The Great Australian Dream is broken – the detached house on a quarter-acre block with a Hills Hoist and a picket fence has never been harder to attain.
House prices are rising faster than wages, meaning many Australians are shelving their hopes of home ownership, settling in for a lifetime of renting.
I know this not from the incessant media reporting on the subject but rather, at 36, I’m one of them.
And I’m not bitter, or resentful. In fact, I’m not bothered in the slightest.
I’ve always suspected the Great Australian Dream was a tad limited. Frankly, if owning a home is the Great Australian Dream then we need to dream a bit harder.
Home ownership? Four walls, a patio and a mozzie coil? The sizzle of a barbecue? A couch grass lawn?
Surely as a nation we can do a bit better than that.
When I think about home ownership I think of debt, of staying put, of coping with a mortgage that may cause me more sleepless night than the child I am expecting in a few weeks.
So I dream of different things.
I’ve wanted to be, in roughly chronological order, Superman, Spiderman, Batman, a boxer, a football player, a rock star and a novelist – slightly more aspirational pursuits than a “renovator’s delight” 40km from the city with 30 years debt thrown in.
It should be noted that, so far, I’ve failed in every one of my dreams. I’m a journalist – it would have been great to add AFL footballer to my resume. Admittedly, some of my dreams were unattainable given a) I’m not from Krypton b) I’ve never been bitten by a radioactive spider, and c) my parents weren’t brutally murdered in front of me.
I gave the rock star thing a go until I got sick of dragging a guitar and amp to obscure Western Australian watering holes on Tuesday nights, and the novelist in me is slowly being drowned under the weight of full-time work and impending fatherhood. But I’m trying.
So what about your dreams? What do you really want? Is it your own home? Really? You want all that debt and money owed to the bank? What about travelling more? Think of all that extra disposable income you’ll have without being caught in the bondage of a 30-year mortgage term.
Travel not your thing? Start your own business, or a charity, or a campaign to help clothe and feed the poor. Not having to service a 30-year albatross will free up your time and energy to really make a difference to others.
• What is your great dream? Comment below or on Twitter with @TheNewDaily and #dreambigger
In other countries, home ownership creates nowhere near the levels of obsession and hysteria it does in Australia.
In Germany, home of the most robust economy in Europe, renting is the status quo.
Germany has one of the lowest rates of home ownership in the developed world (43 per cent in 2013), while in Australia the number is usually between 68 per cent and 70 per cent.
You are not made to feel like a “loser” in Germany if you don’t own your own home.
Long term leases – practically unheard of heard in Australia – are used to provide tenants in Germany with security, and rents are tightly controlled.
Renting in Australia is usually on a year-by-year basis, but it isn’t the horror show it’s made out to be. Yes, rent inspections are a pain. Yes, you can be forced to move at four-weeks notice.
But at least I can live in a spot where I don’t need to board the Starship Enterprise to get into the city, and still have a few dollars in my pocket for a coffee and a toasted sandwich.
I live nine kilometres from the city in an apartment that I love. It’s been five years in the same place and my partner and I have no plans to move. We love the community and its proximity to cafes, parks and running trails.
Could I afford to buy the flat I am now in? Probably not. But that’s okay, because it was never my dream.
So, my fellow Australians, stop grieving for the death of the lamest dream ever and set your sights a little higher. Live a little.
Home ownership should be something you settle for rather than aspire to.
Is your Australian dream still buying a house? Tell us in the comments below.