A “rosy future” for medium-density housing driven by an ageing population will ensure the property sector is reasonably strong for the longer term, according to CSR chairman John Gillam.

Speaking at a Melbourne economic conference, Gillam said a fundamental shift is underway in the housing market, as rising immigration and birth rates push annual housing starts from a traditional 150,000 to between 175,000 and 180,000, and baby boomers downsize from large detached houses.

“They are looking for something that is more attractive and easier to maintain,” he says. “That means medium-density housing has a really rosy future.

“There are 10 million existing homes, but people don’t necessarily want to live in 60-year-old houses anymore. So what does that mean for construction? Over the long cycle and looking forward five to 10 years, the prospects are pretty strong.”

Gillam, who chairs a major building materials company, says there is a lot “going on that should make Australians optimistic about the future”.