It is not divine or revelatory to say that the housing situation in Australia is painfully broken.
Arguments are made annually around the possibility of rural homes and of living outside of central business districts, most often aimed at the yuppie perma-renter: the young, privileged, caffeine-obsessed cokehead who can’t afford a house because they’re Unwilling To Sacrifice Things for just a few years.
This is the narrative upheld by governments of all sorts, with various political reasons. To be frank: saying you’re going to crash the housing market is not a vote winner. The game is rigged towards people who can afford to buy-in. Those lucky enough to be able to work hard and enter the market - who at some point in their lives believed in the utopia of Affordable Housing - will find themselves at the end of the yellowbrick road with a hefty mortgage, a baby on the way, and very little reason to continue believing in the introduction of policies that would devalue their hard-worked home. So it goes.
Which is why, when prime minister Scott Morrison steps into the lights of morning television and laments that people should just go ahead and buy a house if they want some form of rent relief, he doesn’t really need to make sense.
On the back of a federal budget plan laid down by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg that promised to double the first-home buyer scheme and lower minimum deposits required from 20 percent to 5 percent, it became clear that the government plans for the people who overwhelmingly vote for it: home owners (which is more people than you’d think) and people desperately hanging onto the idea that they’ll be a home owner one day, too. Like the blue collar worker who sneers at the idea of taxing the rich – because what happens when they get rich too – the idea of home ownership is dangled over most Australian’s heads. They are happy to chase after it, too. We’re in the lucky country after all. Who can blame them?
“Ensuring that more renters can buy their own home and get the security of home ownership, that was one of the key focuses of this budget and was one of the key pledges that I’ve delivered on since the last election.”
It’s a nice quote, and a nicer idea. But the world below Morrison and the rest of his mates in Canberra is not that simple. Truly, there is little realistic expectation behind the idea that someone struggling to pay rent will be able to save and lay down a deposit on a house – regardless of what the percentage of that deposit may be. Renting should be a secure way of living – not something seen as a step towards ownership. The Australia created for us is, frankly, fast running out of stepping stones. For most people, we are well beyond the idea of Everyone Getting A Go.
Politicians, on either side of the house, mostly live in a world where home ownership is an inevitable. Some may struggle more than others, but few will never reach their goal. Six figure incomes built on promises of good, solid, industry C-suite jobs at the end of it all mean their families will rarely suffer either. It’s a good gig if you can get it. And while the majority of the nation dwells on stagnating wages and an increased cost of living, the rich get richer. It’s not a new phenomenon, but it’s sad all the same. And increasing the amount of government cash available to would-be home owners does little when very few can even get to that position. It is not fair, it is not right, but it is where we are in the world.
There are millions of people who own a home - and all of their votes count just as much as the rest. Buying in is hard, and once you make it to the top of the mountain it’s a long way down. You work so hard to get so little - and when you finally achieve that dream of home ownership you’re asked to make it easier for others? It’s practically un-Australian.
To be a renter is to be Not A Home Owner. It is a class many of us should get more comfortable living in.
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