort in the 35–39 age group. In the most recent results, the home ownership rates in birth cohorts 1972–1976, 1977–1981 and 1982–1986 increased to similar levels as their preceding birth cohort. However, rates were much lower than older birth cohorts. 

This line graph shows that the home ownership rates of those in the birth cohort 1947–51, who were 25–29 in 1971, increased from 54% in 1971 to 82% by 2016, or 45 years later when they were 70–74. In contrast to the 1947–51 cohort, the home ownership rate of those 25–29 years old in 2021 (the 1992–1996 birth cohort) was 36%, 18 percentage points lower than the 1947–1951 cohort at the same age. In every age group, the rate of home ownership is lower for almost each successive birth cohort since the 1947–1951 birth cohort.

Financial support for home buyers

Governments provide financial support to assist first home buyers, low-income households, Indigenous Australians, and vulnerable people to buy a house. The four main types of support available to home buyers are Home purchase assistance, First Home Owner Grant scheme, First Home Super Saver Scheme and Home Guarantee Scheme.

Home purchase assistance provides financial assistance, such as direct lending, concessional loans, and mortgage relief, to eligible low-income households to improve their access to, and to maintain home ownership. Households may receive more than one type of home purchase assistance (AIHW 2022).

First Home Owner Grant Scheme, introduced nationally on 1 July 2000, is funded by the state and territory governments and administered under their legislation. A one–off grant is payable to low–income first homeowners who apply and satisfy eligibility criteria. Examples are that at least one applicant must be a permanent resident or Australian citizen, each applicant must be at least 18 years of age, and temporary residents do not qualify to receive the grant (Australian Government 2020).

The Indigenous Home Ownership Program facilitates home ownership for Indigenous Australians by providing access to affordable home loan finance. The program aims to address barriers to home ownership, such as loan affordability, low savings, impaired credit histories and limited experience with long-term loan commitments (IBA 2021).

First Home Super Saver Scheme, introduced by the Australian Government in the 2017–18 Federal Budget, supports first home buyers who meet the eligibility criteria to save money for a house deposit using their superannuation fund. They can voluntarily contribute up to $15,000 in any one financial year, up to a total of $50,000, from 1 July 2022. They receive the tax benefit of saving through their superannuation contribution arrangements (ATO 2022).

Home Guarantee Scheme (HGS), comprises the First Home Guarantee (FHBG), previously known as the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, and the Family Home Guarantee (FHG). Under the First Home Guarantee, an eligible first homebuyer can purchase a property with a deposit of as little as five per cent, while through the Family Home Guarantee a single parent with dependents can purchase a home with a deposit of as little as two per cent. From 1 July 2022, the number of places available through the First Home Guarantee increases from 10,000 to 35,000 per financial year. The Family Home Guarantee will have an annual allocation of 5,000 places from 1 July 2022 until 30 June 2025 (NHFIC 2022).

HomeBuilder scheme was announced on 4 June 2020, with the aim of encouraging eligible owner-occupiers to build a new home or substantially renovate an existing home. The grant provided $25,000 to eligible contracts signed between 4 June 2020 and 31 December 2020. Eligible contracts signed between 1 January 2021 and 31 March 2021 were offered $15,000. On 17 April 2021, the construction commencement requirement was extended from six months to 18 months for all existing applicants (The Treasury 2021).

In 2020–21, around 44,200 instances of home purchase assistance were provided across Australia. Of these:

  • over one-quarter (27% or 11,900) of the main applicants receiving assistance were aged 35–44
  • about one-fifth (20%) of recipients earned a gross income of less than $700 per week ($36,400 per annum)
  • 58% (or 25,700) of households receiving home purchase assistance were in Major cities, 25% (11,300) in Inner regional areas and 12% (5,300) in Outer regional areas. Only a small proportion were in Remote (2.8% or 1,200) or Very remote (2.7% or 1,200) areas (AIHW 2022).

Lending commitments to owner occupier first time home buyers increased, from around 81,650 commitments in the 12 months to May 2017 to 138,400 in the 12 months to May 2022 (ABS 2022c).

Trends in the private rental market

The proportion of households renting – which also includes renting from state or territory authority, community housing provider, person not in the same household, other landlord types, dwellings occupied rent free or under a life tenure scheme – has had a disproportionate impact on younger households over recent years. There has been a sharper increase in the proportion of young Australians renting compared with older Australians (Figure 3).

This vertical bar graph shows that the proportion of households who rent in the private rental market has increased between 1996 and 2021. In 2021, 60% of households where the reference person was under 35 years old, 34% of households where the reference person was between 35 and 54 years old, and 21% of households where the reference person was 55 years old and over were renters. In 1996, the renters in the corresponding age group were 55%, 26% and 18% respectively.

What factors are influencing these changes over time?

Changing household demographics and population increases have influenced home ownership trends and a move from home ownership to renting privately. They have also influenced changes to the dwelling type needs of households (ABS 2017; COAG 2018; Yates 2015).

Family and household composition

Family composition and marital status are related to housing tenure (Baxter and McDonald 2005; Stone et al. 2013). Over recent decades, the number of single-people households and single-parent households have increased and as a result, the average household size has decreased. These household types tend to have lower home ownership rates than other household types (Yates 2015). In 2017–18, 47% of single-parent households were renting, an increase from 42% in 2007–08. While changing household composition may be related to an increase in the proportion of people living in private rental dwellings, the percentage of couples with children who rented privately also increased from 20% to 24% during this 10-year period (ABS 2022b; Warren and Qu 2020).

Population growth

Population increases in Australia are driving demand for housing, other services, and infrastructure (COAG 2018). Brisbane (0.9%) and Perth (0.8%) had the highest growth rates of the capital cities in 2019–20 (ABS 2022d). Overseas migration has contributed to increased housing demand (Daley et al. 2018). Most immigrants move to major cities, leading to an increase in demand for housing in these areas. International students have also had an impact on the private rental market, predominantly in major cities (Parkinson et al. 2018). The subsequent pressure on housing stocks in these areas highlights the need for coordinated and well considered urban planning strategies.

Changes in dwelling types

The types of dwellings Australians live in has changed over time. The proportion of households occupying separate houses (see glossary) has decreased in the past 25 years, from 76% of all households in 1996 to 71% in 2021, offset by increases in semi-detached and townhouse households. In 2021, around 13% of households lived in semi–detached row or terrace and townhouses, up from 8% in 1996. Around 15% of households lived in flats or apartments in 2021, an increase from 13% in 1996 (ABS 2001; ABS 2022a).

Where do I go for more information?

For more information on home ownership and housing tenure, see:

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) (2001) 2001 Census All persons QuickStats, ABS website, accessed 4 July 2022.

ABS (2017) Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia—stories from the Census, 2016, accessed 4 July 2022.

ABS (2022a) Housing: Census 2021 , ABS website, accessed 4 July 2022.

ABS (2022b) Housing Occupancy and Costs, 2019–20 financial year, ABS website, accessed 4 July 2022.

ABS (2022c) Lending Indicators May 2022, ABS website, accessed 7 July 2022.

ABS (2022d) Regional Population, 2020–21 financial year, ABS website, accessed 11 July 2022.

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) (2022) Housing Assistance in Australia, AIHW website, accessed 4 July 2022.

ATO (Australian Tax Office) (2022) First home super saver scheme, ATO website, accessed 7 July 2022.

Australian Government (2020), First home Owner Grant Scheme, Australian Government website, accessed 4 July 2022.

Baxter J and McDonald P (2005) Why is the rate of home ownership falling in Australia? [PDF 152KB] Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) Research and Policy Bulletin issue no. 52, Melbourne.

COAG (Council of Australian Governments) (2018) COAG meeting communiqué, 12 December 2018 [PDF 502 KB], Australian Government website, accessed 7 July 2022.

Daley J, Coates B and Wiltshire T (2018) Housing Affordability: re–imagining the Australian Dream, Report no. 2018–04, Grattan Institute Melbourne.

IBA (Indigenous Business Australia) (2021) Indigenous Business Australia Annual report 2020–21, Canberra.

NHFIC (National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation) (2022) Australian Government Home Guarantee Scheme, NHFIC website, accessed 11 July 2022.

Parkinson S, James A and Kiu E (2018) Navigating a changing private rental sector: opportunities and challenges for low-income renters, AHURI final report no. 302, Melbourne.

Stone W, Burke T, Hulse K and Ralston L (2013) Long-term private rental in a changing Australian private rental sector, AHURI final report no. 209, Melbourne.

The Treasury (2021) HomeBuilder, Treasury website, accessed 17 May 2021.

Warren D and Qu L (2020) Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), Families Then & Now: Housing, Research Report–July 2020, Melbourne AIFS, accessed 19 May 2021.

Yates J (2015) Trends in home ownership: causes, consequences and solutions [PDF 221KB], Home Ownership Submission 3, University of Sydney, Sydney.