On Joe Hockey’s Comments

“The starting point for a first home buyer is to get a good job that pays good money”

Joe Hockey, 9 June 2015

I guess, technically, he’s correct. That is the starting point.

Of course, it’s still a deeply insulting thing to say. It shows a complete lack of compassion or understanding about our situations, and the time we live in. This is not the 50s, or the 60s, or even the 80s when having a good job – well anyjob – was all you needed to be able to afford to buy a home. This is 2015, a world where the bulk of property in our cities is owned by baby boomers and private landlords. Even with good jobs, we are locked out

We live in a society obsessed with house prices, and we see growth in the property market (that is, houses becoming more expensive) as a good thing. Government policy is designed to ensure that house prices continue to rise, and anyone who owns property, especially mortgaged property, needs the value of their home to increase over time. Sadly, even with good jobs, our wages are not increasing at the same rate, so homes are becoming increasingly unaffordable. Even with good jobs, we are locked out.

But perhaps what is most insulting about this statement is the sentiment behind it. I live with my partner in a rented two-bedroom unit in Sydney’s Inner West. We can comfortably afford the rent. This suburb suits our lifestyle; we have good public transport links to the city, and I can easily get to work by car. We can afford to live in this suburb. I’ll repeat, because it’s important:

We can afford to live in this suburb.

What we cannot afford to do is own a home in this suburb. There are other suburbs where we almost certainly could afford to buy a home, but we don’t live in other suburbs; we live in this one. So much of the property market revolves around rental – creating suburbs where middle-income families can afford to live (but not buy), funding our landlords. Even with good jobs, we’re locked out: locked out of our own suburbs. It’s the opposite of trickle-down economics; it’s a system designed to have money flowing upwards, and lock us out in the process.

Joe Hockey’s right: having a good job is the starting point, but as long as we’re locked out by astronomical house prices, by such short supply of homes and by our landlords, we will never get off the starting blocks.

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