finance

Dear Joe Hockey. We just want to feel like we have some control.

Dear Joe Hockey,

I don’t expect that you’ll read this, which I totally understand. I mean, you’ve probably got a few other things on your mind right now. Like passing a Budget through the senate and that small matter of 23 million Australian’s economic wellbeing resting on your shoulders.

At least, I hope that’s the reason you would casually tell aspiring home owners to just “get a good job that pays good money”. I mean, (slaps forehead) why didn’t we all just think of that before?

Now this letter isn’t about the whole “good job” debate because we all know some of our society’s most valued jobs are carers or teachers or paramedics, and that while they are “good jobs”, they just don’t pay “good” wages. Not the wages you’re talking about, anyway. No, we won’t go into that. I’m sure you’ve heard enough about the definition of a ‘good job‘ over the last few days.

Dear Joe Hockey, we want to feel in control.

I don't even want to talk about your remark that if housing wasn't still affordable "no one would be buying it". Because that would be like saying if a Ferrari wasn't affordable, no one would be them buying it right? And that would just sound out of touch and privileged. Also, I don't want to imagine a world in which we live that the Treasurer of Australia really believes that.

No, I really just want to tell you one thing. We want to feel in control.

That's the reason Australians aspire to buy their own "castle". We've been told that if we work hard enough, if we save and just try hard, we'll be rewarded with the great Aussie Dream - and the power that comes with having a place to call our own.

I don't write this letter as a home owner. I was once, up until about a year ago but now I'm on the other side of the fence. I'm a renter. It's a foreign situation to me. It's one I doubt you will ever find yourself in again and this is why it must be hard for you to understand the central problem with what you said.

One of the many memes made by internet users.

Owner occupiers, unlike investors, don't choose a home purely for financial gain. When we dream the big Aussie dream, one that up until not so long ago was quite an attainable one, we really just want a place to call home and more importantly, security. We don't want to feel powerless - the feeling that comes with renting a home the landlord can sell from underneath you in a heartbeat. The instability and anxiety of not knowing where we will be in six months is the real reason we squirrel away as much as we can and dream about owning a patch of Aussie grass.

So why don't we just go out and do it then? Well, because it's no longer a level playing field and this is what we wish you would understand each time you deny housing market is over-inflated.

I'm not going to pretend to understand the complexities of the market in the same way I assume you do (or should). I can however, understand some very basic statistics. So I'm going to throw a few quick ones at you.

Around 20 years ago, in the early 1990s, owner-occupiers accounted for 84 per cent of all homes sold in Australia. Investors, 16 per cent.

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I'm a renter. It's a foreign situation to me. It's one I doubt you will ever find yourself in again.

In figures released in April, 2015, owner occupiers only account for 48 per cent - the lowest percentage on living record. Which means that investors, foreign and local, make up 52 per cent of all homes now sold. This is, to put it very basically, driving up house prices because  investors get the benefits of negative gearing, and the resulting tax break every year.

So along with historically low interest rates, property is selling faster and at higher prices than ever before. And while we should aspire to grow wealth to live comfortably in our retirement, it shouldn't be to the detriment of the next generation. As it stands right now, it appears the only people really benefiting from the "Sydney housing bubble" are the already wealthy, the state revenue department and overpaid real estate agents.

I think you've forgotten about the pride we Aussies take in securing our own place, one that if we maintain, represents a lot of who we are. We look for a home based on our heart, the community feel and being close to work, friends and relatives. So many factors determine our decisions to make a house a home. An investor obviously looks solely at the financial gain. And therein lies the problem. You've forgotten Joe, that the best thing about Australia is that it is - or was - a land of opportunity for everyone regardless of wealth or privilege.

I'm a married mother of three children, one with special needs, who knows even with two good, solid incomes, we will not be able to buy a place anywhere even close to the city of Melbourne. Now I don't blame you or anyone for my choice to rent in a "good" suburb, specifically to access the "good" state schools. We alone made the choice to move to Melbourne from QLD when the jobs market up there was crushingly soft. Melbourne, at the time, was booming and after years of unsteady work, it felt good to both find stability here. We figured we'd give ourselves a year to settle in and then buy something.

Yet we quickly realised that even with two good stable incomes, even without the pressure of private school fees, we could not purchase a house in the suburb in which we live. The new development behind us was selling cookie cutter houses for $4 million a piece.

They overlook a recycling plant. They are 80 per cent  foreign owned and are mostly investment properties.

When we do go back into home ownership, more than likely we will have to move far away from our jobs and our children's schools and commute. Again, I do not blame you for this, this is our choice, but I can ask that you at least acknowledge that when the measures that are in place right now only benefit the well off and in turn, creative an even larger chasm between the rich and the poor, that something needs to be done?

No, I don't suppose there is a quick fix to this situation. But you getting in touch with the reality of the average Australian would most certainly be a start.

Bern

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