Record-low mortgage rates have made it easier to meet the payments on home loans than it has been in decades, despite record-high house prices, new figures show.
Confounding talk of unaffordability, the Bureau of Statistics calculations show that as recently as 2005-06 it took an average household 19 per cent of its gross income to meet ongoing housing costs. By 2015-16, it had fallen to 16 per cent, the least in records going more than 20 years.
The average mortgaged household now spends less of its income on housing than it does on food, a turnaround from earlier surveys in which it spent more. Housing costs include mortgage payments and water and rate payments.
Adjusted for inflation, the average mortgaged household paid $434 per week in 2015-16, much the same as in 2005-06. But over the same period the average income of mortgaged households climbed from $2272 per week to $2759.
“Mortgage and property values have also increased in the last decade,” said Dean Adams, the Bureau’s director of household characteristics and social reporting. “Ten years ago, the real median dwelling value was $449,000, which climbed to $520,000.”
Mr Adams said the burden imposed on mortgaged households might be even lower than the survey suggested.
“Our survey measures what they chose to pay in mortgage costs, not what they had to pay,” he said. “As rates have come down, some will have spent more than they need to in order to get ahead on their loans.”
Canberra is the easiest city in which to pay off a mortgage, with monthly payments of 15 per cent of income, a near record low. Darwin is the most expensive, with monthly payments of 18 per cent. Sydney and Hobart have monthly payments of 17 per cent, and Melbourne, Brisbane Adelaide and Perth monthly payments of 16 per cent.
Housing costs have deteriorated for renters. The average cost for households renting privately is $350 per week, less than the $452 cost for mortgaged households, but as a record high of 21 per cent as a proportion of income, up from 19 per cent ten years earlier. Renters in public housing pay less again, $167 per week, but the cost also amounts to 21 per cent of household income.
Private renters are worst off in Hobart, paying 22 per cent of household income, and best-off in Darwin, paying 19 per cent. Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide renters pay 21 per cent, and Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth renters 20 per cent
The best-off ns are those who own outright who typically spend just $51 per week on housing; 3 per cent of their incomes.
The proportion of households renting privately has climbed to 25.7 per cent, the highest on record. Twenty years ago it was 19 per cent. The proportion renting public housing has slid from 6 per cent to 3.6 per cent, and the proportion owning or buying homes has slipped from 70.9 to 67.2 per cent.
Among home-owning households the proportion that have paid off their mortgages has fallen dramatically, from 42.8 per cent of all households to 31.4 per cent.
The proportion of older households still paying off mortgages has tripled in the past ten years, climbing from 7 per cent to 21 per cent.
Grattan Institute chief John Daley said the most important finding was that low-income households were increasingly stressed. The poorest were now spending 28 per cent of their income on housing, compared to 23 per cent ten years ago. Most middle earners there had seen little change.
Two out of every nine homeowners owned more than one property, either for use as a second home or for renting out. One in 14 owned more than three.
The number of people per home fell from 2.7 in 1995-96 to 2.5 in 2005-06, but has since climbed back to 2.6.
The number of bedrooms per household climbed from 3 to 3.2. Four out of every five homes have at least one bedroom to spare.