Australians came into 2021 after a whirlwind 2020 that brought a raft new changes to our lives including home schooling, working from home, dealing with business closures and learning new skills (banana bread anyone?) while adjusting to a lot more time indoors. Last year, healthcare and the economy were the top concerns for most Australians. This year, still in the midst of a pandemic and extended lockdowns, healthcare and the economy are still the top two concerns facing Australians. But in the background, concern about housing and the cost of living has slowly been increasing (see Fig 1).
The cost of housing is by no means a new concern to many Australians, especially to those trying to break into the housing market. During 2021, national house prices have risen over 21 percent, however it seems that COVID might finally be making an impact on where we want to live. Domain reports that although the national average house price has risen, there has been a subsequent decline in house prices in some of the larger cities like Melbourne. This makes now an interesting time to ask Australians how they feel about their local area.
Access to the natural environment is increasingly important in metropolitan areas
Since 2016, we have run the annual Ipsos Life in Australia study. Participants are asked to select the top five attributes that they believe makes somewhere a good place to live and to rate their local area on 16 liveability attributes. In August 2021, we surveyed 10,939 Australians for Life in Australia.
Consistent with 2020, the top 3 attributes that contribute to a good place to live in 2021 for both metro and regional areas are feeling safe, affordable decent housing and high quality health services. In regional areas, the fourth and fifth top attributes also remain steady with 2020 being access to the natural environment and good job prospects.
However, in metro areas we can see the priorities have shifted. In 2019 and 2020, the fourth and fifth most important attributes were reliable and efficient public transport (4th) and access to the natural environment (5th). This year, the importance of these two attributes has switched – access to the natural environment is now the fourth most important factor making somewhere a good place to live (see figures 2 and 3).
Does this suggest that the effects of lockdowns and border closures are starting to impact on the way we interact with our local areas? It is likely that the desire (indeed, the need) to spend time in our local parks and recreations areas is a reaction to the changes in our lifestyles.
One of the biggest changes that COVID-19 brought with it was a sudden shift in working conditions, with work from home arrangement becoming the norm rather than the exception. Global research by Ipsos reports that 92% of Australians would prefer to work from home at least one day a week when pandemic restrictions are lifted, with 23% indicating they would like to work entirely from home. Given that the Productivity Commission expects flexible work arrangements to continue after the pandemic is over, it’s no surprise that escaping the home office with a quick trip to the local park or bushland is becoming more of a priority for many of us.
Most liveable Metropolitan locations
This year, the most liveable metropolitan location in the country based on Ipsos’s ‘Liveability Index’ is Perth. Of the 16 attributes, Perth scored the average or higher on 14 of those, being slightly below average on ‘feeling safe’ and having ‘a strong sense of community’. This is followed by Adelaide and Brisbane then Sydney and Melbourne. Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane all scored above average on access to the natural environment with Sydney and Melbourne scoring slightly below the average for this attribute.
Interestingly, Darwin was ranked as a highly liveable location but with a small sample size was not included at the top of this year’s rankings.
Most liveable Regional locations
This year, regional Victoria takes the crown of most liveable regional location, performing particularly well compared to the average on reliable and efficient public transport, sports viewing and participation and museums, galleries and festivals. Regional WA and Regional NSW rounded out the top 3, followed by Regional QLD and Regional SA.
Our report on the most liveable locations of 2020 can be found here.