Women and immigration responsible for changing the face of Australian housing

Media release

CommBank can

Media release


Women and immigration responsible for changing the face of Australian housing


Commonwealth Bank Centenary Report shows significant changes to home ownership, but one constant remains - home ownership is still the Australian dream

Saturday, 23 June 2012: The return of women to the workplace and immigration are the key drivers of the changing face of home ownership in Australia in the latter half of the 20th Century, according to research commissioned by Commonwealth Bank to celebrate a Centenary of banking.

The Commonwealth Bank Centenary Report into Home Ownership was conducted by renowned demographer, Bernard Salt, who worked alongside the Bank to prepare a detailed study of the changing nature of home ownership to celebrate a history of assisting Australians realise the dream of home ownership. Salt discovered that it has been the immense social change experienced by Australia since the Second World War that has driven both the growth of home ownership and the traditional form of the Australian home.

“Prior to WWII, a middle class did not exist in Australia. It was only with the arrival of the Baby Boomer generation that things began to change and the purchase of property was a key indicator of a boom in wealth. What you start to see in this post-war period is the emergence of a more aspirational Australia which used property as a means of generating wealth and a superior lifestyle,” Salt comments.

The report indicates that in the immediate period pose Second World War, the majority of Australians either rented (45%) or owned their property out-right (47%). This reflects a society divided between the wealthy, who had no requirement for a home loan, and the working class, who had no option to buy due to financial limitations and no national home loan scheme.

Since 1946, when the first home loans were granted, these percentages have shifted dramatically. In 2006, the percentage of tenants was at 30% and those who own homes with no mortgage was 35%. The major change has been the number of homeowners with a mortgage, which has risen from 8% in 1946 to 35% in 2006, reflecting the middle class that now exists in Australia.1

The rise of the middle class can be greatly attributed to women. Women joining the workforce meant that men were no longer sole breadwinners. Household incomes rose significantly and with greater disposable income came greater aspiration. Bernard Salt comments:

“Women’s emancipation has probably had the biggest impact on Australian society. With the advent of the contraceptive pill in the 1970s, women started to reduce their family sizes and returned to or joined the workforce en masse. Household incomes effectively doubled and allowed Australians to get on the property ladder in greater numbers. With household incomes increasing, homes got bigger but at the same time, we were having fewer children. Women returning to the workforce has made us all richer and this has all led us to where we are now.”

The aspiration for a better lifestyle has changed the face of the Australian home. Nationally there has been a notable trend of smaller block sizes. Quarter acre plots that were popular in the 1950s are now on average more likely to be half that – an eighth of an acre.

Conversely however, house sizes have grown. Despite average household sizes falling from 3.8 persons in 1954 to 2.7 in 2006, there has been a growth in popularity of four-bedroom houses. In 1971 only 13% of respondents bought a four-bedroom property versus 36% in 2007/2008.2

The backyard has borne the brunt of the increase in house size, with records showing they are much smaller than they were 60 years ago. Families no longer have an incinerator or a veggie patch – once staples of the Aussie backyard. Extra curricular activities for kids are now organised outside the home, such as ballet lessons or cricket practice, rather than simply playing with the neighbours in the backyard. Washing lines have also been replaced with tumble dryers.

The numbers of Australians getting a foot on the property ladder further increased in the 1980s with mass immigration. The Australian population increased from 14 million to 22.3 million over the period of 1980 to 2009 and over the same period the number of loan applications accepted by banks rose from 2.9 million (1980-1989) to 6.4 million (2000-2009).3

Clive Van Horen, Commonwealth Bank General Manager Home Loans, commented:

“Since the Commonwealth Bank started offering home loans in 1946, many millions of Australians have managed to get a foot on the property ladder. The Commonwealth Bank Centenary Report into home ownership shows how mass social change in the second half of the 20th Century completely changed the face of home ownership and wealth in Australia. And yet, as we see these huge waves of change, we also see one constant – that home ownership remains at the heart of the Australian dream.”



For further information:

Louisa Galligani
Commonwealth Bank Senior Public Relations Advisor
(02) 9118 1784 / 0468 987 335


1. Source: KPMG Property & Demographic Advisory; Based on Australian Bureau of Statistics: Census of Housing and Population 1933, 1947, 1954, 1961; 4130.0.55.001 Housing Occupancy and Costs

2. Source: KPMG Property & Demographic Advisory; Based on Australian Bureau of Statistics; 1971 Census and unpublished data, Survey of income and housing costs 1997-1998 and 2007-2008, Year Book Australia 2009-2010, 3236.0 Household and family projections.

3. Source: KPMG Property & Demographic Advisory; Data based on Australian Bureau of Statistics; 5609.0 Housing Finance Commitments, Australia; CBA Annual Report, 1958/59


Media contact:

Louisa Galligani
(02) 9118 1784 / 0468 987 335

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