Some thoughts on regional migration and housing affordibility

Posted 5/5/2022 by Alasdair Spinner


I returned from my trip to Australia last week. My father lives on the NSW Central Coast (just north of Sydney) where I spent most of my time on this occasion. But, a road trip was taken up to the Northern NSW coast with my teenage son who rode shotgun with me in my dad’s 2003 Toyota Camry (which still runs like a dream by the way even with 250k on the clock). 


Visiting Sydney and then travelling to regional NSW, I could see how covid had profoundly impacted and accelerated changes in the way Australians live and work. Not only were roads quieter in Sydney but I could see less footfall in shops and in the city's office clusters. Prior to covid, increasing house prices in Sydney had been making some millennials move to regional areas and tempting some older people to cash out of their assets in Sydney. 


I read this Bloomberg article and then spoke to a Sydney real estate agent I know who confirmed there was finally some steam getting let out of the Sydney property boom. This led to check out one of my favourite nerd out websites: the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Here I saw the latest figures which confirmed Australian country and coastal regions had greater population growth in FY2021 than the state capital cities.


Although this new ABS data didn’t deep dive into the age demographics of these regional changes. However, from what my property contacts told me and from my own reading in Australian property media, it is millennial families who are making these moves. Millennials are the 1st generation in Australia to experience housing affordability issues. Sadly, home ownership in cities for many young people - like in the UK - on average incomes, doesn’t look realistic.


So if you are struggling to save up for a deposit in Sydney or have an opportunity to cash out your asset whilst still being paid an OK salary, staying in a major metro just doesn’t add up. Covid and the quality of tech meant many people didn’t have to work in an office FT anymore.


The ABS data showed the greatest population gains were in regional NSW, regional Queensland and regional Victoria. The greatest capital city population losses were in Sydney and Melbourne. I guess the covid international border restrictions slowed planned migration for those 2 big drawcards. Sydney had a net loss of 35k people. They either moved interstate or within NSW. If it was within NSW the most popular parts were the Illawarra (1hr 20mins from Sydney), Mid North Coast (4hrs from Sydney) and the Hunter Valley region. 


Melbourne lost 33k of its residents. Again mostly going within Victoria - places like Latrobe Gippsland and Geelong. Saying that, coastal Queensland also hoovered up people leaving Sydney and Melbourne , with most moving to the appropriately named Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast. 


In these regional areas, you can buy a house with a garden, a swimming pool, and a bedroom for each child. In Sydney and Melbourne the price and availability of houses means families often have to compromise on desirable features. It's a double edged sword: as demand increases in these regional areas, prices will also continue to grow! There will always be one winner in Australia regardless - the real estate agent! 



If some of these regional areas interest you I am currently recruiting in regional areas in NSW, Queensland, WA and Victoria. You can check out my jobs here.






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