THE housing priorities of Australians are changing, with more people valuing aspects of where they live than a big garden or a large block, according to a study released last month by the Grattan Institute, titled 'What Matters Most? Housing preferences across the Australian population'.
As an extension to Grattan's recent report, 'The Housing We'd Choose', the new study examines the responses of more than 700 residents in Sydney and Melbourne who were asked about their housing and location priorities.
Participants in the survey were presented with a range of housing features and characteristics, relating to safety and security, attractiveness of environment, dwelling features and convenience and access. Participants were then asked to indicate which "matters most to you when choosing housing" and which matters least.
The survey revealed that some responses ran counter to common assumptions about housing preferences. For example, 'having a garden' or 'being close to work' were not in the top 15 'must-haves' for most people. Instead, a series of other characteristics of the house and its surrounding neighbourhood mattered more.
At an aggregate level, the number of bedrooms was the highest priority for respondents, with aspects of location including security, and proximity to friends and family, also emerging as important.
The study found differing priorities depending on age and type of household. For example, while young families still focus on living in a large detached house, older and single-person households are much more likely to think that the characteristics of where they live are more important.
The study said that over time, an ageing population coupled with the decreasing size of households is set to produce significant shifts in the mix of housing that people want and a change in housing preferences.
"This implies that there may be need for a more varied mix of housing than currently exists in Australian cities. In particular, the results suggest that demographic change will drive an increased demand for housing in locations characterised by convenience, access and safety – which are particularly important to older and lone-person households," the report writes.
However, the study cautions that differences between demographic segments in the survey should not be overstated, saying that demography is only one of a range of factors which determines housing preferences and that households in the same segment may have radically different priorities.
The study says that the extent to which changing preferences will result in changes to the housing stock remains unclear, adding that "the design of the housing market – and the incentives faced by industry – will play a central role."
More information about the study, 'What Matters Most? Housing preferences across the Australian population', is available from the Grattan Institute website at <http://www.grattan.edu.au/>.