77% of Aussies yearn for a house with backyard

Over the past decade, Australia’s mainstream media spun propaganda claiming that Australians are “choosing” high density apartment living over detached housing due to its convenience. We were also frequently told that changing lifestyles has meant that most Australians do not want a large backyard.

I have always claimed that this notion of Australians “choosing” to live in apartments is false, and that most Australians would prefer to live in a detached house with a backyard. However, the exorbitant cost of land has made detached housing unaffordable, thus forcing people to live in apartments.

The arrival of the global COVID-19 pandemic has comprehensively dispelled their propaganda.

With many of us quarantined, our homes served not only as places of shelter and refuge, but also as workplaces, schools, gyms, theaters, restaurants, and parks.

Those like me living in a traditional detached house with a good sized backyard coped relatively well, with our homes meeting all of our basic needs. We have extra rooms for a home office. We have a dishwasher, washing machine and internet. We have areas in which to exercise, get fresh air, be alone or together. And we have space to store grocery supplies.

By contrast, shoe box apartments were never meant to be used multi-functionally beyond basic shelter. These apartments offer none of the above advantages. Instead, they wrongly assume that people want to live most of their lives outside in public parks, restaurants, bars and laundromats. And these assumptions were destroyed by the COVID-19 quarantine.

For those crammed into shoe box apartments, many experienced living conditions more akin to a prison.

With this background in mind, it is no surprise that a new survey from Westpac reveals that 77% of Australians yearn for a spacious house with a backyard:

With Australians juggling work, school and family commitments under a shared roof, the research found spacious living is now top of the agenda; a third (34%) want to live somewhere less populated, one in three (31%) want to be closer to either parks or shops, and one in five (20%) are seeking suburbs with larger properties.

Outdoor features like a backyard (27%) and entertainment area (18%) are also now considered more important because of COVID-19. When it comes to being indoors, having a separate study area (20%) and large kitchen (15%) topped the list.

Anthony Hughes, Westpac’s Managing Director of Mortgages said Australians have spent this time reflecting on their living space and how it will meet their future needs.

“For many of us, staying home for an extended period has changed how we use the space we live in, whether that’s home schooling from the kitchen table or setting up a makeshift office in the lounge room,” he said.

“Our research suggests that this has started a behavioural shift in what Australians want in a home, with people now seeking more space outdoors, proximity to parks and beaches, and even larger properties.

“We are also seeing people wanting their homes to cater for both their professional and personal lives, with one in five Australians wanting a separate study as more businesses adapt to working remotely…

Australian homeowners are less likely to prefer higher density living in a post-pandemic world, with more than three quarters (77%) saying they would now prefer to live in a house because of COVID-19. This is compared to 22 per cent who sought a home in an inner-city or urban area back in 2019.

Sadly, a return to mass immigration will stifle these dreams.

This ‘Big Australia’ policy has already seen the nation swell by 6 million people since the turn-of-the-century, with most of this growth occurring in Sydney and Melbourne. Moreover, our major capital cities are officially projected by the ABS to roughly double again over the next half-century as Australia adds another 17.5 million people through immigration:

The situation is particularly dire in Sydney, which is a key immigration magnet and the most land constrained. According to projections from the Urban Taskforce, apartments will make up half of Sydney’s dwellings mid-century, whereas only one quarter of Sydney dwellings will be detached houses:

That’s the death of The Australian Dream right there.

Unconventional Economist


  1. I’m very thankful for having a home with a yard. Several bedrooms, decent kitchen and living spaces etc.. I only wish I had an enclosed garage. But that’s a luxury. I am not sure how I would have coped in an inner city 1 or 2 bedder or apartment block for that matter.

    • boomengineeringMEMBER

      Yep, can see your dilemma. Before losing everything ($) our residences were always big blocks, last one 1,750m2 beachfront with a huge shed which I built. Now only 560m2, fibro shtter, long way from beachfront but luckily the house is built too far forward which means the backyard accommodates a yard and a huge shed.
      Can’t you sneak in a shed or enclose what you have ?

      • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

        Long way from the beach!?,…get fked!
        I’ve never lived as close to the beach as you do Boom!
        It wouldn’t even be a Thousand meters to North Curly from your place as the crow flys!
        Your a lucky man in my “Westie” eyes.

    • Diogenes the CynicMEMBER

      My last rental house had an open car port. The cars got very dusty (Perth is very windy), had a bike nicked and couldn’t store anything in it aside from an old broom. The house I purchased has a closed garage – bikes can be racked, cars are cleaner and I can store my tools safely.

      I under appreciated walking tracks though – I have several near me (beach, bush, parks) and it makes for a great break to working from home.

      • boomengineeringMEMBER

        Make sure you box or cover and oil those tools to stop the salt air rusting them.

        • Hadron Collision

          Also the treadly! My SRAM Red has rusted even stored in a deep 4 bay shed, 3km from coast

    • I do wonder though whether there’s much difference between living in a low-rise apartment block and one of those new-builds on a 350 sqm block on a vast sprawling estate (40kms away from the CBD!), where the eaves of your home are virtually touching those of your neighbours on both sides — and the only reason to go outside is to access the washing line down the side or the BBQ at the back.

      With constant zoning alterations, where will this craziness stop? 200 sqm blocks? It wouldn’t surprise me if there is wholesale revulsion of this type of living in the future and homes on those estates being close to worthless as they descend into slum-land.

      • They are already slum land, and the people that live there find it much more spacious than where they came from so there will always be value.

      • To me it’s a modern slum. I wouldn’t want to love there. When the sheen is lost of the “new” feel it’s all down hill I think.

      • Having moved from the top level of a 2 level walk-up in North Parramatta to a two-story detached house on 350sqM in Kellyville, the difference is significant.

        I’d never go back to unit living.

  2. Westpac New Zealand survey May 2019 … said much the same …

    Kiwis prioritise home with backyard over luxury features … Westpac New Zealand


    The vast majority of New Zealanders still dream of owning a home with a backyard, according to new research into Kiwi’s housing preferences commissioned by Westpac NZ.

    The online survey of more than 1,000 people found that despite the rise of apartment living, 49% consider a backyard “essential” when buying a home, while a further 42% think it would be “nice to have”.

    “It’s interesting to see that people consider having a backyard much more important than living close to work, public transport, parks or schools,” says Westpac NZ Housing Lead, Robert Hill. … read more via hyperlink above …

  3. ZevombatMEMBER

    Most people would like a lot of things they can’t have. Lower density and backyards are great when you have younger kids but people want different things at different life stages, and sprawling burbs are hugely inefficient in terms of transport energy and infrastructure. Housing options are important but we can’t afford to go back to the fifties dream of picket fences for all.

    • SoCalSurfCreeperMEMBER

      Sure we can. If we stop mass immigration. 77% of Americans live in houses (including detached, town houses and mobile homes) and only 20% live in apartments/condos. Australia has much lower population density vs. the USA. Why can’t Aussies live in detached houses if they want to?

      • ZevombatMEMBER

        The US has subsidised their car dependent suburbs via expensive wars and dirty fracking for the oil to run the whole machine.

        Part of the problem is the quality – we can do crappy high rise apartments, or crappy small lot suburbia without real back yards. Australia doesn’t do well on medium density, mid rise apartments and townhouses. With immigration lower the crappest crap should sit unsold but will it be a reset from desperate FOMO buying anything they churn out, or just a pause…

    • Pfh007.MEMBER

      “.. and sprawling burbs are hugely inefficient in terms of transport energy and infrastructure..”

      That is a myth.

      Constructing new tunnels and freeways and mass transit is hugely more expensive than suburbs.

      Suburbs only require low cost personal mobility (petrol or electric) and that is abundant. New houses can be designed to be largely off grid. Can’t do that with apartments.

      Turning Sydney into a ghetto of cramped high rise apartments is an imposed policy usually by those who would not dream of living that way themselves.

      • Just like Treasury modelling, the devil is in the detail.
        77% would prefer a house. But we have no idea what percentage wanted to buy a house previously. Only 22% previously intended to buy a house. There’s a big difference.
        I want a 45 bedroom house on Sdney Harbour with bridge views. I dont intend to buy one.

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      You’ve drunk to much of the Kool Aid Zevombat.
      You’ve had your beliefs manipulated and yet I betcha you think that conclusion is your own.

    • Arthur Schopenhauer

      Sprawling ‘burbs are energy inefficient if a commute to work is needed.
      The real costs in sprawl comes 50 years after the initial build, when the roads, bridges, power lines and sewer start needing serious maintenance.
      Edit: Building over prime agricultural land is also a ‘real’ cost, borne by the future.

    • sprawling burbs are hugely inefficient in terms of transport energy and infrastructure

      This might be true in your mind. However you have not defined what is efficiency and what you are trying to maximise.
      An egg farmer might believe that battery-cages are most effient, however a show-chicken breeder would find them to be inefficient in what they are trying to achieve.

      I would like to see human wellbeing maximised and I think that large blocks ARE MORE efficient in this regard and I think that dogbox living is inefficient in achieving this. What is your aim?

      • ZevombatMEMBER

        The inefficiency of suburbs for infrastructure is a matter of maths, people served per km of road or pipe, and how far they have to travel to meet daily needs. I’m not arguing in favour of high rise dog boxes but recently developed treeless eaveless dormitory suburbs aren’t happy healthy places either. We’ve run the experiment on building all kinds of crap for the last 20 years – now would be a good time to work out the housing and green space factors for health and wellbeing and forming real communities, and then set planning rules to deliver more of what works. Instead we will get loosening of planning rules to build more of whatever will optimise developer profits.

        • We need an end to population and resource-use growth. We need to focus on quality of life and not quantity of life.
          But instead of what we need, the sheep vote for scum that promises “Jobs and Growth”.

    • Ronin8317MEMBER

      The reality does not match your description, In Australia we are building high density apartments 45 km away from the CBD while suburbs 5km away from CBD remains low rise. It is inverted. We have both spawl and high density.

    • “Most people would like a lot of things they can’t have”

      That is a lazy argument. It would be very possible to provide a backyard for to those who want it and without further sprawl. Alter the economic model that relies on perpetual population growth. Alter policy that has resulted in a predominance of overpriced tiny apartments. If we had affordable 2-3 bedroom apartments with decent sized living areas there would be fewer people wanting a big block of land.

    • Also disingenuous for those who don’t need a suburban house with garden nor the cost, without children or single and preferring not to live in suburbs; like most places….

    • Surely efficiency is the last thing on an individual’s mind when choosing where to live – that’s the kind of thing a management consultant thinks about. Other qualitative concerns rank way higher.

      And by the way, in a free society, people should be free to choose where to live (subject to budget constraints, but no more). Suggesting somehow that Gubmint be instrumental in telling its citizens where and how to live strikes me as chillingly authoritarian – that’s not the environment I want to live my life in.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        Suggesting somehow that Gubmint be instrumental in telling its citizens where and how to live strikes me as chillingly authoritarian – that’s not the environment I want to live my life in.

        So you’re OK with something throwing up a fifty storey apartment block next door ? How about building a tannery ?

        Or do you think that you and everyone else in the neighbourhood should have at least some broad input on it ?

        • I must have missed the connection between an individual’s choice of where (and in what) to live and the Gubmint granting a developer the right to throw up some monstrosity (in exchange for a bung).

          • drsmithyMEMBER

            Wait, what ? In your world, why would a developer need permission from Government to build anything, anywhere ? Is that not the thing you were calling chillingly authoritarian just above ?

    • drsmithyMEMBER

      […] and sprawling burbs are hugely inefficient in terms of transport energy and infrastructure.

      Not now that everyone’s working from home !

      Housing options are important but we can’t afford to go back to the fifties dream of picket fences for all.

      Why ? Why was it feasible then but not now ?

  4. In a country as vast as this..it is criminal that the political classes have limited land so that this cannot be a reality for its citizens…Everyone could be given a quarter acre by next year…and still have vast swathes untouched 🤷‍♂️… we are not citizens..we are walking money bags waiting to be fleeced by our political /elite class.

    • Arthur Schopenhauer

      Water, water, water.

      Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Tunisia etc, have lots of land too.

  5. … When can Australia and New Zealand expect to see $50,000 serviced lots … to allow affordable housing to be built … like America ? …

    Lot Values Hit Record Highs (median now $US 50,000 ! )…Natalia Sineavskaia… U.S National Association of Home Builders


    Here’s the typical home price in every (United States) state — and what you can actually get for that money … Business Insider Australia


    • Replaced by the new Point Cook version – ‘I made a hundred under the eaves at Guptars’.

  6. but doesn’t this stats just show that there is almost exactly (a bit more) as many houses with backyard as many people who want to live in such houses ?

    our problem is not how many houses with a backyard there … it’a about disparity between those who want such house and those who can afford it

    • I am sure that if it was affordable then there would be a even higher demand for it, I know a lot of people that would not dream of owning a house with a yard because of the cost.

      • House & land Melton 1975 $28000
        3br triple fronted brick veneer, 6 bed room extension, lounge, huge kitchen, garage, playroom – huge second living space, seperate purpose built laundry with space for deep freeze – no smug under bench nonse & hills hoist: in masssssive garden planted out with natives gums etc …perfect:)
        Massive block now housing 16 town houses.
        Sold $890K circa 2018
        Wide street.
        7minute walk to supermarket.
        15 minute walk to swim centre.
        Centre of town…shame about recent population growth and reported poor quality residents. Gotta love MSM for selling Australia a $ hit sandwich that many gobbled without a second thought while the rest watched on in aghast. All questions silenced with derisive overtone that questioners of sanity of dining on said $ hit sandwich inferred lack of sophistication & inherent ray cyst attitude:)))

        • boomengineeringMEMBER

          You never know whats around the corner. Swine flu, Jiminies leaving, world war, all could reduce our pop and bring our backyard nirvana back.

      • But those inner city units are not any more affordable than outer suburb houses with a backyard yet 20% people opt for a unit? Why?
        Probalem is that most of our outer sububs are just sleeping stations with no jobs, no amenities, no life

        • People are starting to value health and natural amenity over social amenities such as restaurants, theatres, cultural attractions. I’m with them.

          • boomengineeringMEMBER

            Being addicted to cafes I’m on both sides as its the rare occasion that chills me out.

  7. I’ve aways known that space is important for my mental health, I didn’t need COVID to prove that to me….
    I think that alot of society’s problems stem from exaxtly that, lack of space, whilst we are all social beings, we also need our own ‘space’, to still appreciate each other.

    • Yeah … no mental issues in the country where space is aboundant?
      Reality is quite the opposite… people are social beings and most of mental health issues are results of nonexisting or poor relations with other people

      • As demonstrated by two thirds of those surveyed desiring to live in areas as least as populated as they currently live in.

  8. Hear Hear. I’m glad the survey returned such an overwhelming response.
    I’m very grateful for acreage and the forest with creek at the back of our property. My kids spent nearly everyday during quarantine outside, playing with the dog and riding their bikes around the yard.
    Even without the Trumpflu, and given our environment (sans the terrible Melbourne weather) it makes nearly no sense for the vast majority of Australians to live indoors.
    One hopes this resets the populace’s mind to rethinking BIG Australia….

  9. Hadron Collision

    I don’t see anyone listing storage as important. Lockable storage. Lack of perspective there.

    • More storage space so people can buy more crap they don’t use

      It stimulates economy … LOL

  10. Hill Billy 55MEMBER

    The good news is that the morning news brings us the lockdowned Melbourne towers every day now. Surely its sinking in somewhere that the ponzi that has bought us so many living in such conditions is a great way to ruin the country.

    • Hopefully, Yes. For a few years after 9/11 there was a general aversion to building very tall buildings. Unfortunately, after a few years that aversion wore off. maybe corona will bring it back, for a while.

    • AirtourerMEMBER

      The phrase ‘vertical cruise ships’ is really resonating. We’re looking to buy and tower lockdowns, problematic egress in an emergency, and the cruise ship mentality has convinced my partner that we will not live in an apartment…

      • Rorke's DriftMEMBER

        Really interesting comment Airtourer. You can anticipate the potential change, but once you give it a name it becomes a thing.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        The mere possibility of a fire has always kept me away from townhouse/apartment living more than a few stories tall – well before cladding issues came to light (possibly a product of being in my early 20s when 9/11 happened). I try to avoid high-rise hotels for the same reason.

    • Very interesting article. It says immigration is 60% of population increase. The other 40% must be due to the fact that immigrants have three children each on average, whereas native born Australians have two. So, even if NOM were zero, the building industry would not completely collapse. They would still need to build *some* new houses over the next several years, to house the third child of immigrants as they grow up.

  11. rob barrattMEMBER

    I can’t think of a day when I wake up next to my 5 children here in this one room apartment in Magnificent Melbourne where I’m not grateful to our politicians, planning committees and developers.
    My 36th floor view of the intricacies of the resin-packed cladding of the block next door are unparalleled.
    I get a free fire axe in case our cladding goes up. That’s a real bonus dealing with the addicts roaming the corridors looking for someone who forgot to set their triple lock.
    Yards? Who needs ‘em!
    (Article translated from a foreign language).

  12. I still maintain the sweet spot for many are 3 bedroom townhouses, with a yard. Best of all worlds.

    Our townhouse isn’t the biggest at 108sqm, and our yard is only about 60sqm and a funny shape, but I am very glad to have avoided the 2 bedroom shoebox purchase that many others make in Sydney!

  13. bzunicaMEMBER

    I read somewhere not that long ago that Aussies spend less than 10% of their time in their backyards when at home. I think many people like the idea of a backyard but don’t actually use them.

    • It’s not just about being out in it. Firstly backyards hold trees and plants, they lower the ambient temperature, freshen the air, provide habitat for birds and animals, and are pleasant to look at even through the window, so they have immense value even if you aren’t out there.

      Obviously they are more valuable if you are out there more, have a pet, pool etc.

      No idea where the 10% comes from or what age group. Kids, oldies spend a lot more time outside. Office drones, yeah not so much.

      The point is, people who WANT a backyard should be able to afford one, if we have our policy settings right. Currently our policy settings consist of telling people to fck off, telling them they don’t want one, can’t have one, that a 300 sqm block is “generous” and a “low maintenance” brick courtyard is your dream “al fresco space”.

      • This is the problem, you have to sacrifice so much in order to afford a backyard, travel time, both parents working etc, that most struggle to find time to use the garden. Where in reality if there were more time to do so and parent at home then it would be used a lot more. Same as the excuse about kids wanting to play video games all the time, if there is a yard then it is easier for them to get into the habit of playing outside rather than the tablet / phone / tv / computer.

    • drsmithyMEMBER

      Consider the maths on that though.

      168 hours a week. Say, 60 of them disappear for “work” (incl. commuting). So you’re “home” for ca. 108 hours/wk.
      10% of that is 11 hours.
      BUT, ca. 80-90 of those 113 hours are night. At least 70 of them are likely to be taken up eating/sleeping/rooting.

      So 10% of the hours you’re home probably works out to something around 30-50% of the hours that you could actually use the backyard.

  14. SupernovaMEMBER

    Seems the shortage of large properties are asking premium prices within 2 hours from CBD’s as the oldies refuse to downsize. In my region (1 hr 20 mins outside Sydney) most of the retired oldies (in their 80’s) are vehemently opposed to downsizing from their half to one acre properties disbelieving downsizing propaganda nonsense, as they are happy to exercise, potter about, continue to grow food on their large properties. Think there is a self-sufficient thingy starting to take off with Bunnings constantly crowded, seed producers out of stock, mini-farmer gatherings, inquiries about raising chooks and bees popular etc, VETS also very busy. In over 20 years I’ve never seen anything like it….