Housing affordability measures flawed: expert

Brendan Wong

Current measurements around housing affordability fail to accurately reflect the issues faced by individual households, according to one property expert.

Dr Steven Rowley, head of department of property studies at Curtin University, said housing affordability was often measured by housing stress.

“We all know the 30 per cent housing stress measure and how there are so many households paying more than 30 per cent,” he told Real Estate Business.

“They aren’t necessarily struggling to pay their housing costs but there are an awful lot of households paying less than 30 per cent that are struggling.”

Dr Rowley and his research team at the Curtin Business School are currently conducting research to gain a better understanding into the issue.

“We wanted to do a piece of work that looks in detail at how housing affordability affects individual households, by asking them direct questions about how their housing costs affect their other expenditure – whether they’ve had to make sacrifices on other items of expenditure, whether they had to make sacrifices when they were choosing their house, whether commuting costs are affecting their other items of expenditure,” he said. 

“This is particularly relevant for those who live in group households or at home. We want to know why people are still living at home. Is affordability a major barrier or do people just want to live at home because it’s more convenient and it allows them to save to access home ownership?”

Dr Rowley said he hoped the research, which is being funded by the Bank West Curtin Economics Research Centre, would be utilised by housing policymakers.

“It’s really to ensure that policymakers really do understand how housing affordability affects individual households, rather than basing policy decisions on numbers we could derive by fairly flawed measures," he said.

“It’s to promote a more nuanced understanding of affordability and affordable living, which I hope will open the debate.”

The research findings are due to be released in the first quarter of next year. 

Brendan Wong

Current measurements around housing affordability fail to accurately reflect the issues faced by individual households, according to one property expert.

Dr Steven Rowley, head of department of property studies at Curtin University, said housing affordability was often measured by housing stress.

“We all know the 30 per cent housing stress measure and how there are so many households paying more than 30 per cent,” he told Real Estate Business.

“They aren’t necessarily struggling to pay their housing costs but there are an awful lot of households paying less than 30 per cent that are struggling.”

Dr Rowley and his research team at the Curtin Business School are currently conducting research to gain a better understanding into the issue.

“We wanted to do a piece of work that looks in detail at how housing affordability affects individual households, by asking them direct questions about how their housing costs affect their other expenditure – whether they’ve had to make sacrifices on other items of expenditure, whether they had to make sacrifices when they were choosing their house, whether commuting costs are affecting their other items of expenditure,” he said. 

“This is particularly relevant for those who live in group households or at home. We want to know why people are still living at home. Is affordability a major barrier or do people just want to live at home because it’s more convenient and it allows them to save to access home ownership?”

Dr Rowley said he hoped the research, which is being funded by the Bank West Curtin Economics Research Centre, would be utilised by housing policymakers.

“It’s really to ensure that policymakers really do understand how housing affordability affects individual households, rather than basing policy decisions on numbers we could derive by fairly flawed measures," he said.

“It’s to promote a more nuanced understanding of affordability and affordable living, which I hope will open the debate.”

The research findings are due to be released in the first quarter of next year. 

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