Millennials moving to regional areas over cities

According to a new report, there’s a new must-do for millennials: move to regional Australia. Regional Australia attracted more people than it lost to capital cities during the last census, which also found Sydney lost more millennials to the regions than it gained between 2011 and 2016. This all comes from the Regional Australia Institute’s “Big Movers” report, which examines how COVID-19’s aftershocks may affect regional population trends. The research places an emphasis on millennials — people aged between 20 and 35 years at the 2016 census date — because the cohort is likely to have young families, be working at early-mid career levels or in trades, and is also increasingly likely to purchase residential property in regional areas.

“While 178,961 millennials moved to capital cities from regional Australia, more than 200,000 moved between regions,” Regional Australia Institute chief executive Liz Ritchie said.

“Like all Australians who moved between 2011 and 2016, the mobility of millennials reflects a ‘voting with their feet’ to find the mix of work and lifestyle that they value,” Ritchie said. “Some 37,000 millennials moved from Sydney to regions, with 32,500 moving the other way.”

Sydney was the only city to see a net outflow of millennials between 2011 and 2016. All other cities saw net inflows of millennials, with Brisbane and Melbourne each seeing the largest inflows, more than 10,000.

The top three regional destinations for millennials to move to during the last census period were the Gold Coast, Newcastle and the Sunshine Coast.

The top 12 destinations — all large regional centres, unsurprisingly — also include Greater Geelong, Cairns, Toowoomba, Ballarat, Maitland, Greater Bendigo and Lake Macquarie.

Figures show 501,643 people moved from capital cities into regional Australia between 2011 and 2016, while 436,439 people moved from regions to the capital cities for the period.

“From 2011 to 2016, our two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, lost more residents to regions than they gained—and this was well before COVID-19,” Ritchie said. “Over the last few months, we’ve all had to change how we work and this has allowed staff and employers to see that location is no longer a barrier for where we choose to work.

Over the five years to 2016, Australia’s regions attracted a net inflow of 65,204 people from Australia and state capital cities, meaning the regions attracted more people than those who left for capital cities.

“As a country, we are an extremely mobile nation, and we have a propensity to change our address at twice the rate of people in most OECD countries. If location is no longer a barrier for employment, it’s possible that the trend line over the next decade could see an even greater swing to regions,” she said.

The research also reveals that 690,216 people moved between communities—moving from one place in regional Australia to live in another part of regional Australia—rather than to a capital city.

This is all very promising news for regional centres, which many were worried would shrink further and further over the next decade. The movement trend can also probably be attributed, at least in some part, to the grants available for first home buyers (which millennials are). Several states will give bigger monetary grants to FHB’s buying in regional areas, and money is always a big motivator. The choice of properties available at reasonable price points in regional areas is another driver, considering that you can far more easily expect to buy a larger home in a better location in a less populated regional area than in, for example, the Sydney CBD.

Written: 4 August 2020

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