The changing way Sydneysiders live


Sydney households are rapidly changing shape. As population growth continues, smaller lots in greenfields become available and established areas undergo redevelopment, we will see a marked increase in small housing.

According to recent Australian data, Sydney’s population is experiencing average annual growth of 1.6 per cent and is predicted to rise to 5.86 million by 2031. That means just 15 years from now, an extra 1.6 million people will be living in Sydney.

The huge upsurge in population is expected to bring the addition of 664,000 new dwellings. But what will these households and dwellings look like?

It is predicted that by 2031, single-person households will increase by 48.1 per cent and households of couples without children will rise by 24.5 per cent.

Home building for the traditional nuclear family will therefore fall, replaced by an increase in demand for one- and two-person homes in suburban Sydney.

This increase in single-person households is in part due to the spike in Sydney’s ageing population. Each week in Sydney, approximately 1000 people turn 65 and the number aged 65 and over is forecast to increase by 3.16 per cent by 2031.

This ageing population will have a major influence on the nature and demand for housing in the city in the next decade. We know older people tend to live alone or as couples, close to vital services. We also know that baby boomers look to downsize, while staying in the same neighbourhood – indicating a preference to “age in place” within their community.

As a result of these demographic shifts, smaller housing stock will be in very high demand in years to come. Baby boomers, retirees, couples without children, small families, divorcees and singles will all be seeking practical and economical housing in desirable areas.

Another cultural shift driving demand for smaller houses is the growth in multi-generational households. Demand for duplexes, granny flats and studio housing options are on the rise as families seek housing options that allow for three generations of one family to live at the one address, but with their own private spaces.

Builders are already being flooded with requests for non-traditional housing options to meet the needs of modern families. Requests for duplexes – residential buildings divided into two apartments – are at an all-time high.

North-west and south-west Sydney will be major growth centres in the coming years, and will be the focus for infrastructure, new land releases and employment generation. In particular, the Hills District, Blacktown, Penrith, Liverpool and Campbelltown will see major growth and diversity in housing.

The addition of small-scale medium-density housing, in established and greenfield suburbs, will provide housing options to meet these changing demographics and the diverse range of household types, incomes and lifestyles.

Population growth, combined with major demographic shifts and changes to household structures, means that Sydney will need to evolve and transform.

Increasing housing density brings new challenges for urban planners, who will need to find solutions for the increasing pressure on infrastructure such as transport and roadways, energy, air and water systems. So it’s essential for all stakeholders to work together to build sustainable futures.

Phil Jones is the chief executive of HomeWorld.