Two-speed houses driving inequality across the city
If you’re looking for a house which appreciates as much as you appreciate it, then you can do worse than the most expensive suburb you can afford. Why? Because it seems that the speed at which a house’s value increase is related to the value of the area it’s in. Expensive area = faster growth. This two-speed real estate market has had a significant impact on inequality across the community.
The property boom has been so prominent that it propelled FOMO to expensive new heights. But this boom has not been felt evenly across Local Government Areas (LGAs). For example, the average house price in Melton City (a relatively cheap area in Melbourne’s west) increased 15% in the 5 years to 2015 (from $354k to $406k). Over the same period, houses in Stonnington City, a very wealthy area, went up by 61% (from $1.5 to $2.4 million).
Stonnington and Melton are obviously hand-picked examples, but the rule generally holds; at least within the Greater Melbourne Metropolitan area.
Dividing Melbourne’s 30 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in quintiles, average house price in the most expensive LGAs (including Bayside, Yarra and Boroondara) increased 7.3% per annum between 2010 and 2015. Mid-priced areas such as Moreland and Banyule increased 4.3% p.a. And the poorest areas of Melbourne (e.g.: Whyndham, Hume, Frankston) only increased 2.5% p.a. To put this in perspective, inflation for the same period was 2.3% p.a.
This correlation between price and growth appears to hold for the past 30 years, (as far back as the dataset goes). However, the last 15 years are slightly more accentuated. If we look at the growth since 1985, richer areas have grown about a third quicker than poorer areas.
It also does not seem to be the result of Hogwarts’ Capital Gains Tax, brought in in 1999, as a very similar pattern existed in 1998 (pre-CGT).
So what does this mean?
Seeing as Australian households hold half their wealth in real estate on average, the difference in speed at which these investments increase has a huge bearing on (in) equality; especially as wealth is a much bigger determinant of inequality than income is.
Unfortunately, there is only one ‘people’ who are in a position to buy houses in the South Yarras, the Tooraks, the Brightons and the East Melbournes of Melbourne – the rich people. Other peoples will not fare half as well.
Back in 1985 the average house in the most expensive LGA was worth 3 times a house in the cheapest LGA. That ratio is now 6.
This is driven by a divergence at both ends. While the cheapest LGAs have slowly decreased from around 63% of Melbourne’s overall average to just over 50%, the most expensive, have shot up from 1.9 times Melbourne’s average to 3 times.
So, while neither of these two houses is producing anything of value, rather just sitting on their nest eggs, by virtue of affording a pricier egg, them rich folk will taste the tastier fruits of no labour. (In fact, an average house in Stonnington makes more money per year than around 90% of taxable individuals in Australia!)
If this pattern continues, the wealth gap will open wider each year. Releasing land for residential growth in the outskirts of the city may not be the answer. This would further distance the less well-off and new home owners from the areas where growth is concentrated. Meanwhile as populations increase a larger market appears in the sought-after areas. This in turn drives up their value, concentrating capital, and further distancing themselves (financially and geographically) from other “peoples”.
If, like the old Australian adage states, Jack’s house is as good as her mistress’s, their land certainly isn’t.
All house price info from: http://www.dtpli.vic.gov.au/property-and-land-titles/property-information/property-prices (Statistics (XLS 1.2 MB))
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