Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, the Great Australian Dream was an island oasis of home ownership and attainable wealth smack bang in the middle of one’s horizon.
As you paddled towards it, the milestone buoys of life would begin to act as wavebreakers; the choppy seas of school and being a teen would ease once you passed the buoy of higher education. Then, paddling forward with a renewed wave of confidence behind you, a degree-backed career buoy would part the tsunami wave blocking your final approach to the island and open up a clear path to ongoing prosperity.
Young, educated, and fucking loaded (comparatively speaking) – the future was bright for the kids pumped out in a post-WW2 world. Now, as the average house price continues to soar into the realms of the unsustainable – most obviously in Sydney, where the average home now costs 13 times an ‘average’ salary – those very babies are now becoming the architects of our demise.
One only has to look at the benches of Federal Parliament to paint a pretty clear picture of influence. It’s a case of left, right, goodnight as the 226 individuals on both sides of the house gobble up 525 properties between them – with an overall property ownership rate of 96%. Property ownership amongst the general population? 50%, which is expected to fall as the cost of living rises and wage growth stays flat, meaning the heat is rising on people in successive generations more than ever before. Keeping the partisan elements aside – given politicians own an average of 2.4 properties, moves to water-down the perks of negative gearing have been cursory at best – loathe to alienate their primary voter bases.
But let’s narrow down this shit show down a little bit more. While the wealthy grey-headed (mostly) men set some policy for the similarly wealthy silver-haired in the general populace, let’s take a look at some of the changes made during the last few years that directly affect people between 18-29:
- The Student Start-up Scholarship is now a “Student Start-up Loan”
- In short: Students on Youth Allowance and Austudy payments previously received a tax-free payment of $1035 every semester towards tuition costs and expenses. It was a scholarship and paid in addition to benefits. It now goes on your HECS. During the average four-year degree, that’s a direct hit of $8280 to the hip pocket.
- HECS debts will now be repaid when you’re earning over $42000 a year
- Most people accept they will need to repay their student debt, that’s the whole idea of the HECS-HELP system. This reduction (down from $54860) means basically as soon as a student enters full-time work, they’ll be paying it back. Course fees are also rising. Bringing up the fact degrees were free before 1989 is a tired point, but still worth thinking about given most of the current political crop benefited directly.
- An early HECS repayment discount of 5-10% was also scrapped in January
And even if you did receive Austudy or Youth Allowance while you were at Uni, imagine your surprise years later when:
- The government started pursuing former Centrelink recipients for ‘debts’ created automatically by an algorithm that ignored weekly income report data, for reporting periods going back 8 years. Instead, the algorithm simply divided a persons annual income across 52 weeks, then gave you three weeks to pay the arbitrary and mostly-incorrect amount it came up with. Imagine trying to source payslips from businesses long gone. Some simply paid the bill to avoid the effort.
These changes are just the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t even touched rising power and other state government costs, but rest assured, everything costs at least $100.
So once you’ve started paying for all of that shit, you’re expected to be able to save a deposit of at least 20% for your first home in a reasonable time frame, and while you’re earning less on everyone else’s day off. Meanwhile anecdotally speaking – a friend of mine, 24, working as a teacher in an obviously stable government gig, has been told in no uncertain terms by an unnamed bank that if she and her partner (also employed full-time) have children, they will be flat-out rejected for first-home finance.
Imagine being told at 24 that you can either rent a boomer’s investment property forever and have children, or live a childless existence in an empty family home. At least it’s your empty plot right?
And even though job seekers are expected to have degrees, because there are too many graduates I guess you are simply expected to grind away year after year on minimum wage until your bad debts are taken care of. Employers will happily take your work for free as an intern though. Or maybe one of your grandparents will just loan you some money to take over a gym lease, and you’ll auto-magically fall into a position of great wealth where you can tell the common folk they simply have unrealistic expectations of being able to feed themselves or travel during their quest for housing.
Doing hard work is not the problem for Gen Y and their much-maligned millennial brethren. It’s the perception that the deck is being stacked against them, which results in a fairly understandable “why bother?”.
In real terms, it is harder than ever to get ahead financially, and it is being made deliberately harder year-in and year-out by the wealthy grey-haired (mostly) men running the country. It doesn’t matter where you sit on the politics of various cuts being made – constant cuts and rising expenses have solidified this perception amongst young adults today.
That, and the fact we have no fucking money whatsoever.
At the very least, boomers are responsible for the housing shortage by executing a certain “fuck you, got mine” mentality of buying up and sitting on 2 or more dwellings at a time when they had the most discretionary cash, and homes were a fraction of the price. Now they can simply sit on their suburban pots of gold and rent them out at substantially inflated rates, then turn around and sell for multiples of the purchase price, right out from under the renters within on a whim.
To rent is to be a permanent chess piece on a turbulent board of boomers and foreign investors, and while the fossils are still in control, unless you come from a loaded family that can assist you directly, your chances of entering the housing market (especially as a single person) are basically negligible.
The class divide is widening, and it’s going to take a hell of a lot more than banning smashed avocados and coffee to fix the problem.