Greg Barila

Journalist. Editor. Social Media specialist.

Is it time to rethink the Great Australian Dream and change home ownership expectations?

AUSTRALIA has spent decades trying to get taken seriously on the international stage
But with Aussies off waging holy war in the Middle East, alleged terror plots being hatched on home soil and the PM squaring off with aggressive superpowers, maybe we should be careful what we wish for.
Some commentators declared the Sydney siege as the day Australia “changed forever”.
They’re wrong about that.
But Australia is growing up. And that means we’re maturing in ways that we may neither like nor want but which we cannot stop.
One of them hits close to home.
The Great Australian Dream is dying.
I realised it as I drove back to Adelaide during the holidays, listening to a property guru wrap up the year in real estate on Melbourne radio.
When the discussion turned to prices my ears pricked.
More than $600,000 for a house out in the burbs?
The median price closer to the CBD was more like $1 million, the guru said, putting Melbourne up there with Sydney and London on the league table of Cities Where You Should Pretty Much Forget About Ever Trying to Afford Your Own Home.
I took my stunned surprise to Twitter where Melbourne-based former Adelaide journalist Melissa bemoaned the extortionate state of the local housing market.
“Don’t remind me,” she tweeted, ending her thoughts with the hashtag #WhyDidIMove.
I don’t know Melissa’s reasons but maybe she upped sticks for the same reasons so many young South Aussies have waved goodbye at the border – for better job opportunities and the fast energy of a big and interesting city.
And therein lies the rub.
While housing affordability is a national problem, the barriers to entering the market remain considerably lower in Adelaide where the median house price is a full $200,000 less than in Melbourne and about $300,000 less than in Sydney.
Of the capital cities, only in Hobart is it cheaper to get into your own home, which sounds like a great story for SA to tell ... until you think about it.
Tasmania and South Australia remain among the worst performing economies in the country with SA’s jobless rate above the national average and industries closing left, right and centre.
A Deloitte report from October 2014 declared, “South Australia’s economy is in the slow lane” and that “more pain is on the horizon as it stares the closure of car manufacturing in the face”.
This must be why so many young people have decided the price of greater job prospects and the cultural sophistication of a big city is a million dollar mortgage.
And that the price is worth paying (or attempting to pay).
But if it is, is it time to rethink the Great Australian Dream?
Time to change our expectations about home ownership?
In the big cities of Europe, the UK and US, many young people spend precious little time worrying about affording their own home, so unrealistic and out of their reach is the goal.
Circumstances here already seem to be forcing young people to accept a similar fate, with recent news reports revealing some couples have already given up on their dream of ever owning a house.
Is this what we want?
To be a nation of renters?
What would our priorities be then? More travel? More dining out at fancy restaurants? More time to volunteer in our communities? Would it bring its own kind of freedom? Or a new kind of bondage?
If the Great Australian Dream continues on its nightmarish trajectory, it’s a conversation we’d better start having sooner rather than later.
Greg Barila is The Advertiser’s social media editor.