Drivers of Demand and Supply Constraints

Demand and supply


in the property market


are subject to a range

of factors




If you have ever been to a fresh food market, especially at the end of the day, you have seen the free enterprise market dynamic firsthand.

Prices are determined by the supply of fruit and vegetables and the demand for them. If demand is low, stocks sit on the shelves, if supply is low perhaps due to adverse weather events, then prices rise, and of course, the opposite is true.

Surplus perishable items or less popular items will come down in price at the end of the day.

To understand the property market is no different; we need to examine the interaction of the demand side drivers and also the constraints on the supply of housing and how they influence prices.


POPULATION GROWTH – Australia’s population grew by 1.6 percent in the year ending 30 September 2018, reaching 25.1 million, according to the latest figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

As of February 2022, our population is estimated to be 25.725million.

The population counter ticks over by one person every 1 minute and 28 seconds, on the assumption that there is one baby born every 1 minute and 44 seconds, one person dies every 3 mins and 11 seconds, one person arrives every minute, and 1 leaves our shores every 1 minute and 44 seconds.


ABS Live Population Clock



The components of population growth include net migration (arrivals minus leavers) plus natural increase (births minus deaths). Normally net migration is a primary driver of housing demand. While natural increase has remained fairly constant, net migration has been negative due to the closure of our borders and the exodus of foreign students and temporary residents.

Australia’s population to reach 30 million in 9 to 13 years

The ABS’ pre-pandemic projections were that Australia’s population would reach 30 million people between 2029 and 2033. Population projections are based on assumptions of future levels of fertility, life expectancy, and migration.

Three series of projections (series A, B and C) have been selected from a possible 72 individual combinations of the various assumptions.

Series B primarily reflects current trends in fertility, life expectancy at birth and migration. In contrast, series A and C are based on higher and lower assumptions for each of these variables, respectively.

STATES: Under all theories, the population of New South Wales is expected to remain the largest with a tally of between approximately 9 and 9.3 million.

Victoria will experience the most significant and fastest increase in population; possibly reaching between 7 and 8 million by 2027.

Queensland’s will continue growing over the forecast period, increasing to 6 million people in 2027.

Western Australia is predicted to increase to 3 million by 2027, while South Australia will see slower growth, to reach 2 million.

And, 67% of Australians live in and around capital cities, and this is anticipated to rise to around 70% in the next few years.


Melbourne is predicted to be the largest city in Australia by 2066 with a forecasted population between 12.2 million and 8.6 million, surpassing Sydney in 2031.

Brisbane will grow in size with an increase from 49% of Queensland’s population to 51% in 2027, becoming the majority part of Queensland’s population.

The population of the Australian Capital Territory is set to increase to between 479,000 and 510,000 people closing the gap on Tasmania’s population, which is calculated to reach between 545,000 and 573,000 people in 2027.

The Northern Territory is expected to increase to between 270,000 and 284,000 people in 2027.

The demand for housing is a product of its necessity and the population size and forecast growth.

It’s also influenced by government policy, incentives, consumer confidence, and unfortunately, at times, the media!


NET MIGRATION – Australia is a culturally diverse nation – over 200 different nationalities go into the mix with 25% identified as overseas-born on the last Census night. Migration will continue to be a significant factor in the growth of our population and workforce and the driver of demand for housing.


At the moment, the pace of population growth from migration is low due to our closed borders. An interesting perspective is that because of our very successful response to COVID-19 and the likelihood of us emerging out of the pandemic restrictions ahead of the rest of the world, Australia is going to be a very attractive option for future immigrants. The effect on our future population totals may be even more pronounced than previously anticipated.

With the announcement in early February 2022 that international borders will open again within weeks, immigration is anticipated to surge – as many as 250,000 new residents will possibly need to be housed. Normally they will rent first before buying a property. One dwelling is required for every 3 immigrants on average.



DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGES – There are approximately 10 million households in Australia presently. Demographic changes such as the size of those households and the divorce rate influence not only the number but type and size of housing that is being demanded. Single-person households are a growing segment of the population that increases the demand for smaller, higher-density accommodation types. The growth in multi-family housing patterns may mean that designs need to change to accommodate the desire for separation and privacy. This segment would also include the ‘boomerang’ generation of young adults who keep coming back and the ones who won’t leave!

The Work from Home phenomenon is a structural change that has come about as a result of the pandemic and is influencing the desire for space over proximity.

MAJOR INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS – “More than $123 billion of construction work has commenced since 2015, with a committed forward pipeline of more than $200 billion aiming to build for a population projected to grow by 24 percent to 31.4 million by 2034″.




Major Infrastructure Projects Kicking Off Development



AFFORDABILITY – many factors will influence a buyer’s perception of affordability. As incomes rise, purchasers are in a more favourable and confident position to be able to service the debt that is usually incurred to buy a large ticket item like a house. In turn, incomes will be a function of ECONOMIC GROWTH and therefore, employment.

INTEREST RATES are the cost of that credit, and therefore as they fall, the affordability factor increases. Similarly, even if demand is present for housing, the AVAILABILITY OF CREDIT will act to dampen demand if lenders tighten their lending criteria. Sometimes this is to ‘balance’ their loan books or is in compliance with the prudential regulator’s (RBA & APRA) directives, whose mandate it is to moderate excesses in the market (business cycle)

“The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) is an independent statutory authority that supervises institutions across banking, insurance, and superannuation and promotes financial system stability in Australia”.

Remember that economics is a social science because it studies human behaviour. To build models of the economy and predict outcomes, economists have to make assumptions about human behaviour and, by and large, have to work on the basis that consumers are rational. Psychologists would beg to differ!

Attitudes, perceptions, and CONFIDENCE are important drivers (or inhibitors) of demand. When the economy is thriving, and the news is good, consumers are buoyed and optimistic about the future, and the reverse is also true. The media plays a role in shaping consumer outlook and confidence, and unfortunately, bad news and sensationalism sell!  The first diagram below is a simple representation of the property market. As prices rise for houses less are demanded, and more is supplied and vice versa.

At P1 Demand for homes equals the Supply of dwellings.

The positive drivers of demand ( increased population growth and net migration, buoyant economic conditions, low unemployment, rising incomes, relaxed credit conditions, higher consumer confidence, consumer expectations) can

SHIFT the DEMAND CURVE to the RIGHT, as shown in the second diagram. 

Assuming SUPPLY cannot be expanded easily or without significant time delays, the result is a

HIGHER EQUILIBRIUM PRICE, or a rise in house prices,  P2



The supply of housing is the sum of the existing stock plus the level of new construction.

According to a recent report by ANZ, Australia’s housing shortage stands at 250,000 currently, due in large part to the fact that the population projections we thought would take 40 years to reach have been exceeded in the last 16! 





In a perfectly operating market, supply would simply shift out to the right to meet the excess demand, and all will be in equilibrium again! But we don’t live in a perfect world! The ‘elasticity’ or responsiveness of supply has STRUCTURAL impediments that are hard to change in the short term, including:

LIMITED LAND – remember the definition of resources, they need to be known, accessible, and cost-effective. Given most of us ( 67%, expected to reach 70% within a few years) want to live in the metropolitan areas of the capital cities, land releases are LIMITED.

COMPLEXITY of the PLANNING APPROVAL PROCESS – this ties in with the first constraint. The rezoning of land for residential construction is a long-winded and complicated task hamstrung by red tape and bureaucracy.

INFRASTRUCTURE PROVISION – “Investment in economic infrastructure (such as telecommunications and transport networks) and social infrastructure (for example, schools, hospitals, and public housing) has a major bearing on the community’s well being” (Commonwealth Government of Australia Parliamentary Research Paper 2014)

Releasing land without the provision of infrastructure is a recipe for disaster both economically (employment opportunities, shops to spend in, transport to get to employment hubs, childcare to make work possible, etc.) and socially ( lack of recreation facilities leads to youth crime, etc.). Infrastructure is by, and large, big-ticket items and so given the competing demands on budget resources, opportunity costs, and trade-offs, the provision of infrastructure is not easy or unlimited.

INFRASTRUCTURE LEVIES – these are high costs imposed on developers by the government, so they co-contribute to the provision of local infrastructure. Contributions are made per lot for the supply of power and water, kerbing and guttering, street lights, roads, and sometimes upgrading of feeder roads and the installation of traffic lights. Every parcel of land will have built into it a cost component for these co-contributions.