More one-person households are occupying multi-bedroom homes

More one-person households are occupying multi-bedroom homes

Australia is experiencing a rise in single-person households, but our housing stock is not prepared for this change, according to one of the country's leading property economists.

Ray White Group Chief Economist Nerida Conisbee said the rise in living alone really took off during the pandemic, and transformed the market in the process.

“With lockdowns frequently restricting visitation levels during the pandemic, it would have seemed intuitive that people would move in together to have company. The opposite, however, occurred. Rising wealth as a result of record savings rates led to more people moving out on their own,” she said. 

“This higher demand for housing from more single-person households led rents to rise even though population growth was very low. Given the opportunity (and the money), it appears that there is a strong preference for people to not be surrounded by too many people in their homes.”

In the long-term, this trend will continue, Ms Conisbee said. Right now, the number of single-person households is actually declining, because higher rents are leading people to move back in with each other to save money, but this is expected to be a short-term reaction.

“An ageing population and fewer people having children will reverse this long-term,” Ms Conisbee said.

“In fact, the ABS [Australian Bureau of Statistics] has forecast that this household type [single-person households] will take a much bigger share of total household types.”


Why Australia is unsuited to single-person living

Unfortunately, though, “our housing stock is inefficient for single-person households”, because “Australia is dominated by houses with three or more bedrooms”, according to Ms Conisbee.

ABS data for single-person households shows that:

  • 16.5% have 0 spare bedrooms.
  • 31.0% have 1 spare bedroom.
  • 40.7% have 2 spare bedrooms.
  • 11.7% have 3 spare bedrooms.

Ms Conisbee said that while some people prefer to have extra space, it's hard to find a home with just one or two bedrooms unless you want to live in a high-density area or a high-rise apartment.

“There is a growing requirement for smaller medium-density homes, particularly in inner and middle suburbs around Australia,” she said.

“Living alone was one of the main drivers of the rental crisis and is a major demographic trend that directly impacts the types of homes that are built, as well as the number. More people are living alone, either by choice or circumstance, and this is set to become a driving force of household change.”

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Published: 25/9/2023

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