Out of love, out of home

March 28th, 2008 - 11:38 am ICT by admin  

Sydney, March 28 (DPA) A wonderful thing about research is its capacity to blow apart received notions. Consider home ownership. Hardly a day goes by in Australia without a newspaper story or a politician declaring that the rising cost of housing is preventing younger Australians from owning homes.

It’s simply not true, say Flinders University researchers Andrew Beer and Debbie Faulkner.

They found more young people are taking out mortgages than ever before. A survey of 2,600 people found the average age of a first homebuyer had fallen over the last 30 years rather than risen.

More young people buying homes reflects “the liberalisation of home lending, rising incomes and increasing aspirations”, Beer said.

Beer and Faulkner challenge traditional notions of housing affordability, which calculates how many years’ annual average income it takes to buy the average home.

The Housing Industry Association reckons housing affordability is at its lowest level in 22 years.

But accounting for pricey real estate is complex.

Last year, 70,000 Australians left the country permanently. This outflow was more than matched by immigration, now around 120,000 a year. New arrivals help jack up prices.

The strength of the Australian economy - 14 consecutive years of growth - is also working to drive up property values. Also powering the cost of bricks and mortar is that 12 consecutive interest rate rises have taken the cost of borrowing to 7.25 percent.

Add into this mix the Beer-Faulkner factors that aren’t usually included. Half of contemporary Australia marriages now fall apart. This has implications for housing affordability because divorce can also terminate mortgage payments and see a house repossessed.

“Our research suggests that the real challenge for governments into the future is not to help more people become home purchasers, but to sustain home ownership,” Faulkner said.

Public policy is now directed at helping people buy their first home through the First Home Owner’s Grant, which gives those getting a first foot in the property market door a gift of 7,000 Australian dollars ($6,400).

The Flinders University pair say it would make more sense for taxpayer’s money to go to people at risk of losing their homes - those perhaps contemplating the financial impact of a marriage bust up.

Often in a divorce the wife gets to keep the house. It’s also often the case that she finds she can’t keep up the mortgage payments and has to sell it.

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