Australia’s rising number of renters has missed the benefits of five years of Reserve Bank stimulus.
The latest census data, published on Tuesday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, showed that 30.9 per cent of the nation is renting, up from 29.6 in 2011 and 28.1 in 2006.
These renters are spending 23.3 per cent of median household income on rent, almost exactly the same (23.1 per cent) as they were in 2011.
That’s at the national level. If you zoom in, rents are soaking up more household income in Western Australia outside Perth (+260 basis points), in the rest of South Australia outside Adelaide (+90 basis points) and in Sydney (+80 basis points).
This growing cohort of renters has missed out on big improvements in home-loan affordability. The median household is now spending 30.5 per cent of gross monthly income on mortgage repayments, down from 36.5 per cent in 2011.
The Reserve Bank granted this relief to mortgage holders, by slashing the official cash rate to historic lows. This forced banks to pass on some of the cuts – although they’ve started to claw some of that back.
A big chunk of the nation did reap the benefits of this RBA stimulus. The number of Australians still paying down their mortgage is 34.5 per cent, up marginally from 34.1 per cent in 2011.
Sydney and the rest of NSW saw the biggest increases in mortgage affordability, with median households there spending more than 6 percentage points less of monthly income on loan repayments, compared with 2011.
For these lucky mortgage holders, the rate cuts would’ve allowed them to boost spending, as the central bank hoped they would.
However, for the third (30.9 per cent) of the nation which is renting, they saw no improvement to their cost of living, even as many of them battled low wage growth to afford a deposit.
It would seem many of them failed to jump that deposit hurdle.
Overall, 65.5 per cent of Australians now own their property, either outright or with a mortgage, down from 67 per cent in 2011 and 68.1 per cent in 2006.
For the 31 per cent (down from 32.1 per cent) that own their homes outright, the rapid dwelling price increases in recent years will have boosted their wealth substantially.
But those same price rises made it even harder for renters to get a foothold in the market.
Also, the households which have benefited from the RBA’s low rates could soon be in for some serious cost-of-living pressure when the central bank inevitably pushes up rates in coming years.
Since 1990, the RBA’s average cash rate has been around 5 per cent. It is currently 1.5 per cent, giving it plenty of room to move upwards – and, therefore, increase mortgage stress.