Tenants getting older, more financially stressed

Stressed LadyAustralian tenants today are older, more likely to have children, less likely to end up buying their own homes and under greater financial stress than those of 30 years ago.
A recent research policy bulletin concludes the private rental sector has also grown in size and significance, providing long-term housing for a growing and diverse number of households.
Almost one in four Australian residential properties are occupied by rental tenants.
The reality stands in stark contrast to the general conception that tenants are mostly young singles or couples renting briefly before buying a home of their own.
Compared to 1981, the private rental sector in 2011 was:
  • almost twice as big in terms of the number of properties for rent, with the increase mainly in the outer suburbs;
  • less affordable, with rent typically costing 27 per cent of income, up from 19 per cent;
  • longer term – with one in three tenants renting for 10 or more years in a row (not necessarily in the same property though);
  • increasingly occupied by families with children, which now account for more than 40 per cent of all rentals;
  • occupied more by older people with the proportion of tenants under 35 falling from almost 60 per cent to less than half; and
  • less likely to be occupied by a sole person, with only a quarter of properties occupied by a lone tenant compared to 40 per cent in 1981.
The researchers said policy-makers needed to better understand what incentives might persuade landlords to offer longer leases, including for families, and to consider changes to deal with affordability problems for older people in retirement.