Family Ties

Looking at the 2011 census from a property perspective provides a fascinating insight into how we’re living. As of the 2011 census there were 21,507,717 Australians, with 5,684,062 families and an average of 1.9 children per family. Looking at this in more detail, the census has information on the relationships we share with those we live with. The most popular relationship is that of husband and wife (with 7.6 million Australians). Next was ‘child under the age of 15’ i.e. dependents (3.6 million), then lone persons (1.9 million – almost one in ten), followed by de facto relationships (1.4 million) then non-dependent children (1.1 million).

Between 2006 and 2011 the population increased by 8 per cent, a growth figure dwarfed by two interesting categories:

  • Non-dependent grandchild increased 28 per cent (to 29,000)
  • With a brother or sister increased 14 per cent (to 216,000)

Overall, those in extended family living arrangements increased by more than 20 per cent.

As demographer Bernard Salt states, ‘the picture that is emerging is of a nation of traditional values and relationships, but where a series of alternative micro living-arrangements are very much on the rise’.

Why is this the case?

There has definitely been a shift in grandparents’ roles in recent years – they are increasingly involved in supporting their children and subsequently grandchildren, who are likely to move between the family home and grandparents’ in order to pursue study or career opportunities.

As for family members, Salt’s theory is that of a practical response to the need for extended parental support: if a brother and sister live together then there is better scope for financial support for that household from the parents. This may be the long-term impact of Mediterranean and Asian migration, where the extended family has a greater prominence in the formation and operation of households than in traditional Anglo communities, or a result of increased living costs and baby boomers’ desire the help their children.

Either way, with non-traditional family households on the rise, people should consider properties that will appeal to Gen Y’s baby boomer parents (who may be funding the purchase) or their downsizing grandparents, who will look at properties with the thought of how they can provide accommodation for grandchildren who may float in and out for periods of time.

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