Bernard Salt give his Illawarra outlook at a Property Council lunch in Wollongong

ILLAWARRA OUTLOOK: KPMG partner Bernard Salt says Wollongong can continue a prosperous future if the comunity celebrates local start-ups and entrepreneurs to inspire others to do the same. Picture: Robert Peet

ILLAWARRA OUTLOOK: KPMG partner Bernard Salt says Wollongong can continue a prosperous future if the comunity celebrates local start-ups and entrepreneurs to inspire others to do the same. Picture: Robert Peet

Demographer and social commentator Bernard Salt is the man behind “avo-gate”, causing a storm last year when he suggested millennials spend more money on smashed avocado than saving for a house.

Prior to speaking in Wollongong at the Property Council’s Illawarra Outlook on Friday, the KPMG partner told the Illawarra Mercury he stood by those comments because the older generations do have those views.

“The cost of housing in Sydney and Wollongong is many times the annual income, which is significantly different to when the baby boomers were buying their houses a generation ago,” Mr Salt said.

“The whole smashed avo debate … has hopefully elevated the issue of affordable housing in the agenda.”

As for the state of the Illawarra’s property market, he doesn’t see much changing due to its closeness to Sydney but hoped policies and programs would be instilled to moderate affordability and enable different segments to be able to get into the market.

There’s a critical mass of baby boomers coming out of the workforce …downshifting out of the capital city to a lifestyle zone nearby. - Bernard Salt

“The spillover effect is that Sydney is outrageously priced. Rather than going way out west ... why don’t they go down south, have the lifestyle of the beach and commute from Wollongong, and that results in high property prices,” he said.

Like his speech at the Property Council event, Mr Salt’s outlook for the region centered on the “lifestyle obsession” seen in Australia.

He said lifestyle is what drives people to live in the Illawarra, and the main motivating factor behind most moves or home buying decisions anywhere in the country.

Mr Salt said for any building project or development the question should be asked, ‘how does it enhance Australia’s concept of lifestyle?’

He predicted the region’s population to swell in coming years largely due to two demographics: 30 to 39-year-olds looking for their first home or an affordable family home, and those over the age of 60 looking for a sea change or downshift.

“There’s a critical mass of baby boomers coming out of the workforce … particularly in Sydney [who] have a lot of equity in their house,” Mr Salt said.

“This idea of downshifting out of the capital city to a lifestyle zone nearby I think is also something that will drive a lot of movement into this area.”

While non-retirees who have enough for a mortgage will most likely be from the health and education sectors because he says that’s where all the jobs are.

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