Our home truth: Tamworth housing affordability worse than Tokyo, Washington

HOMEBUYERS battling to crack the housing market can take solace that Tamworth real estate is less affordable than in powerhouse international cities such as Tokyo, Singapore, Dublin and Chicago.

A globe-spanning study compiled by US-based public policy group Demographia found that Tamworth ranks equal 308th out of 378 metropolitan centres in nine countries for housing affordability. Topping the list for affordability was the US city of Detroit, which was declared bankrupt in 2013, while Hong Kong was ranked the least affordable city for a fifth straight year, followed by Vancouver, Sydney and San Francisco.

Tamworth’s median house price was $295,000 and median household income $56,000 – giving it a 5.3 rating on the scale – making it less affordable than Albury, Canberra, Orange, Rockhampton and equal with Hobart.

LJ Hooker co-principal Richie Thornton said Tamworth’s low median household income was largely to blame for the city’s high ranking on the annual index.

“Our house prices in relation to a lot of areas are lower, so it means their incomes must be much higher if they’re sitting below us in this index,” he said.

“Tamworth has a lot more unskilled labour that pays lower wages than places like Armidale, which pulls the average income down and makes the equation look worse.”

Tamworth’s median household income trailed Albany, Albury, Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Mandurah, Newcastle and the Sunshine Coast, to name a few.

Mayor Col Murray said Tamworth Regional Council was actively pursuing strategies to bring higher-paying industries to town in order to lift residents’ incomes.

“We have a lot of manufacturing jobs, a lot of retail jobs and a lot of food processing jobs, but they bring our average earn down,” he said. “If we want Tamworth to remain competitive and keep growing, then we have to address these sorts of things because they can be impediments.”

Cr Murray said leveraging off the back of the mining boom in neighbouring shires and the gradual roll-out of the National Broadband Network (NBN) would help.

“I don’t think there can be any doubt that the NBN will uplift, rather than downgrade, those statistics – but to what extent I’m not sure,” he said.

“(Mining and the NBN) are the low-hanging fruit for us to try to get our average income up a bit, but if we 

had, for example, government departments and universities and an armed forces base ... then that would help considerably.”

In 2013, Tamworth couple Hannah McKenzie and Cameron Tomlinson feared their hopes of living out the Great Australian Dream in Tamworth might be beyond them.

However, a “rent to buy” scheme offered by prominent building company Hibbards allowed them to save for a deposit and purchase a house in Hillvue.

“We just knew from our renting experience that we wouldn’t be able to save a deposit for quite a while because we found rental prices extremely high in Tamworth,” Ms McKenzie said. 

“We didn’t really look at the Tamworth market and think it expensive, it was more that we were paying $390 (a week) for a four-bedroom house out of town and we wouldn’t have had the money to save up for a loan.”

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