Sydney’s housing crisis is unfixable


In this week’s Treasury of Common Sense with Mike Jeffreys from Radio 2GB, I ran through the latest annual capital city population data from the ABS and what it means for Sydney, especially the housing market.

I explained why supply-side solutions to Sydney’s housing crisis won’t work as long as the federal government continues to force-feed net overseas migration into Sydney.

Below are key highlights of the interview, along with charts.

Edited Transcript:


The latest net overseas migration and population data for the September quarter showed that the population grew by 660,000 people in the year to September—the highest ever level—off about 550,000 net overseas migration.

Australian population change

On Tuesday, the the Australian Bureau of Statistics released capital city population data for the 2022–23 financial year and what it showed is that Australia’s Capital Cities grew by whopping 517,000 people last financial year to just shy of 18 million people.


The capital cities have actually grown by an incredible 5.5 million people, or 44% since 2001, which is as far as the data goes back.

Capital city population change

So, we’ve basically added the current size of Sydney plus about 50,000 more people since 2001 to the nation’s capitals. It is absolutely off-the-charts population growth.


That’s pretty much why we’ve got a rental crisis, and Sydney received the most net overseas migrants last financial year, although its overall population didn’t grow as much as Melbourne.

Population change in 2022-23

Sydney’s population last financial year grew by 146,00 and net overseas migration was 156,000.


So the population grew by less than net overseas migration because young families are saying: “Look, I’ve had it with this place. Housing is too expensive. Sydney is getting crush loaded and people are pouring in every year from overseas. I’m going to go head up to Brisbane or the Gold Coast, or whatever”.

Sydney population change

Sydney lost 38,000 existing residents last financial year, and it had 28,000 net births. So, it lost about 10,000 people through natural increase, which was easily offset by extreme net overseas migration.


If anyone’s wondering why Sydney has a rental crisis—and this applies for Australia at large—this data tells you why. Massive 156,000 net overseas migration in one year.

Sydney’s population has grown by 1. 35 million people since 2001, and that has been driven almost entirely by net overseas migration.

That is why your roads are congested. It is a key reason why you have a rental crisis. And it is a reason why your house prices keep going up.


A lot of you are experiencing these problems in Sydney, where your liveability has just been trashed since around around the time of the Sydney Olympics.

It is because your population has absolutely blown out, and the federal government keeps force feeding more people into your city.

The New South Wales Productivity Commission last month complained that young families were leaving Sydney and they said that it’s all a supply issue. We have got to supply more housing. It’s “supply, supply, supply”.


Now the McKell Institute and St Vincent De Paul say that taxpayers must spend at least $1 billion a year to expand the social housing stock.

Expanding the social housing stock is a worthwhile ambition. We have underinvested in social housing for decades across Australia.

But it would be absolutely futile if the population continues to grow so aggressively by net overseas migration. All you are going to do is have taxpayers fund the provision of social housing to new migrants.


These groups should instead turn their sights on the federal government’s mass immigration policy, which for 20 years has been flooding Sydney with additional people, crushing your infrastructure, and forcing people to live in high-rise apartments instead of houses.

Sydney dwelling composition

It is forcing you all to pay mega tolls when you drive around because they’ve got to keep building these toll roads, which Transurban fleeces you for to keep accommodating this excess population growth.


They should demand that immigration gets massively cut so that the population grows at a slower pace than the ability to provide homes and infrastructure. Then we might actually address the housing crisis.

All these supply schemes do is just put a band-aid on top of band-aids while also punting the costs onto taxpayers as a way to keep this Big Australia mass immigration policy going when really it should be cut.

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.