FactCheck: did more people buy their seventh home than bought their first home last year?

Queensland Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni announced a $2b housing scheme he said would create more affordable housing in the state. AAP/AARON BUNCH

FactCheck: did more people buy their seventh home than bought their first home last year?

Last year, more people bought their seventh home than those buying their first.

– Queensland Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni, media statement, November 22, 2018

Housing affordability remains a serious issue in many cities across Australia.

Federal Labor has promised to make negative gearing reforms if elected in 2019. In Queensland, Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni announced a A$2 billion housing scheme he said would create more affordable housing in the Labor-held state.

De Brenni said that “last year, more people bought their seventh home than those buying their first”. The statistic attracted attention after being published in an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) article on Saturday.

Is the claim correct?

Verdict

Queensland Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni’s statement that “last year, more people bought their seventh home than those buying their first” is incorrect.

A spokesperson for the minister acknowledged the error and amended two relevant ministerial statements in response to The Conversation’s FactCheck. A media article containing the assertion was also amended.

Checking the source

In response to a request for sources and comment, a spokesperson for Mick de Brenni told The Conversation:

The statistics referenced in that quote were misinterpreted from a Misha Zelinski article for the Huffington Post.

The quote has now been removed from [a December 6] ministerial media statement, and we have contacted the ABC to get it removed from their article.

Housing affordability remains a significant barrier for first home buyers. As Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen recently said:

“Last year, for the first time in history, more than 50% of all new home loan approvals were for investment purposes.”

The spokesperson said the November 22 media statement was in the process of being amended. The original ABC article has now been amended.

Editor’s note, December 12, 2018: the November 22 statement has now also been corrected. The verdict has been updated to reflect this.

Lost in translation

As acknowledged by the Minister’s office, the statistics quoted were a misinterpretation of information published in a Huffington Post article.

There is no data available to support the claim.

In response to The Conversation’s request for information, a media spokesperson for the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) said while the agency does collect information on individuals’ ownership of a rental property:

… the data is only for those who rent out the property (based on numbers of schedules with a unique address). We don’t have anything on all properties an individual owns.

Therefore, we don’t have data comparing proportion of first home buyers to second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh home buyers.

Keeping in mind the caveats above, you can see some of the data the ATO does collect in the table below. It is drawn from the ATO’s Taxation Statistics report 2015-16.

To collect this data, the ATO sampled 2% of all individual tax returns filed in 2015-16.

Individuals – interest in a rental property, by overall net rent outcome, 2014–15 to 2015–16 income years. Australian Taxation Office, taxation statistics 2015-16

A media spokesperson for the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) told The Conversation the ABS does not have the data to make any comment on this claim.

Likewise, a spokesperson for property data firm CoreLogic said the company does not hold data to support the claim.

ABS Housing Finance figures for October 2018 indicate that the value of housing financing provided to investors exceeded that provided to first home buyers in that month.

First home buyers represented 18.1% of all loans made, and generally take out smaller loans than other borrowers (see Table 9). In comparison, loans made to investors represented around 33% of all housing related loans in October 2018.

Nonetheless, it is not possible to identify how many dwellings an investor owns. – Stephen Whelan


Blind review

I agree with the conclusion of the FactCheck: there isn’t any data available to support the claim.

While ABS data on housing finance show that investors had taken out a higher share of loans in October 2018 than first home buyers, it is not sufficient to justify a claim that more people bought their seventh home than those buying their first in the last year.

Indeed, my calculations from the unit record files from the most recent household wealth module in the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, for the year 2014, indicate that among property investors, less than 2% held seven or more properties in that year. – Rachel Ong ViforJ


The Conversation FactCheck is accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network.

The Conversation’s FactCheck unit was the first fact-checking team in Australia and one of the first worldwide to be accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network, an alliance of fact-checkers hosted at the Poynter Institute in the US. Read more here.

Have you seen a “fact” worth checking? The Conversation’s FactCheck asks academic experts to test claims and see how true they are. We then ask a second academic to review an anonymous copy of the article. You can request a check at checkit@theconversation.edu.au. Please include the statement you would like us to check, the date it was made, and a link if possible.