Outright home ownership has long been regarded as a supporting pillar of Australian retirement incomes policies.
According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey of Income and Housing, home-ownership rates among Australians aged 55-64 years dropped from 86% to 81% between 2001 and 2016. Mortgage burdens have spiked in the 55-64 age group. In 2001 roughly 80% were mortgage-free. By 2016 this had plummeted to only 56%. Indebtedness is even growing among owners aged 65 and over.
Outright home ownership has long been regarded as a supporting pillar of Australian retirement incomes policies. Increasingly, concerns that rising mortgage debt and falling home ownership rates in later life are undermining the role of home ownership in supporting retirees’ financial wellbeing.
This research investigated the growing numbers of middle aged and older Australians who are carrying mortgage debt into retirement and paying off higher levels of debt relative to house values and income. Between 1987 and 2015, mortgage debt among older mortgagors increased by 600 per cent (from $27,000 to over $185,000).
Until now, the majority of older people in Australia have achieved the goal of owning their own home outright. Hence, policymakers have typically shown little concern about the size and budget costs of rental housing assistance programs for seniors.
Housing wealth dominates the asset portfolios of the older population in Australia and many other countries. Given the anticipated spike in fiscal costs associated with population ageing, there is growing policy interest in housing equity withdrawal (HEW) to finance living needs in retirement.
In Australia and other ‘homeownership societies’ it has been conventional to think of housing pathways in terms of a smooth linear progression, leading to outright ownership in middle age and a retirement buffered by low housing costs. This vision of the welfare role of home ownership is an important buttress of Australian retirement incomes policy.
This Positioning Paper is the first output of a project that aims to forecast future housing subsidies that will accompany projected demographic changes and the challenges these trends may pose for the fiscal sustainability of housing policy.
Abstract Over two-thirds of Australians are owner-occupiers and a majority of the population holds most of their wealth in housing.
This project uncovers the uses, risks of and barriers to housing equity withdrawal (HEW) by older home owners aged 45 years and over via three alternative mechanisms: in situ mortgage equity withdrawal (MEW), downsizing and selling up.
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