Is Hunter housing still affordable?

COOLING?: Figures for the September quarter of last year reveal that housing price growth in the Hunter region had fallen below the five-year average.While house prices, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, remain out of reach for many, national debate on housing affordability continues.

Recent regulatory actions are helping to produce a slowdown in investor borrowing, with Sydney median house prices beginning to fall, and other capital city markets also weakening.

In the September quarter of 2017, the Hunter region’s price growth fell below its five-year average, suggesting that the local market too is beginning to cool.

This comes in the context of very healthy price growth over the last five years in many parts of the region. There has been 41 per cent growth in the Lower Hunter’s median house price in the five years to September 2017.

Good news for owners and those purchasing at the start of the growth period, with likely flow-on regional benefits in terms of increased expenditure from households who are feeling wealthier.

Even with the slowing of recent growth rates, annual growth remains strong in Newcastle, at 9.1 per cent, and in Lake Macquarie, 4.0 per cent.

In the Upper Hunter, the wind-back of mining capital expenditure, and associated slowing of housing demand relative to supply, has seen house prices decline by 13 per cent over the last five years.

In the Lower Hunter, the recent slowing of price growth will be welcomed by first home buyers, but such movements only go a small way to improving record low levels of affordability within the region.

Further analysis of the longer-term trends in the region’s housing market and in housing affordability will be presented at the Hunter Research Foundation Centre’s Hunter Economic Breakfast on February 16.

The centre has also invited expert speakers to address housing affordability nationally and locally. To find out more, visit

Dr Anthea Bill is lead economist at theHRF Centre.