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Housing affordability not just about prices: Reserve Bank

Rental property tenure security is just as important as house prices when dealing with housing inequality, the Reserve Bank of Australia says.

RBA head assistant economic governor Luci Ellis says much of the public discussion on housing is mainly focused on whether people can afford to own a home, particularly young people aged 25-34.

But, she says, Australia's home ownership rate - the proportion of homeowners to population - is about average.

Ms Ellis says ownership rates have fallen about 10 percentage points in the 25-34 age group since the 1970s, but most of the fall occurred in the early 1990s before the recent jumps in home prices.

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That's because people started marrying and settling down later in life in the 1970s and 1980s, she says, which meant they also purchased homes later.

"The post-war Baby Boom had been characterised by an anomalously young average age at first marriage," Ms Ellis said at Australasian Housing Researches Conference in Melbourne on Thursday.

"Through the 1970s and 1980s, the normal historical pattern started to reassert itself."

"I'm not suggesting that people should not worry about whether households can achieve their desired housing tenure. I am suggesting that the situation is more complex than would be suggested by a single-minded focus on a single metric of affordability, such as median housing prices."

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Ms Ellis said that when dealing with housing inequality there should be more public discussion about renters, who often have to move home a lot more than homeowners, and on improving tenancy security.

"Many renters are happy with their current home, but are required to move because the lease expired or the landlord sold the property," she said.

"If we are concerned about inequality of housing outcomes, perhaps we should focus less on the type of tenure, and more on security of tenure."