Canberra's poorest are struggling with higher housing costs as a proportion of their income than anywhere else in the country, new data suggests.
And perhaps contrary to perception, Canberra is not a city of home owners. Sixty-four per cent of Canberrans own their own home, on a par with NSW and lower than all of the other jurisdictions other than Queensland and the Northern Territory.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics latest survey of income and housing, released on Thursday, shows Canberra households with mortgages owe a median $282,000, the third highest in the country, behind Western Australia ($315,000) and the Northern Territory ($312,000).
But it's the poor who struggle with the cost of housing, including rent. The bottom quintile of households pay 35 per cent of their income in housing, well above the Australian figure of 29 per cent.
At the same time, Canberra's top earners are sitting pretty, with the top 20 per cent paying just 8.3 per cent of their income in housing, compared with Australia's 9.3 per cent, and well below NSW and Victoria.
The situation for those at the bottom of the earning pile has fluctuated over time, but it has got worse in recent years. For the top band of earners, housing has virtually never been so cheap, as a proportion of income. While the figures for the lowest incomes are stark, they do have a significant margin of error for the Canberra data, of 5.7 per cent.
Of home owners, just a quarter of Canberra households are mortgage-free, compared with 29.5 per cent in the rest of the country, and around 30 per cent in NSW and Victoria. The proportion of Canberrans who own their homes outright has slid from about 30 per cent a decade ago (although the figures have quite significant margins of error).
Plenty of us, though, are paying mortgages, with 39.7 per cent of Canberra households paying off a mortgage, compared with 36.7 per cent nationally.
To bust another myth, Canberra is no longer a city of people living the suburban dream in a separate house.
The shift from standalone houses to apartments has taken hold, with 68.7 per cent of households living in separate homes, compared with 82.2 per cent 20 years ago.
Canberra has the lowest proportion of people living in standalone homes in the country, with even NSW higher and nationally, 76.5 per cent of people living in separate homes.
At the same time the proportion living in apartments in Canberra has more than doubled from 6.3 per cent in 1997-98 to 13.2 per cent now. That puts Canberrans among the highest apartment dwellers of any state or jurisdiction, with the national proportion at 11.8 per cent. The data is presumably influenced by Canberra being a city state, plus the figures on standalone housing and apartments have quite high margins of error.
The data shows a rise in people living alone, up from 19.3 per cent in 1997-98 to 23.7 per cent in 2017-18. In this, we are not unusual, with about a quarter of Australians overall living alone.
If you thought Canberrans had embraced solar panels at record-breaking rates, think again. That gong goes to South Australia, where more than a quarter of households are generating electricity from their rooftops, with Western Australia and Queensland not far behind. In Canberra, a paltry 12.2 per cent of households have solar panels, third lowest country, with the average take up of solar panels nationally at 15.2 per cent.
The data also appears to show a fall in the number of Canberrans in public housing, sitting at 6.8 per cent in 2017-18, almost half the 12.2 per cent of households 20 years ago. But Canberra still has by far the highest proportion, with most other states sitting between about 2 and 4 per cent.
Almost one-quarter of Canberra households own at least one other property, other than the one they live in - a higher rate than the 20 per cent of households nationally.
Australian Bureau of Statistics chief economist Bruce Hockman said nationally, the proportion of households renting was up from 27 to 32 per cent in five years, the growth mainly in the private market. The proportion of public housing tenants had fallen from 6 per cent to 3 per cent. Community housing had taken on a bigger role.
Nationally, the proportion of households that owned their own home fell to four points to 66 per cent in 20 years. The proportion of households that owned their home without a mortgage decreased from 40 to 30 per cent.