Rental vacancies hit a 15-year low, but blaming it all on student migrants is missing the bigger picture


Housing is tight, really tight. According to SQM Research, rental vacancies in February 2023 across major metropolitan areas have reached 1.0%, not seen since 2006.

Commentators point to a ‘flood’ of student migrants re-entering Australia. This is an easy message to sell because we tend to think of the success of our universities and the many foreign students that come to live and study in Australia.

The most recent data for 2021-22 (395,000) does suggest a significant increase in the number of migrants compared with 2020-21 (146,000). However this is far below any of the preceding 5 pre-COVID years. Migrant arrivals averaged 522,000 per year across the 5 preceding years.

A more accurate picture looks at the net-migration (removing those migrants that return and Australians that go overseas). That is also below average. Last year was 171,000, against an average of 226,500 in the 5 pre-COVID years.

At the last Census (2021), there were 2.84 million rented properties. A 1% vacancy rate would imply about 30,000 properties are vacant as of February this year. The latest Births and Deaths from the ABS, show net natural population growth at around 140,000. Implying each year Australia adds around 365,000 people that all require housing. There has also been a slew of natural disasters which has displaced thousands of Australians across the country, all needing rental properties while they rebuild their lives.

So while migration is definitely not to blame for our current housing shortage, even a return to pre-COVID migration trends could add to pressure in the rental market and make migrants an easy target.

Building more dwellings by empowering young Australians, including those new to our wonderful country, to save and purchase or build their own property will improve the lives of all Australians.

Our Leg Up aims to assist young people reach their goals sooner. Assisting Australians to reach home ownership with as little as a 5% deposit.

Visit to find out how.


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