Middle-Class Homelessness

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It is a difficult thing for a man to face himself one day in the mirror and realise that, regardless of the delusions and aspirations he has held in his breast until time revealed them as false, he is a failure. This, of course, can be a liberating moment; but it is always a painful one. It may be that he had hoped to be a professional athlete, but after years of trying he faces himself and swallows the bitter pill that this will never happen. Perhaps he hoped to reach six feet, but at 20 finally accepts that he will always be 5 foot 10. As Ned said, such is life.

In Australia, the benchmark for male adult success is ownership of a family home. No matter what else, if you managed to buy, pay off and own a home for the littlies to play background cricket in then you’re a successful adult. The American dream is to build a transnational corporate empire; our Australian dream, until recent times, was much more humble. It was to own a family home.

By this metric I have had to face the painful, bitter and hopefully liberating truth that I am a failure. I’m nearly forty and I have never owned a home. I haven’t owned an apartment, a bedsit, or even a private car parking space. I have no castle; and without such I will never be a king.

We will never be able to mark the kids’ heights on a doorframe or plan a patio the way we want it. We would love to have dogs and plant a food production garden for the hard times we think are ahead. Neither of those are possible when you’re moving in twelve months.

I know that many older Australians reading this will immediately dismiss me as an entitled whinger. That’s fine, I’ve heard it all before. ‘Just buy! Rent is dead money.’ ‘You’ve got to start somewhere. We lived on milk crates when we bought our first house for $20,000.’ ‘You kids have had it too good’.

The thing is, Boomers, I consider interest repayments dead money, too. Everyone knows that the reason Australians are so house-horny is because of a massive boom in land values from 2000-2008, then again recently in the major capital centres. The house price-to-income ratios that you had back when you were my age in the ’80s and ’90s were far easier to pay off than they are now, even despite the higher interest rates you paid. And as I always respond to such Boomer tut-tutting, how do you know interest rates won’t hit 17% again? If they do, there’s no house in urban Australia that my wife and I can reasonably afford.

Also, that year or two you spent living on milk crates was in your early 20s. So did we, but we were share-housing during our studies. As we started to launch and got professional jobs, we watched housing affordability flee to the horizon while you cheered at how rich you were becoming and goosed the process with support for negative gearing, home owner grants and whatever else you could vote for that made you feel richer. That process, more than any other, made this country the socialist gerontocracy it has become.

Your capture of the political process only exacerbated your economic privileges. I’m sorry Boomers, but I have a harsh truth for you as well: You’ve turned this once-vibrant nation into an 8-million-square-kilometre nursing home in which the young serve the financial interests of the old. Our role in this economic system is to be your economic carers while you hand the place to the Chinese. No thanks.

Like many other young and middle-aged Australians, my wife and I are thinking more and more seriously of jumping ship and moving overseas. We were not born to toil, homeless, to pay the taxes necessary to see you lot off in the affluence to which you have become accustomed. See you in the comments, I guess.

As for younger Australians having had it too good, I’ll concede your point there somewhat, but with a caveat. It’s true that consumables, luxuries and travel are much cheaper for the younger generations. You had some privations early on, it’s true. You had to lay-buy, you made your work clothes for your first job, you had to save for months for your first washing machine. Sure. Despite this though, the things that matter more to us as we get older were extremely cheap for you Boomers. Yes, you couldn’t afford international holidays in your 20s or Baccarat kitchenware in your 30s, but you got a house within a few minutes of the city that you could pay off with your wife working part-time while the kids were little. You could have a stable family life that made you a somebody. You could wash your own car in your own driveway chatting with neighbours you’d known for years. You weren’t a serf mowing another man’s lawn.

You had substance, at least until the Marxists got in your wife’s and kids’ ears and she divorced you and they became gay cretins. That’s another story, though.

House australia photo
Photo by Ray Bouknight

My wife and I calculated recently that, between the two of us, we have moved 27 times over the years. This is not uncommon for our generation and for those younger than us. We also have what are considered pretty good jobs – the types of jobs for which you study for years and delay family formation in the hope that you will do better over the long run. Most days we wonder if that is still the case.

For our own son, still a toddler now, I will advise him against seeking economic security through formal education and a professional career. Much better to be an owner than a worker in this life, son, no matter how high-status your employment position is meant to be. Wagery is slavery. Screw doing a PhD like papa. Start a business and be a boss.

For those older Australians who have not been tenants for decades, you really have no idea what it does to a family’s culture and mindset. You are made very aware of your second-class status in this country when you rent. You will be swindled, talked down to, made to beg like a puppy and then pay through the nose for cleaning at the end of your tenancy. In this house-horny, reno-addicted real estate casino that Australia has become, that’s probably going to be at the end of every year.

My wife and I don’t even bother erasing the email alerts we set up for new rental properties any more. We know we’ll need them again soon enough.

Some landlords are decent people who see you as a valuable custodian of their asset. Many are not. A few years ago we had a foreigner landlord propose a 20% increase in the rent at the end of our one-year tenancy. We responded that this was outrageous and we would instead look for another apartment. He responded via a Post-It on the front door that he would be willing to keep the rent the same as long as he could move in with us. My wife actually shrieked when I told her his proposal. Needless to say, we moved.

At least half the time at the beginning of the tenancy the cleaning will be shoddy, although you know at the end of the tenancy you will have to pay a professional to do a ‘bond clean’. The one we paid for last week cost us $1100, including carpets. This was the lowest price we could find.

We seem to live in a time now when everyone everywhere is getting angry about something. The root of my anti-establishment rage, if I am honest with myself as I look in the mirror, is the knowledge that we will work more and more as time goes on for less and less while never being able to afford a home. It is the lens through which all other disappointments and frustrations that come along are viewed. This is how revolutionaries are made. Or in my case, reactionaries.

At the end of the day, I’ve finally reached a point in my thinking where I don’t blame the Boomers anymore for the financialisation of Australian real estate and the economic fleecing of the young to serve the interests of the old. Market participants respond to incentives; it is the market creators who generate distortions and cronyism. This understanding is what has made me so anti-establishment. It was politicians buying votes, banksters seeking to farm the human cattle of this nation and unscrupulous developers engineering ‘land shortages’ (in Australia!) that has created the neo-feudal economy of 21st century Australia.

The promise of the New World was that all men could be kings on their own plot of land. God gave a whole world to Europeans to cultivate and to own. That promise has now disappeared. The same sinful greed that created the oppressive feudalism of late medieval Europe has now created the oppression of neo-feudal, bankster-owned postmodern Australia. It is not the king who takes our increase, but the financial oligarch at the top of the global banking pyramid who uses mortgages to farm the wealth of the planet. The early medieval serf gave 10% and kept the rest, enjoying months off every year. The postmodern serf gives 40% to the government to fund Boomer healthcare then 30% of the remnant to the banksters in debt repayments. Who is more free?

If nothing changes, my wife and I are now considering moving to Singapore in 2018. Although the cost of real estate there is also exorbitant, economic opportunities abound and lower tax rates make it much more likely that, in the long run, we can own a family home of some description. As I type this, surrounded by boxes that we will again spend our week off work unpacking and organising, a question keeps popping into my mind unbidden for the Boomer gerontocracy of Australia. Was it worth it? Did it ever really make you rich? Was the Australian dream that you made an obsession really all that it was cracked up to be, or should we have dreamed bigger?

Photo by wise.adam

  • Old Fart

    Fine, pack your shit and fuck off then.

  • Adam Piggott

    “In Australia, the benchmark for male adult success is ownership of a family home.”

    This is only true if you buy into the feminine hypergamy bullshit. It’s the old, “you’re only a man if you provide for women” line. Lies. All lies.

    I am 45. I’ve never owned a home or any property for that matter. I’ve lived all around the world. I currently pay just over 35 grand a year in rent for a beautiful house that is worth over $2 million. The landlord loves us. We just renewed the lease for a third year. The real estate agency had informed us that the rent was going to increase. The landlord shot this down in flames.

    In my previous home I built a large veggie garden. The landlord loved it. The house before that I lived in for six years. The good wife and I entirely redesigned the kitchen and lounge area. The landlord deducted the money we had spent from the rent.

    We don’t pay housing insurance, rates, upkeep, and all of the other costs involved with a house falling apart over time. And all of the money that we would have spent on maintaining a home and paying a mortgage we save.

    And all of this is our choice. You pour scorn on purchasing a house but you’re equally unhappy about renting. Methinks you need some perspective.

    (By the way, I love Singapore and would happily move there except the good wife hates tropical weather. Good choice, bro.)

  • Dan Flynn

    I’m also nearly 40 and I have almost no hope of owning my home. Luckily the love of a good woman, two beautiful children and an interesting job makes up for it.
    Be happy with what you have Moses, don’t worry about the ‘Australian Dream’, I know plenty of people who own there own homes and are miserable.

    • Deplorable Steve

      Wise words Dan…

      • Dan Flynn

        Cheers Steve

    • Bikinis not Burkas

      I once owned my own home, then the Government took it from me!
      It’s called divorce.

      • Dan Flynn

        Sad to hear, hope you OK now.

      • entropy

        I’ve heard some horror stories, mate. I feel compelled to point out that your real mistake was marriage, but that must seem pretty obvious in hindsight.

        Maybe it’s time we reclaimed ‘confirmed bachelor’ from the gays.

  • Housing is a Ponzi scheme.
    A giant rort where all the frenzied sharks take their cut, if you purchase a property.
    Mortgage lenders, Realtors, Solicitors, Insurance, Building inspectors, Council , strata managers, the list goes on and on.

    If you have a mortgage, you are a sheep to be fleeced.
    A wage slave to the banks.

    Our Governments have failed us, dismal bastards.
    They have exported our jobs and industries for decades through free trade agreements and globalisation.
    Import slave workers on special visas to further displace us, which the companies rort, of course.

    Politicians have their vested interests, most of them own investment properties. Malcolm Turncoat has several.
    It is in their $$$$$ interest to have a red hot property market.

    Through immigration, they keep propping up the market to keep the housing “boom” going.
    Keep bringing immigrants in, press gang them into Melbourne and Sydney. But build no infrastructure to cope.

    Then you get simpleton Government idiots like Joyce, who says “move West”….but there are no jobs of course.

    The joke is on us, unfortunately. Singapore sounds good.

  • BJ

    The Australian housing market is in a massively-inflated cheap credit fuelled bubble. It is larger, and longer-lived than those that previously occurred, but a bubble it is, and it will burst, and prices will moderate. Anyone who denies it is a fool. I have been around long enough to live through these cycles, and for those who say that Sydney real estate never falls you are the biggest fools of all. Prices in Sydney have fallen, at times dramatically.

    The problem isn’t really anything to do with baby-boomers; they just buy and sell at the market rate as does everyone else. The real cause is constrained supply, the high cost of building due to absurd government intervention and holding back land, and most of all, inflated asset prices all over the world borne of the desperate attempts by governments captured by Keynesian economics to give the appearance of growth using printed money and lax credit settings. It doesn’t work.

    People are paying and borrowing absurd amounts of money to buy houses in Australia, and most of them will never actually be able to pay it back; and they can only do so because of the absurdly cheap interest rates. And, they all seem to be functioning under the delusion that they don’t have to pay it back because the value will increase and they will get out with a capital increase; which is fine while the bubble says inflated, but is a recipe for complete destruction when prices moderate. I reckon if interest rates rise in Australia by as little as 1.5 to 2.0 % there will be a real estate blood bath, because people just won’t be able to pay.

    And interest rates are going to rise; Australian banks don’t have enough money from domestic deposits to fund this absurd lending, so most of the money is raised in capital markets in the US, where interest rates are already rising. The bond markets are falling and as night follows day that means interest rates are going UP; and they will rise to reflect the increased cost of borrowing overseas irrespective of the any Reserve Bank settings.

    Six months; tops, and it will all fall apart.

    • as an aside: if Governments get their way and society becomes cashless, your “digital money” can just be taken on a whim to “bail in” the Banks or Government…..should the housing bubble burst….as it must.

      • Bikinis not Burkas

        But you can’t deal drugs with plastic!

  • Olaf Koenders

    I bought a tiny unit in Melbourne in 2001 for 72K. Sold it in 2013 for 200K. Bought a 3 bedroom house in the country for 115K. Renovated it and it’s probably worth 200K now. No wife or kids. I’m blue collar, either buy new and keep it forever and fix it when it breaks or buy second hand and fix that too. Give a shit what the Jones’ do as I don’t care to keep up with their self-imposed demise.

    I don’t see the problem.

    • entropy

      You don’t see a problem with, what… 9% inflation?

      • Olaf Koenders

        I was expecting a flame or two:

        From the Commonwealth Constitution 1901:

        115 States not to coin money
        A State shall not coin money, nor make anything but gold and
        silver coin a legal tender in payment of debts“.

        So.. How do we pay any debt, fine, Mortgage etc? Legally, we can only promise to pay, and nothing more.

        Further, look into the Currency Act 1965 (Cwth), Sections 9, 11, 16 and 22. Section 16, 1(c) states that we can’t pay a debt greater than 10x our largest coin.
        Our largest coin now being $2 and the Currency Act doesn’t mention banknotes.

        The entire system’s a sham. Go figure.

    • Housing is not a bonanza for everyone….my sister bought a nice older home in a regional area for $220,000.
      The house several years on, is now worth only about $160,000.

      Okay I suppose, if you are going to live your life out there, but not if you want to get out and move on.
      People in regional, “flyover country” Australia are forgotten about, it is always about Syd/Melb etc.

      • Olaf Koenders

        The housing markets in major cities is always ridiculously inflated. I suppose I was lucky when I bought that one bedroom, roughly 4 square sized shoebox. It was probably overpriced already. I was lucky that the housing market hadn’t swung back too far when I sold it.

        Now though, I don’t expect to buy anything within or even close to a major city suburb. A couple of links here for anyone that really wants to know how banks really work:

        http://larryhannigan.com/EarthPlus.htm

        It’s a written story about how currency became what it is today. If anyone can even remotely comprehend how today’s Fractional Reserve Banking works, you’ll recognise it immediately as a massive fraud.

        Here’s a 2 hour (it’s worth it) well made video on what’s really going on today and how we’re all tricked into being willing slaves. It may be about Britain, but we’re still commonwealth countries and not at all removed from the construct:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sArXw6ajNg

  • Sheila

    I’m 58, and for various reasons never owned a home, live on part time income, don’t have a car, rarely use heating in winter and can’t imagine ever being able to retire. Not all of us have the good life. I’ll have to head bush when tenancy finishes here as Melbourne is too expensive to live in these days.
    My daughter + son in law are not likely to be able to buy a home either as they were young when they started a family + though working, can’t get a deposit together.

  • Jeremy

    You’re right, but you’re also wrong. Our politicians have developed a national ponzi scheme where they encourage foreigners to come to our country and buy houses. This creates an artificial scarcity which pushes up the values. The birth rate of Australia is so low that, without immigration, landlords would be paying you to rent their houses. The populace, including the boomers don’t want the high immigration, but the politicians think they can buy our votes with rising house prices. None of the politicians are willing to take the outrageous populist step of reducing immigration. This should be the central plank of your objections, “Reduce Immigration”.

  • entropy

    In a lot of ways, I’m with Old Fart on this one.

    I want Moses to stick around, wait it out, and help the rest of us screw ’em to the wall when we finally wrest control of government away from the most selfish generation in history. I know democracy isn’t always just like that, but then Trump.

    Have you no patriotism, man? Does Straya mean nothing to you?!

    On the other hand, the blatant property scam the Boomers are perpetrating, unashamedly, right in front of our faces has actually had me thinking about other options, too. I love this country but if it’s going to be more cynical than I am, maybe it’s time to leave.

    • Dan Flynn

      ‘but if it’s going to be more cynical than I am’
      You and I both know that’s not possible Entropy 🙂

    • Some boomers are greedy, yes.
      The old retired couple living behind me in their spiffy new Mc Mansion, also own an investment unit worth $450k, a farm on the Central NSW coast, plus they just sold a unit for $440k.
      All well and good, but they constantly whinge and moan they cannot get the full pension !
      So, they are trying to rort/minimise their assets, to grab some extra pension $$$ from the public purse.

      Some people are very greedy, they have more than enough, but demand more. Sad.

  • OneFatOzGuy

    Honestly, I feel for you. One country you might consider is Chile: low crime, low taxes, secure South American country with very low (almost no) corruption.
    There’s a blogger by the name Sovereign Man who is a former US Military person who left the USA to set himself up there and some of his stuff is really interesting. He’s a big advocate for having a second passport as a minimum.

    As for the rising costs in Australia, in my view there’s three main offenders:
    1. Removing the Australian dollar from the gold standard in the 1980s;
    2. More women working full time after having children (if having them at all) with more cash available to buy driving up the price on housing; and
    3. Limit on supply, keeping the demand high.

    In my grandparents’ time, a family could afford a house on a single income.
    In my parents’ time a family only needed the wife to work part time.
    Now I’m being forced to either have my wife work full time to afford to buy a house or we live so far away from my work that I’ll spend between 1 and 2 hours EACH WAY getting to/from work in what’s effectively a modern poverty trap: spend less on your house, but spend more on getting anywhere by way of petrol.
    Another cause is situations where old people are continuing to live in the 3-4 bedroom family home even after all of the children have moved out, rather than downsizing. The result is that you get geriatric areas with only one or two people living in big houses and 3-4 people families having to buy in outer suburbs. That being said, I don’t much fancy being forced out of my house the day after my children leave home either, but perhaps there could be an incentive for them to downsize.
    One trick I used to buy my first house was to buy an investment property and rent a smaller/cheaper house to live in: the interest and expenses are tax deductable and ultimately someone is paying you more to live in your house than you’re paying someone else to live in theirs. It can be risky if it’s vacant and you can’t find a tenant (I recommend Landlord’s insurance in case they trash the place) but it’s a long term investment that will eventually start paying you money or you can move in if you want.

  • Craig

    Makes me glad I never went to Uni, thanks to my step Dad for being an Arsehole, it kinda worked out so I thanked him for that later in life. It’s strange I’m now his favorite son, even though we despised each other when I was growing up.

    My advice for what its worth, rent as cheap as possible, save like mad for 1 to 4 years, build a deposit of $20000 to $100000, then move out bush, tree or sea change. The job prospects are obviously lesser, yet the cheaper property makes up for the income loss, as the mortgage repayments will be far less then renting. Not only that you may be able to afford to have more children. I would not have 4 children if my wife and I remained slaves to the city life, this we are most proud of.

    When I lived in the city it sucked ugly stinky balls. I would be at work all day, then I’d come home see wife for an hour, then she would work till late at night. No time for each other, and little time for our son. Work, eat, sleep, repeat. Saving so hard, no time for entertainment, or each others pleasures. Just work, eat, sleep, repeat.

    Country living ain’t so bad, neigbours always willing to give a hand, in the city, I never knew my neigbours names, little alone ever had a cuppa with them. Where we live, it’s populated by old Aussies, yet they move on and young families move in, 12 months we now have 4 families here with 20 kids between us, it rocks. It almost feels like a cultural revival.

    One good tip, if you ever go bush always look for property in the highlands or on top of plateau, the breeze is magnificent in the afternoons and night, saves on aircon… 🙂 Plus more rain to fill the water tanks. I’m 35 and lower middle class.

  • Craig

    Yeah my parents hate it that we live so far away, no way am I paying $400000 to $1000000 for a house in the city or suburbs to be close to family even though I wish I could… Such a waste of time and money. I guess it depends if you want to be time rich, or monetary rich.

    I laugh at Boomers fear of housing bubble crash or super crash, they think I’d care cause me house would go down in value. At the end of the day if all house prices go down it don’t mean anything to me, cause if I want to move it just means houses are cheaper and I lost no money that I would never have spent…

    Perhaps a rural revival would be better for our generation rather then the materialism of the city and global lifestyle.

    My kids certainly enjoy growing up country, they’re rather innocent, something my parents marvel at when they visit. Oh plus no allergies for kids out here, being exposed to dirt and various animal poo. First thing the city slicker teachers realise is no kids in the class have allergies…

  • Rosemary Fryth

    My advice is to buy a house in a small country town (they are very affordable) rent it out and then move in once you are retired. Having a place to call your own when you are older is very important. Moving is fine when you are young, but can be traumatic when you are older. Just ensure that whatever country town you choose has a good rental market.

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  • Bill

    Enough with the victim’s bleat!
    Do as we did- buy a fixer-upper, put up with it, and fix it up!!
    Stop expecting to move into a new 5 bedroom home with jacuzzi and European kitchen!!