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Housing affordability is driving families out of Sydney

Young families are leaving overpriced Sydney en masse, pushed out by the skyrocketing price of property according to a new report.

New research from e61 Institute found that a high number of millennials, in particular, are leaving Sydney and moving to more affordable locations like Newcastle or Wollongong.

However, nearly all age brackets are seeing an exodus from the Harbour City.

According to the report, over the past 20 years, Sydney has been losing around 0.5 per cent of its population each year to regional hubs in NSW and to other capital cities.  

The only reason Sydney’s overall population has increased has been due to the huge number of international immigrants landing in the city each year.

Pre-doctorate Analyst at e61, Elyse Dwyer said the lack of affordable housing for young families is likely behind the number of people in their 30s leaving.

She said areas like Mosman, Manly, Marrickville and Hunters Hill, where prices have risen sharply, have also had a subsequent reduction in the number of young families choosing to live there.

“Our research found that people are leaving areas where housing prices have risen the fastest,” Ms Dwyer said.

“For every extra percentage point that an area’s housing prices grew in the five years to 2016, 0.2 per cent of the population left in the following five years.”

Ms Dwyer said it was people in their 30s leaving at the fastest rate – the age when young families often need bigger homes.  

“Similarly, people in their 40s are leaving at quite a rapid rate – likely for the same reason – and we’re also seeing people in their 60s leaving Sydney at a fast rate, possibly accounted for by tree-changing and sea-changing retirees,” she said.

“It’s also important to note that these patterns were occurring well before the global COVID-19 pandemic and are specific to Sydney.  

“For example, Melbourne experienced a positive influx of 30–39-year-olds over the same period.”

According to the report, most people leaving Sydney were choosing less expensive coastal hubs within commuting distance of Sydney, such as Wollongong and Newcastle.

Other popular locations include the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast in QLD, Canberra, Shoalhaven, the Hunter Valley and the Mid North Coast.

Notably, the report found that other large capital cities have not had similar population outflows.  

Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, and Perth have all had little domestic out-migration on average, with Adelaide averaging roughly half the outflows of Sydney.

“These trends suggest that big movements of people are happening as a side effect of housing affordability problems,” Ms Dwyer said.

“Young people are moving out of Sydney because of a lack of appropriate housing. 

She said the movements are an unintended consequence of housing shortages and could negatively influence the future of Sydney. 

“In essence, if you want to ensure families stay in Sydney, housing affordability is a key issue to be addressed,” she said.

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a senior journalist at Elite Agent specialising in finance and real estate.