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Five housing facts from the 2021 Census

The latest five-yearly snapshot of the nation’s population has revealed some interesting insights into the way we live.


On Census night in August 2021, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates around half of the population was in lockdown.


Despite being in the middle of a global pandemic, the proportion of Australia’s homeowners and renters hasn’t seen a significant change compared to five years earlier.


But the Census is backward looking, and a lot has changed in the months since – particularly in the housing market.





1. Homeownership rates haven’t changed much over recent decades

Two-thirds of households reported on Census night that they owned their home (66%), which is a similar proportion to what was recorded in 1996.


2. But fewer people now own their home outright

The proportion of households that own a home mortgage-free has dropped from 42% in 1996 to 31% in 2021. Meanwhile, the share of households paying off their home loan has risen from 25.5% in 1996 to 35% in 2021.


3. Apartment living is back in vogue

Even as lockdowns and remote working drove demand for larger homes, more Australians than ever are taking up apartment living. Of the nearly 11 million private dwellings in Australia, 70% were separate houses, 16% were apartments, and town houses accounted for 13%. The ABS says apartments account for nearly one-third (30.9%) of the increase in private dwellings since 2016. All up, more than 2.5 million people – or 10.3% of us – now live in apartments.


4. People living outside the box

With COVID-19 restrictions in place across the country in August last year, 96% of people counted were at home rather than travelling. But while most of us remain firmly on land, many spent Census night on wheels or water. Almost 60,000 people were in caravans (58,155), and another 29,369 people were in cabins and houseboats.


5. Fewer households are in mortgage stress

Nationwide, fewer borrowers reported being in mortgage stress – defined as spending more than 30% of their income on mortgage repayments. One-in-seven (14.5%) households spent more than 30% of their income on home loan repayments in 2021, compared to one-in-five (19.3%) in 2016. The rate environment has changed since the census date however, now highlighting the importance of doing proper due diligence and cashflows when purchasing your next property.


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