Video by Tom Compagnoni
I was going to try and argue an opinion based purely on numbers, but that would be incredibly short.
In 1975, the average house price in Sydney was $28,000. In 2015 it was $850,000. In 1975, the average full-time income was $7,618. In 2015, that number would rise to $75,000. A house was quadruple your income in 1975. In 2015, it was undecuple your income. I bet you didn't know that 'undecuple' was a word -- neither did I -- but it is, and it means '11 times'. In 2016, house prices rose more than 15 percent, bringing Sydney's median house price to $1.1 million.
Based on those numbers, it is pretty reasonable to conclude that houses are not affordable for most Australians. But that's too logical. How boring.
Instead, let's talk about politics. Let's talk about the 'arguments' that people hold about the property market.
I like to think of the general public as divided into four categories. I know, I know... It's 2017. You can't generalise. But please, just humour me for a minute.
Category one: Well off, over 40, owns investment property
These guys already own houses, and because they have worked hard for them and paid their dues throughout their lifetime, they don't want to hear your complaining. Don't get it wrong... they understand. It's hard, but suck it up.
Buying a house isn't like buying some shoes -- it is not an impulse buy -- it takes years of planning and work. They don't have time for your s**t -- if you're not going to buy their house at an inflated price, don't come knocking.
Category two: Over 40, usually with a kid or two, usually owns property but mostly just for residential or practical purposes
These guys are a bit more sympathetic, but mostly because they just want to retire already and finally have some alone time. They want the housing market to be affordable so their kids can just hurry up and leave the nest, but they'll phrase it as "they just want what's best for you".
Category three: Young and living in a well-off family
These guys are worried, but only because they believe that their other, not-so-well-off friends will secretly resent them when they inherit a property from a distant relative. They play along and join in the torment of "I will never own a house" but secretly know that eventually they'll be right -- as long as they don't do anything to get cut out of the family tree.
Category Four: The young and the
This is where the majority of young people sit. It's not that they're living in poverty -- they may just have an average income and live in Sydney (that is how bad our property market is.) However, despite the belief that they could never save enough money to buy a house, they have no problem spending $5000-$10000 on a Contiki tour across Europe... twice.
These four categories of people are spread throughout Sydney, constantly mingling. The main conflict comes between the category ones and category fours. The ones are fed up with the fours vocalising their complaints, and have started throwing personal insults like "you young people are all entitled brats who don't want to work" and the fours, offended by this, rebut with arguments about how easy it must have been "back in the day" where houses were cheap and how it's "all your fault for buying all the houses".
The twos loosely support the ones, because they don't want their kids to think that they didn't work hard for what they have, but secretly hope that prices fall soon and will support their kids however they can.
The threes sit on the fence. They don't want to piss the ones and twos off too much, but also don't want to alienate themselves from the fours.
We all know that houses are expensive, and that buying a house is becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible. For some, due to disability, lack of education, or simple distrust in their own financial abilities, this point of impossibility has already arrived.
It'd take a much smarter mind than mine to solve this 'crisis'. But I don't think the solution is to simply blame one particular group. You can't blame young people, nor can you blame the government or investors. It's a societal problem, and therefore all of society should take responsibility for fixing it.
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