More people are choosing to live alone – and it’s impacting housing supply

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Many people living in Australia’s major cities are choosing to live alone rather than with other people, including partners. Factors like lifestyle changes in urban areas, people living longer, and less stigma attached to women being unmarried are fuelling this trend.

On the other hand, the rise in single-person households is creating problems in New South Wales. One-person households in NSW are projected to rise from 630,000 in 2011 to more than 1.03 million by 2036, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Currently, the demand for studio or one-bedroom apartments, as well as houses suitable for singles, is far outstripping supply.

“It’s happening too at both ends of the spectrum,” said Professor Peter Phibbs, geographer, planner, and social economist at the University of Sydney. “At the older end, a lot of older people, maybe widowed, are living alone, while there are also a lot of younger people alone. But the dilemma for this fastest growing household type is the supply of suitable housing, and its price.”

Rather worryingly, little is being done to address this issue. According to the latest BASIX data, only 19% of new apartments are either studios or one-bedrooms. In contrast, two-bedrooms make up 64% of the stock and three-bedrooms make up 16%.

NSW and local council planning regulations generally limit the mix, according to Murray Wood, director of residential projects at CBRE. “They dictate what developers can and can’t do,” he said. “Many would like to build more studios and one-beds, partly because they sell quicker as they’re at lower price points so they can get the building underway quicker with presales. But there is generally a better return for two beds and the construction costs – since they both have a kitchen and bathroom which are the most expensive elements – are similar.”

Many younger singles also prefer to buy or rent smaller spaces with fewer amenities as they’re more likely to spend their money on other things. “For a lot of [single young people], the only time they spend at home is sleeping time,” said Phibbs.


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