Baby boomers aren’t to blame for housing affordability woes

When I was a little kid at Huntingdale State School, we played making ‘houses’ in the dirt under the pine trees. We would gather all the pine needles we could and fashion and shape them into walls and so called ‘rooms’ among the roots of the trees.

Budding architects and interior designers were formed in that activity. Our passion knew no bounds and the joy of that play was immense. No doubt there were disagreements about how many ‘rooms’ our mansion should have and what dolls or toys should be enlisted to fill in the spaces, but it was absorbing fun.

Despite being children, there was some innate urge to create an abode even if it was imaginary.

As an adult I managed to buy a home, struggled with exorbitant interest rates and painted and plastered my way around creating a nest for myself and the children. It wasn’t a mansion, but it was mine, a space to replicate the games of my childhood. It was a secure place, a place to raise the family without fear of being turfed out to the next rental or told that you couldn’t hang a picture on the wall.

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Now I shudder and despair at the plight of our young adults faced with the appalling lack of affordability in housing. Not only does it take on average 10 years to save for a deposit on a modest dwelling, the price of those dwellings are, by my calculations, outrageous. 

And whose fault is all of this? For once, I agree with the Chinese Communist party leader Xi Jinping who months ago declared that “houses are for living in, not for speculation”.

We have allowed greed to take over and many of our political policies have allowed and fostered this behaviour. Why was negative gearing of an investment property allowed? Why was there a capital gains reduction for these housing investments? We have set up tax shelters and walls that have inflated prices and essentially shut our young people out of the market.

Some young people I know are angry at the baby boomer generation, which they see as having feathered their own nests at the expense of the next generation. I do feel sympathy for them. Some of them will put off life decisions because of this Ponzi scheme we have created, robbing from the young to make our investments work. And yes, I hear you say, but that was our legal right to buy multiple houses and structure our future needs around these investments. Many things are legal but are they ethical?

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Politicians in this round of electioneering have stayed silent on both of these tax break issues, fearing as happened a few years ago, that to change those policies was a death knell to being re-elected or elected at all.

But why can’t we have a politician or party that will make bold decisions and say limit these tax breaks to one investment property instead of multiple properties? Buy property if you like, as your chosen investment scheme, but pay your fair share of taxes on the second and third and fourth and thereafter.

Perhaps some of that change in taxes might free up houses for those who genuinely want to live in them rather than use them as a means of speculation and windfall.

Obscene wealth for some often means poverty for the majority. And it is our young who are the new poor and have to rely on us falling off our perches before they can indulge in painting and plastering their way around their own home. That is a terrible pity.

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