Sydney has the second least affordable real estate market in the world, and it’s not much better in other parts of the country.
Australia is a remarkably stable society. Although there has recently been a small amount of hostility towards public health measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and some support for for the radical political parties in the federal elections in May, the public is generally serious about internal peace and civic cooperation. Although its national myths try to portray Aussies as “larrikins” – a sort of cross between a little scoffer and a children’s party clown – the country loves rules and hates making a fuss, even if conditions are clearly to its detriment.
Social stability depends on human security (freedom from want and fear) and, for the most part, Australia can claim to provide not only strong human security for its residents, but also excellent conditions for human flourishing. However, there is one aspect of both human security and human flourishing that is increasingly becoming a serious issue for Australian society: the cost of housing.
according to a recent report by Demographia International that evaluated the cost of housing by the proportion of median house prices at median family income, Sydney has the second least affordable real estate market in the world, with Melbourne ranking fifth. Australia’s most affordable major city, Perth continues to rank as the 19th least affordable city in the world. Although the recent rise in interest rates is major to a small drop in housing prices, the problem for the country remains serious.
The cost of housing in Australia means that individuals or couples can often pay up half of your income in rent or mortgage payments. Not only does this limit your ability to spend money on other essentials like food, education, and health care, but it also limits your ability to pursue social interests or activities, which are just as important to well-being. Unaffordable housing also prevents people from taking economic risks, which contributes to lack of economic complexity.
Housing, like food, is a necessity. However, we do not have the same expectation that, like food, housing should be plentiful, of good quality, and affordable. In recent decades, houses have ceased to be homes to become “assets”. They are no longer places to live, build families, entertain friends and find refuge, but now property is something we invest in, speculate on and something whose prices we quote. obsess on. The expectations we now have of property are not social; they are financial.
Both the market and governments have responded to this shift in thinking, the market taking into account homeowners’ desire for property prices to rise ever higher, and governments believing their role is to protect monetary value. of people’s property through land use regulations that restrict housing supply. Political parties make the democratic calculation that current homeowners outnumber renters or those looking to buy a home, and therefore the risk of alienating them is politically too great. In particular, the percentage of homeowners in Australia is declining.
However, political parties in Australia have not always thought in such narrow and self-serving terms. Liberal Party founder and longest-serving Prime Minister of Australia, Robert Menzies, Recognized that a house was much more than something of monetary value. He understood that there was a social and spiritual aspect to homeownership, and that to prevent young adults from owning a home was to inhibit their personal investment in the social fabric of the country, as well as their ability to seek opportunities within it. He made home ownership a national policy objective because it was a social stabilizing force during the Cold War.
Once again we live in times of anxiety. The pace of economic and social change, combined with more turbulent domestic and international politics, has left many people feeling as if they have no control over their own lives. This leads to people having a genuine fear for their future. The stress of high rents, mortgage payments, or the inability to find housing in convenient locations only adds to this feeling of uneasiness. This is fertile ground for radical political movements seeking to exploit people’s insecurities and destabilize the country.
Australians can be by nature and culture a conservative people (in the philosophical sense), however, governments that rely on the generally moderate traits of the public to avoid tackling serious issues are failing in their duties as civic representatives. Australia owes its current and emerging adults the conditions that will allow them to thrive, not simply survive. Homelessness it is an unacceptable problem for a country of Australia’s wealth. Rethinking how the country views housing and the policies that would prevent current unaffordability from becoming a broader social problem should be considered a national priority.