The latest Census data revealed that our two biggest generations are Millennials and Baby Boomers, representing 21.5% of the population each. Both groups are at a time of life when they’re probably thinking about choosing a new home. But is our housing choice reflecting their wants and needs?
We also learned from the Census that 70% of us live in a detached house, 13% in a townhouse, and 16% in an apartment.
American author, attorney and activist, Randy Shaw, has fittingly labelled the Millennial generation ‘Generation Priced-Out’, and this isn’t just because we’ve built far less housing than needed to keep up with a growing population. It’s also because we’re taken steps to remove those first few rungs on the housing ladder – walk-up apartments, accessorily dwelling units, duplexes, and townhouses – from our much of our cities.
Millennials – and Gen Zs, for that matter – aren’t stupid. They know that they’re first home isn’t necessarily their forever home. But what can they do when we’ve made sure that the large, family home – i.e. the most expensive form of housing – is the only housing we allow in the majority of our residential suburbs. And is that even the type of home that people want in the 21st century? Sprawling suburbia with green lawns so often fenced off, fortress-style, is great at isolating people and makes us dependent on cars to move around.
The big backyard and the two-car garage may have been the Great Australian Dream in the latter half of the 20th Century, but today we want energy efficient homes, walkable neighbourhoods, and a robust public transport network.
And while many Millennials are locked out, Baby Boomers are locked into housing that is increasingly no longer suitable for them. Who still wants to be vacuuming a house with too many rooms or mowing a massive lawn into their sixties and seventies? At the last election, we heard policy announcements to encourage Baby Boomers to downsize. But downsize to where when we’ve removed housing diversity from our city.
We’re not saying we need to scrap the detached house with a big yard. Nor are we saying we should turn Brisbane into New York City. What we want is more housing choices. Homes, high-rises, and everything in between.
Where would you like to live in 10 years? What sort of lifestyle do you want to lead and what sort of housing would support that?