Amazing new data on households reveals the humble Aussie share house – as celebrated in books like He Died With A Felafel in His Hand – is back. The number of share houses is suddenly booming. But that’s not all. The share house has undergone a major transformation.
Having a share house next door used to be everyone's nightmare. Now though? You might not mind so much.
As the next chart shows, there’s been a sharp uptick in the number of group households in Australia, ever since rents started shooting for the stars back in 2021-22.
Over the past 20 years, the demographics of the share house have changed a lot. The amount of young students in share houses has fallen 20 per cent. Meanwhile, the number of people aged over 65 in share houses has gone up 93 per cent, as the next chart shows.
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In fact, the number of retirement-age Aussies in share houses has risen so much it’s almost overtaken the students. This means there's way more likely to be a 2:00pm Scrabble party in the share house next door than a 2:00am game of ‘Goon of Fortune’.
Of course, what this is evidence of is a housing shortage. Older Aussies aren’t living in share houses to relive the joys of their youth. Instead, they are finding their superannuation has run out and the pension doesn’t pay the rent. And the young people aren’t living by themselves either, they’re still living with mum and dad.
The state with the highest rate of older people in sharehouses is Queensland. Why? Well, the average asking rent for homes in Brisbane has gone from $431 a week in January 2020 to $635 a week in October 2023. Aussies and foreigners alike love to move to Queensland, and pressure on the rental system in that state is intense.
Also by Jason Murphy:
The decision to live in a share house is becoming a very simple one for a lot of cash-strapped people. Rent as a proportion of income has gone up a lot and so have groceries, bills and fuel. If you have a spare room and you’re living hand to mouth, letting someone live in it makes a lot of financial sense.
Pensions have gone up by inflation in the pandemic and a single person on a full pension can now get a touch under $1,100 a fortnight. That won’t go far for renters living alone. Getting a housemate in makes sense, as long as you can agree who does the cleaning!
The one-bedroom flat
The data also shows the average household size has fallen since 2005, from 2.6 to 2.5 people.
But of course we've built an absolute ton of one-bedroom apartments in that time, so perhaps that's not surprising. The number of people living alone has skyrocketed. Living alone is the fastest-growing category of household.
As the next chart shows, living alone is one of the most popular types of household, overtaking the nuclear family a few years ago.
The Reserve Bank won’t be too happy about that. They watch the number of people per household very closely these days, because fitting more people into every house is the only way we can accommodate our growing population without going on a building frenzy for which our economy has, frankly, no capacity.
Expecting to live in glorious solitude is a luxury many of us may have to do without. A lot of Aussies who began their adult lives in share houses may come full circle and end up in one again in retirement.