The latest Census has provided a snapshot of Australia’s housing makeup during the middle of a global pandemic, when roughly half of the population was under lockdown restrictions. 

On Census night in August 2021, two thirds (66%) of households reported that they owned their home, either outright or with a mortgage. That rate of homeownership hasn’t changed much over the past 25 years.

The key difference now is more people rely on a mortgage. 

Rising property prices and larger loans mean more borrowers are paying off a mortgage. Picture: Getty

In 2021, 31% of homes were owned outright, compared to 42% in 1996. The proportion of homeowners with a mortgage has grown to 35%, up from from 25.5% in 1996.

“Over the last 25 years the number of homes owned outright has increased by 10% while the number owned with a mortgage has doubled,” ABS deputy Australian statistician Teresa Dickinson said.

Compared to five years ago, fewer people reported being in mortgage stress – defined as spending more than 30% of their income on mortgage repayments.

In August 2021, when interest rates were at a record low of 0.1%, the national median mortgage repayment was $1,863, and one in seven (14.5%) households reported spending more than 30% of their household income on their mortgage.

That was fewer than the one in five (19.3%) households reporting mortgage stress in 2016, when the median mortgage repayment was $1,755

Apartment living is on the rise

Almost 11 million private dwellings were counted in the latest Census. That’s almost one million more homes than five years ago, and apartments accounted for nearly a third (30.9%) of those new dwellings.

More than 2.5 million Australians – or 10.3% of us – now live in apartments.

Apartments account for 30.9% of the increase in private dwellings since 2016. Picture: Getty

For the first time, the 2021 Census sort to find out how many Australians live specifically in high rise apartment buildings – defined by the ABS has having nine or more storeys. The results showed more than half a million people live in the country’s 370,000 high rise apartments.  

Separate houses still make up the bulk of total private dwelling types, accounting for 70%. Apartments made up 16% and town houses, 13%.

But it wasn’t just bricks and mortar counted on Census night.

While most of us remain firmly on land, many spent Census night on wheels or water, with more than 58,000 in caravans and 29,000 in cabins and houseboats.

Statistician Dr David Gruen says the Census provides a unique snapshot of where Australians slept on Census night. 

“The information collected about how people live and what type of home they live in will help inform community planning for new housing and support existing living arrangements within the community,” Dr Gruen said.

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