Last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the results of the 2006 Census, the periodic stocktake on the nation when we discover more about our fellow Australians than we probably ever needed to know.
Some of the results were revelatory while others were unsurprising. Arguably falling into the latter category is the news that we’re wealthier than ever. But the fruits of our labour, it seems, are largely going into our homes – or rather into paying them off.
The figures released last Wednesday have reignited the national debate on housing affordability. Fewer Australians now own their homes outright than they did ten years ago, with the proportion of fully-owned homes dropping from 41 per cent in 1996 to 33 per cent in 2006.
Further, the amount of household income servicing mortgage repayments has increased dramatically compared to average incomes. Over the last five years, median monthly household incomes rose by 31 per cent, while median monthly mortgage repayments rose from $867 to $1,300 – a steep increase of around 50 per cent.
Happily for the mortgage industry, the Census also revealed that more families are buying homes with the assistance of home loans. The number of households with a mortgage rose from 25 per cent in 1996 to 32 per cent in 2006. It seems that more Australians are taking advantage of the vast array of loan products on the market – and are increasingly willing to take on more debt.
Ever the economic optimist, Federal Treasurer Peter Costello dismissed the rise in household debt as a considered choice by many Australians to borrow against the equity in their homes – proving the Australian borrowing landscape to be a far more sophisticated environment than before.
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