City Futures Research Centre Arts, Design and Architecture

The role of investor landlords in restructuring Australia’s major cities

With their property acquisition activity reaching record levels in 2014, investor landlords are now key players in Australia’s housing market. This has sparked vigorous public debate on the contribution of this activity to a ‘housing price bubble’ and the crowding out of first home buyers. Given new City Futures research indicating private rental provision growing fastest in urban Australia’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods, another effect may be to exacerbate the socio-spatial polarisation.

Building on our existing work, this study investigates the drivers and aggregate impacts of rental investor property acquisition in Sydney and Melbourne.  It determines the extent to which rental investor behaviour is associated with growing socio-spatial polarisation in our major cities. The findings advance the conceptual understanding of contemporary urban change and inform the development of planning practice and housing policy. Given similar processes and concerns in other OECD countries (e.g. the UK) these findings have international resonance.

The research investigates empirically three major issues. It:

1. Provides an empirical account of the changing ownership and geography of the private rental housing stock within these two cities since the early 1990s and the extent of its association with emerging areas of suburban social disadvantage;

2. Establishes the key factors contributing to growing investor landlord activity in suburban Australia, especially focusing on changes in the context of investment opportunities and the role of rental investment in household wealth management strategies.

3. Assesses the consequences of growing private rental provision in disadvantaged suburbs in terms of the longer term socio-economic outcomes for these locations and the impact on local property markets.

Research methods employed include:

  • Secondary data analysis focused on the ABS Survey of Income and Housing, Rental Bond Board datasets and ABS Census
  • Large scale survey of rental investor landlords
  • Indepth interviews with real estate professionals and investor landlords


Leading organisation

University of New South Wales

Funded by

Australian Research Council (ARC)

Collaborating partners

Swinburne University of Technology

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