Considering Australia’s well-documented ageing population, it is no secret that downsizing among older Australians is becoming more prevalent. In fact, with 14 per cent of the Australian population in 2011 aged over 65 and Perth in particular expected to be home to more than one million people aged over 65 by 2050, government and private industry must be in tune with the changing housing needs of this demographic.

Interestingly, single females over 55 years are a rapidly growing segment of the population because women have a longer average life expectancy compared with men. When discussing downsizing it is also important to include younger generations of homebuyers who are seeking smaller housing options.

According to the ABS, couples without children are likely to overtake couples with children as the most common household by as early as 2023. While many of these households are empty nesters, there is also a growing proportion of younger couples in this group.

All of these groups are looking for suitable housing options in a range of areas in the Perth metro area and regional WA to complement their lifestyle needs. While suitable housing for some older people may be retirement or aged-care living (and these sectors of the property industry are growing) we need to remember that average life expectancy is increasing and many people remain active and more than capable of independent living later into their life.

Therefore, a range of one, two and three-bedroom options in a variety of locations are likely to be in demand in the coming years.

In terms of greenfield developments, the move towards smaller lot options and townhouses and apartment living in outer areas is an indication of where we are heading in terms of accommodating smaller households.

The average lot size in new developments in the Perth metro area has decreased by about 18 per cent in the past five years to just over 410sqm. This is a clear reflection of where the market is heading and buyers’ expectations.

There are also many people who want to stay in their local area when they downsize. This is where infill development in existing suburbs is critical to meeting the needs of local residents.

A diversity of housing in established areas that allows people to remain in locations they are familiar with is an important aspect of downsizing.

Overall, government and industry need to work together to ensure we are catering for the housing needs of an increasingly diverse population.