Renters make up around one-third of Canberra's housing population, and there has been a jump in homeowners with a mortgage, according to the most recent census data.
The first release of the 2021 census data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has revealed 30.7 per cent of Canberra's dwellings were rented, while 40.2 per cent belonged to home owners with a mortgage, and 26.6 per cent were owned outright. The remaining 2.6 per cent was not stated.
In the 2016 census, the figures were 29.7 per cent, 37.1 per cent and 30.3 per cent, respectively. The remaining 2.9 per cent was not stated.
While the ratio of renters in Canberra hasn't changed much over the past five years, "it is still quite an unusual trend", said Better Renting chief executive Joel Dignam.
Dignam said the trend is long-term, as it has become increasingly harder for people to pay off their mortgages.
"We do see ongoing evidence of how poorly the housing system is serving people at the moment," Dignam said.
"In the ACT, there has been a jump in the number of households who have a mortgage, which comes at the expense of renters and outright owners.
"There are still large numbers of people renting, and those who [own a home] with a mortgage are facing large debts because of prices being so high."
In the last several censuses', home ownership levels have been lower in each generation, Dignam added.
"This is particularly bad for people on lower incomes, because home ownership has become so much harder and out of reach of people," he said.
"In the future, far more people are going to be renting even as they get older, which is something that governments really need to be grappling with.
"We also need to see more rental properties available, and that would ideally be above the rate of population growth."
The ABS census data revealed Canberra's population had increased from 397,000 people to about 454,000.
In Canberra, the vacancy rate for rental properties has hit a six-month high of 0.8%, according to Domain's June Vacancy Rates Report.
While the percentage of renters has remained much the same, the numbers have increased by around 50,000.
With more people renting homes in the capital, Dignam said the idea of renters only being young people moving out for the first time "couldn't be more inaccurate".
"There's this idea that renters are like the cast of Friends, a bunch of 20-somethings hanging out in shared houses," he said.
"What has happened is that people who started renting in their 20s are still renting years on.
"Those things that are associated with ownership, like having children, are becoming more common in the rental sector."
The Property Collective property manager Hannah Gill said she had seen a diverse array of renters in recent years, and "there is certainly not a 'typical' tenant".
Gill said demand for rental properties had increased due to house prices driving people out of the market.
"We see applications from students, professionals, families ... and even businesses renting properties for their employees," she said.
"The increased diversity means it's even more important that we have an equally diverse range of rental housing available to the community."
The reason the number of renters and mortgagors isn't decreasing isn't exclusively due to rising prices, but also the supply issue that has been a problem for years, Gill added.
"The current rate of population growth and properties available for rent is not going to be able to sustain the growing number of renters," she said.
"There is no immediate or short-term relief in sight as demand continues to outstrip supply, particularly for established houses.
"Renting gives that extra flexibility for people, and many are not in a position to buy ... so we'll likely see more 'renters for life' as a result."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.