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Australia’s most liveable city has been named, and it’s a surprise

Canberra. Image: Getty

When it comes to feeling safe, healthy and with decent access to housing and work, Canberra is the best place to live, a new survey from has revealed.

The nation’s capital was followed by Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Hobart in the rankings, while Melbourne, Sydney and Darwin bottomed out the list.

It’s a surprising result, chief economist Nerida Conisbee told Yahoo Finance.

“When we think about the cities that seem the most desirable, it’s usually really large cities like Sydney or Melbourne but when you look at people’s satisfaction of where they live, it’s Canberra coming out on top,” she said, noting that this is the third time Canberra has topped the list.

“Also surprising was Perth,” Conisbee added.

“Perth has had a housing market decline for five years but overall people are feeling pretty happy with how they’re living so I think Perth is quite fascinating – even though they have had really tough economic circumstances and falling house prices, they’re feeling pretty comfortable in their environment.”

The results are a big reflection of what we actually value, she said.

What do we value in our cities?

The report is the largest annual ongoing study of liveability, finding that Australians across the country value safety the most, followed by high quality health services, affordable decent housing, good job prospects and efficient public transport.

However, access to the natural environment is more important to those living in Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and Darwin than reliable access to public transport.

And in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, public transport is more important than access to high quality education opportunities.

Here’s how we rank our cities:
A shifting landscape

Despite the current property slowdown, Australians still feel their access to decent affordable housing was lacking, with this metric scoring the worst out of all those measured.

Unsurprisingly, Sydney – where the median house price is a hefty $840,000 – scored the worst, rating an average 3.9 out of 10.

People living in Adelaide are the happiest, scoring 5.6 out of 10 for affordable decent housing.

But as Australia’s property decline lengthens, this ranking could shift again, according to’s Conisbee.

“It did come up as a problem in Sydney in particular,” she said.

“We know that Sydney is the third-least affordable city in the world, so it is a big issue for people living there.”

A shift towards more affordable housing will likely trigger higher liveability scores as more young people gain footholds in the market, she added.

“Often we talk about housing prices coming back as a very negative thing but for… young people looking to get into the market, falling prices are a positive.

“The other upside is it does give people longer to make decisions. We know that in a very fast moving market, people feel rushed and they feel pushed and in a slowing market they feel like they have the time to make the right decision to buy the right home. Falling prices will impact people’s liveability …. in quite a positive way.”

We don’t feel safe

Australians feel considerably less safe than they did five years ago, sliding from an average 6.9 out of 10 in 2014 to just 6.5 out of 10.

Those living in Melbourne, where there have been a number of tragedies on Bourke Street and several women have been murdered while walking home, believe their city is the least safe, scoring just 6.1 out of 10.

Conisbee said this could be due to widespread media coverage of crime, with most studies finding that Australian cities are in fact becoming safer.

“In the main we are living in safer cities but I think a lot [of the perception] has to do with how fast news moves now,” she said.

“If you look a decade ago – to hear of a crime that had occurred in your local area, you may have relied on your local paper, it wouldn’t have been so immediate to hear what was happening whereas now, something happens and it gets put up on Facebook, it gets put up on Twitter.

“In many ways reporting what is happening does give an impression that things are far less safe than perhaps they really are.”

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