Many assume millennials are perennial renters lured to Sydney’s inner-city suburbs for the smashed avocado but new data paints a different picture of whereour 25- to 34-year-olds are living.
In the past 10 years, it’s suburbs in Sydney’s middle-ring, to the west of the city, that have seen the biggest surge in this younger demographic, census data shows.
In particular, council areas like Strathfield, Cumberland, Burwood, Parramatta and Ryde were all within the top 10 growth areas for this age group.
Now, there’s the same proportion of millennials in Parramatta – 20.2 per cent – as there is in the Inner West, which declined over the same time period.
In 2006 in Strathfield LGA, which includes suburbs like Strathfield, Homebush and parts of Greenacre, 15.8 per cent of people were aged 25 to 34. A decade later, this has jumped to 23.1 per cent.
Meanwhile, in Mosman, this same demographic declined – from 14.4 per cent to 12 per cent.
And while part of it is clearly an issue of affordability, there’s also an attitudinal change emerging around home ownership.
“Home ownership isn’t the goal for everyone any more,” said David Chen, 27, who rents in a sharehouse in the north-west Ryde suburb of Eastwood.
He’s what most would call a “young professional” – a mortgage broker and a property “rentvestor”, renting even while owning two investment properties.
But the thought of buying a home to actually live in isn’t a priority.
“I don’t want to be tied down to one location by a home … I don’t want to be restricted in what I can do and where I can live,” he said.
And as a broker he knows there’s a significant proportion of Gen Y “with a lot of savings, but without any property” who are calling these middle-ring suburbs home.
“Thirty to forty years ago, people who were 27 would be settling down and having kids. Nowadays, people are single for longer and the need for home ownership is a bit different,” he said.
“Eastwood is convenient … it’s near the city, near to where everyone [in the sharehouse] works, including Parramatta.”
In the suburb of Eastwood, 17.6 per cent of people are 25 to 34 years old – the largest cohort of people in the suburb.
Mr Chen’s decision to invest, rather than buy a home, seems to be favoured among his age group, with a survey from Galaxy Research finding 78 per cent of Gen Y thought this was a “good” option. This compared to 66 per cent of the traditionalist generation.
Their reasons? It was cheaper to own an investment property than a home – and their lifestyle was different.
Now, “times have changed” due to the busy pace of life, non-bank lender State Custodians general manager Joanna Pretty said.
“Young people are now settling down later … or else they’re taking their time to consider their next move and focusing on other things like their career or travel, so they’re entering the market later.”
First Home Buyers co-founder Taj Singh found the figures around Ryde and Parramatta “no surprise” with many younger Sydneysiders opting for areas further out than they would have in the past.
Areas that have become “unit heavy” after an apartment development boom were those reporting the biggest proportional increase in young people, largely due to transport, location and proximity to employment and the city.
This describes Parramatta in particular, where those aged 25 to 34 jumped from 29,521 people in 2006 to 45,775 people in 2016.
The attraction to these areas is clearly due to the location of good jobs in the CBD, University of NSW demographer Alison Taylor said.
But it could also be because “other age groups are moving out” – with increases only in the 25 to 34 and the 55 to 64 age brackets, she said.
Some of the growth would be coming from younger working-age people “moving in from overseas”.
But the data also questions the theory of young adults staying at home longer, despite home ownership rates falling dramatically in the past decade for those under 40.
Many of the most expensive areas actually saw a decline in the proportion of older millennials – including the Hills Shire, North Sydney, Northern Beaches, Mosman, Woollahra and Waverley.
Lower-priced far-flung areas showed a modest increase, including Fairfield, Penrith, Blacktown, Camden, Canterbury Bankstown and Campbelltown.