Millennials worse off. But Why?


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Arguably, one of the most disturbing aspects that have emerged from the now seemingly unresolvable housing crisis, is the manner in which we have succumbed to the notion that younger Australians will necessarily be worse off than their parents.

By any measure, thirty consecutive years of economic growth should be an adequate foundation from which the largest generational cohort can now forge significant social, cultural, and economic momentum. As a nation with such vast physical, economic, and human resources, there is every reason why the 2020s should be a golden period for Australia’s Millennials. Instead, the continued trajectory of the housing crisis will entrench many of them – despite their ambitions – as long-term renters, generating both individual and broader societal costs.

Notwithstanding the best-intended interventions, any attempt to resolve this issue needs to begin with recognising in what, why and how, Millennials want to live. Unsurprisingly, just like their generational peers of the past, the vast majority of 35–44-year-olds reside in Houses. That they choose to settle down and form families at a rate greater than any other age group is a basic, but obvious reason for this.

In recent years, alternate dwelling types have become more popular for the 35-44 cohort, albeit to varying degrees in different markets. Townhouses have become increasingly attractive, particularly in Melbourne, where it is the preferred dwelling type for just over 16% of 35–44-year households, up from 11.3% in 2011. Brisbane also experienced a similar increase, now at 10.5%, up from 6.8% in 2011. Notably, Sydney experienced a 0.4% decrease in Townhouse occupancy by 35–44-year-olds over this time.

Reflective of a widespread trend across most age cohorts, fewer 35–44-year-old households, now occupy Apartments (up to three storeys) than they did in 2011. Melbourne has experienced the greatest decline, falling from 10.3% to 7.9% in 2021, followed by Sydney which fell from 15.4% to 14%.

In Melbourne, just under 8% of 35–44-year-olds occupy Apartments (four storeys or more) – up from 2.8% in 2011. In Sydney this figure is a sizeable 20%, an increase from 10.4% in 2011, while in Brisbane it remains a lowly 3.5%, up from 2.2% in 2011. Yet to establish itself as a long-term living option for a large portion of the population, the delivery of this format in the numbers required to make any meaningful impact on the widening supply gap is heavily constrained. It will remain so for the foreseeable future.

For decades, home ownership has been fundamental to the nation’s social contract, its well-being, and its prosperity. Simply accepting that younger Australians will be worse off than their parents might be the easy thing to do, but it’s certainly not the wisest.


Millennials by dwelling type