Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday afternoon grizzle...

Its raining in Sydney, and that's reason enough to go off on a bit of an angry ramble.

The other day, we came across this article, in which a noted Australian supplier of tiles - Mr Bob Beaumont - opines that the affordability of housing is pushing home-ownership beyond even our wildest dreams.

He makes a good point - it's not the cost of construction that's pushing up the prices, but the cost of land:
Builders aren't to blame. Open a newspaper on any weekend and you'll see ads from people who are happy to build you a new house for an amazingly low price. Materials also cost less. I know because tiles are my line of business. Their prices are less now than they were in the mid-'80s - and many other construction supplies are similarly cheaper.
Home ownership has become the privilege of the few rather than the rightful expectation of the many because policymakers have paid no regard to the law of supply and demand. Our urban planners and policymakers have drawn an arbitrary red line around the edges of our cities and decided all building development will be contained within these boundaries.
Okay, so we might have a few words to say about policymakers and their regard to supply and demand - or how over-stimulated demand and under-stimulated supply creates a volatile cocktail that sends house prices to the moon...

But that's not important right now, because Mr Beaumont goes on:
These shallow-thinking twits didn't think that by restricting supply they have pushed the price of land up tremendously, condemning our kids to a lifetime of renting with no hope of owning their own homes.
Of course, there are a couple of easy-to-spot problems with Mr Beaumont's claim here: landlords need houses, too; and renting a home doesn't always make it cheap.

But let's leave that aside.

... and in the meantime, consider yourself condemned!

What we've got here is a cultural indicator that should never go unchallenged: for as long as you rent, you're missing out on something that's very, very important. Perhaps you'll never even become a proper grown-up if you're going to spend your whole life renting - you'll always be thought of as one of 'our kids'.

But renting is fine. Or at least it would be, if we had laws and policies that were more than a mere reflection of this patronising but entrenched assumption. Our legal relationships with land should be of no concern to our neighbours, but the way we regard one another so often depends on our illogical biases around tenure.

Anyway, there's more. Mr Beaumont again:
What right do governments have to dictate to voters they are better off living in cramped conditions in apartments and units than in the suburbs with a backyard and room to move?
Perhaps the same right that builders-who-have-already-made-their-fortunes have to assume 'our kids' are better off buying in the middle of nowhere than to rent in the inner- to middle-ring suburbs, with decent transport links, and proximity to the rest of their lives...

2 comments:

  1. Tenants need security of tenure before the fetish around home ownership can change. Why do people want to buy a home? They want to buy so they can make minor modification to improve their dwelling, and so they do not have to relocate at the whim of their landlord. People want homes, not necessarily home ownership.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Therein lies the dilemma, Anonymous - could we achieve security of tenure without a change in attitude towards renting? Or do we need that change before such simple reform can be made possible?

      Delete

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