Many people across New South Wales are now living in townhouses or apartments, while in some areas significant parts of the population rent.
Housing is one of life’s basic requirements. While owning the ‘Great Australian Dream’ – a detached dwelling on a large block – remains the goal for many, housing affordability, especially in Sydney, is an increasing concern. Many people across NSW are now living in semi-detached dwellings or apartments, while in some areas significant parts of the population rent. In terms of both dwelling type and dwelling tenure (how we pay for housing) significant differences are observed between metropolitan and non-metropolitan parts of NSW. The housing data used here are drawn from the 2006 census.
There is a significant difference between metropolitan areas and non-metropolitan or rural regions of NSW in terms of the dominant dwelling type. In general, regions located away from the coast have very high proportions of households living in separate houses, with the majority of regions west of the Great Dividing Range characterised by more that 85% of households living in separate houses. The Northern Slopes (excluding Tamworth), the Central Tablelands (excluding Orange-Bathurst), and the Central Murrumbidgee (excluding Wagga Wagga) are all characterised the highest proportion of household living in separate houses, each with 94%. The major centres within each of these regions record lower levels of households in separate houses (between 84% at Wagga Wagga and Dubbo to 88% at Orange).
The lowest proportion of households living in separate houses is found in Sydney. The Inner Sydney region (22%) and Eastern Suburbs (29%) have the lowest proportion of households living in separate houses across NSW. The middle-regions of Sydney (including Lower Northern Sydney, Inner Western Sydney, Central Western Sydney, St. George-Sutherland, and the Northern Beaches) are also characterised by a relatively low proportion of households living in separate houses (between 44% and 63%).
A number of coastal centres, such as Tweed Heads (58%), Port Macquarie (67%), and Coffs Harbour (70%) also record lower levels of separate houses, especially compared to their surrounding regions.
Overall, semi-detached dwellings (or townhouses) account for a relatively small proportion of dwellings across NSW. Across most of the regions within Sydney, semi-detached dwellings account for around 10% of all dwellings. The inner Sydney region has the highest proportion of semi-detached dwellings (25%). Relatively high proportions of semi-detached dwellings are also found in a number of tourist based towns along the coast, such as Tweed Heads (23% – the second highest proportion across the state), Port Macquarie (17%) and Coffs Harbour (14%).
Unsurprisingly, the proportion of dwellings as flats/apartments displays an opposite pattern to separate houses. Flats/apartments account for less than 10% of dwellings in most regions located outside metropolitan Sydney. A few expectations are observed with a number of large centres having levels above 10%, such as Albury (15%), Port Macquarie and Queanbeyan (both 14%), Coffs Harbour and Tweed Heads (both 13%) and Lismore (12%). Again, areas with a large tourist industry are characterised by higher levels of flats/apartments.
The highest proportions of flats/apartments are found in the central and middle regions of Sydney, where flats/apartments account for more than 25% of total dwellings. The highest proportions are found in the Eastern Suburbs and Inner Sydney (53% and 52% respectively), followed by Lower Northern Sydney (44%) and Inner Western Sydney (39%).
Tenure is broadly defined as the way we
pay for our housing. Generally, there are three main types of dwelling tenure: 1)
own our dwelling outright; 2) are purchasing our house through a mortgage; or, 3) are renting our dwelling from a landlord. Other tenures include rent-buy schemes or living rent-free; however, these account for a very small proportion of households in NSW.
Across NSW, the pattern of households owning their dwelling outright mirrors to a large extent the spatial pattern of separate houses, with many of the regions west of the Great Dividing Range characterised by higher levels of full ownership. The highest level of outright ownership is recorded in the Far West region, with 50% of dwellings. Further, the regions of Hastings (excluding Port Macquarie), Clarence (excluding Coffs Harbour), Upper Murray (excluding Albury), Central Murrumbidgee (excluding Wagga Wagga), the Northern Slopes (excluding Tamworth), the Lower South Coast, and the Illawarra all recorded levels of outright ownership of 45% or higher. It should be recognised, however, that many of these locations have relatively low numbers of dwellings, especially compared to regions within Sydney. Larger centres in regional NSW recorded lower proportions of dwellings owned outright compared to their surrounding regions.
In contrast, the Sydney metropolitan region is characterised by significantly lower levels of outright home ownership. The Inner Sydney region is characterised by the lowest level of outright ownership, with 20%, closely followed by Blacktown (24%) and Outer South Western Sydney (25%). Central Northern Sydney is characterised by the highest level of outright ownership within the metropolitan region, with 40%. Importantly, while much of the Sydney metropolitan region displays low levels of outright ownership, significant differences are observed in terms of other tenures, with Outer Sydney dominated by dwellings being purchased and Inner Sydney regions being dominated by rented dwellings.
Dwellings being purchased account for the largest share of dwellings in outer metropolitan areas of Sydney. In particular, Outer South Western Sydney (45%), Outer Western Sydney, Blacktown (both with 42%), and Central Northern Sydney (40%) display the highest proportion of dwellings being purchased across NSW. Importantly, these areas are also those targeted within the Sydney Metropolitan Strategy as the sites of new dwelling development and are characterised by a series of large land releases on the fringe of the Sydney metropolitan area. At the other end of the scale, the Eastern Suburbs (22%) and Inner Sydney region (25%) are characterised by the lowest proportion of dwellings being purchased within Sydney.
Away from the Sydney metropolitan region a smaller proportion of dwellings are currently being purchased. The Macquarie-Barwon (19%) and Upper Darling (22%) regions are characterised by the lowest proportion of dwellings being purchased (with the Eastern Suburbs) across NSW. Nevertheless, it should be recognised that dwellings being purchased do account for a relatively large proportion of dwellings in some of the larger centres outside Sydney, such as Queanbeyan (41%), Albury (35%), Wagga Wagga and Dubbo (both 34%), and Bathurst and Newcastle (both with 33%).
In addition to differences in the proportion of dwellings currently being purchased, significant differences are also observed in the amount households pay in monthly mortgage repayments. The pattern of monthly mortgage repayments relates directly to house prices for dwellings across NSW. Not surprisingly, Inner and Eastern Sydney – the most expensive parts of NSW to purchase – experience the highest rates of mortgage repayments, with more than 31% of households purchasing their home paying more than $3,000 per month in repayments. Twenty-eight percent of households in Northern Sydney also pay more than $3,000 per month on their mortgage. In contrast, only 7% of households purchasing their house in Outer South Western Sydney, Outer Western Sydney and Gosford-Wyong pay more than $3,000 per month. Outer Western Sydney and Outer South Western Sydney are characterised by a higher proportion of purchasers paying less than $1,600 per month (with 47% and 44% respectively), while only 24% of purchasers in Inner and Eastern Sydney and 27% of purchasers in Northern Sydney pay less than $1,600 per month in mortgage repayments.
Mortgage repayments are significantly lower outside metropolitan Sydney. In the majority of large centres away from Sydney more than 50% of households are paying less than $1,600 per month in repayments. For example, 58% of households in Newcastle who are purchasing pay less than $1,600, while 72% of purchasers in Tamworth pay less than $1,600. Monthly repayments are lower in rural regions away from these major centres.
The final major tenure is households who rent their home. The proportion of households who rent displays a more dispersed spatial pattern compared to households who are purchasing their home. In general, there are three broad regions which experience high levels of rental: 1) inner and central Sydney; 2) a number of coastal towns characterised by tourism; and, 3) a number of rural locations.
Inner Sydney is characterised by the highest proportion of households who rent, with 51% of all households. This is followed by the Eastern Suburbs (43%), Central Western Sydney (38%), Lower Northern Sydney (37%) and Inner Western Sydney (36%). In contrast, much of the outer Sydney regions display relatively low levels of rental (around 25%). The Central Northern Sydney region is characterised by the lowest level of rental in all NSW, with just 17% of households renting their homes.
A number of rural locations are also characterised by high levels of households renting, including the Upper Darling (42% – the third highest level across NSW), North Central Plain (34%), and Macquarie-Barwon (33%). The relatively high proportion of rental in these locations is driven by a comparatively high proportion of persons employed in the mining industry.
Finally, a number of coastal towns where tourism is a major source of employment also illustrate high levels of rental, such as Coffs Harbour (33%), Port Macquarie (29%), and Tweed Heads (28%).
As is the case for monthly mortgage repayments, the level of weekly household rent differs considerably across NSW. Inner and Eastern Sydney and Northern Sydney have the highest levels of rent. In each of these regions 31% of households are paying between $350 and $549 per week in rent, while a further ten percent are paying more that $550 per week. For the remainder of Sydney, the majority of renters pay between $180 and $349 per week rent. For example, in St George-Sutherland this price range accounts 62% of renters, while in Outer South Western Sydney it accounts for 53% of renters. The outer regions of Sydney also had a higher proportion of renters paying less than $180 per week (eg 39% in Outer South Western Sydney). Outside the Sydney metropolitan region, weekly rents are much lower. In centres located away from Sydney most renters pay less than $180 per week (eg Dubbo, 61%; Albury, 62%). Coastal towns have slightly higher rents with more renters being charged between $180 and $349 per week – another product of the tourist industry in these regions.
Dr Kristian Ruming, Macquarie University