What went wrong? Buying, and now even renting a house is off-limits for many working adults, yet most Governments are devoid of a plan.
Lack of housing is one of the most visible, and invisible, issues of our time. The crisis is deepening.
– Average house prices are now more than ten times average salaries
– Prices have typically risen by 13% since March 2020. A 15-year high
– Interest rates are at a historic low
– Rents have risen by 10%, wages by around 2%
– Working adults typically spend 45% of their after-tax income on rent
For the last decade, with the rise of social media, people were sold the ‘dream’ of flogging the family home for unprecedented profits, ‘flipping a wreck and making a million’ and that house prices would only ever soar. Pre-COVID, if someone bought ten inner city apartments purely to rent for profit on AirBnB it was labelled ‘sharing’ and the ‘Sharing Economy’.
In the tiny town of St Ives (UK) more than 2,000 residential properties are holidays lets or operating as AirBnB’s. Images of turquoise waters and white sandy beaches beamed across the world during the G7 summit further exacerbating Cornwall’s housing crisis and the festering issue of vacant and ‘second’ properties in prime beauty and tourism spots.
“Not homeless, just houseless” says Fern in the movie ‘Nomad Land’, an Oscar winning portrayal of itinerant, complicated and less glamourous post-financial-crisis American lives.
No one is immune. ‘Hidden homelessness’ is rising.
– Many British, American, and Australian key workers are houseless and technically homeless with no permanent address and moving between casual stays in boarding houses.
– ‘Invisible’ middle-aged women – mothers, grandmothers, and aunts – are the fastest-growing demographic. Divorce, domestic violence, and poorly paid casual employment has left many
women over the age of 45 house sitting, sleeping in their cars, or living with extended family.
A University of Queensland report commissioned by the Mercy Foundation cited them “likely to be statistically invisible in data systems”.
There is a certain sort of irony that the street next to homewares giant IKEA is a favoured spot for Bristol’s ‘Van Dwellers’.
– Some UK Councils are now dealing with (or more accurately trying to ‘move on’) 300 or more Van Dwellers.
– Young professionals including new qualified teachers, families and even war veterans are amongst those living in converted trucks and caravans on Britain’s residential streets. Locals
are furious because they don’t want temporary dwellers near their homes or using public parks.
– The ripple effect of the pandemic is likely to put more vehicles on the road. The larger this group becomes, the harder it will be for society to ignore.
Converting old school buses or building ‘Tiny Homes’ maybe gutsy, creative and a symbol of determination but it isn’t a solution. Individualism can only get us so far in a crisis.
For most, it’s not a lifestyle choice.
In Australia it’s often a necessity. It is estimated that several hundred people who lost their homes to the unprecedented 2019 Australian bushfires are still living in tents, without power and water. Now seemingly abandoned by a government that’s shifted its focus to new and emerging crises. It’s never ending. The recent northern New South Wales ‘rain bomb’ and subsequent fatal floods is estimated to have left more than 4,000 houses completely uninhabitable. The future of these homeowners, many without insurance, is unknown.
Around the world people are scrambling to find a place to call home.
Slab City, also called The Slabs, is an unincorporated, off-the-grid alternative lifestyle community in California where money, rules and technology are not a major factor. The ‘city’ takes its name from concrete slabs that remained after the World War II camp was torn down. Slabs is known as “the last free place in America” attracting people who want to live outside mainstream society. For many, the ability to set up camp is a ‘last resort’ before being made completely and permanently homeless.
– Beddown turns empty Brisbane car parks into pop-up accommodation giving vulnerable rough sleepers a bed.
– SleepBus provides overnight accommodation for women and children in converted buses.
– Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, the world’s largest gathering of nomads, helps people learn how to live nomadically.
These transitional, short-term or ‘instant fixes’ “do little to solve the problem in the long term” agues University of Queensland, Associate Professor Cameron Parsell.
But let’s not forget governments radio silence on negative gearing and other tax incentivisation schemes, whereby the ‘losses’ associated with servicing the mortgage and upkeep of investment properties is used to reduce taxable income.
Most working adults are self-responsible; want a place to call home and are determined not to rely on state welfare. Nor do they want to be imprisoned by forty-year ‘life sentence’ mortgages, colossal debt, or seduced by inequitable ponzi shared home ownership schemes.
What has gone wrong?
Our governments want to ‘build back better’ and ‘Level Up’.
But as the national, and international, housing crisis deepens they all seem utterly devoid of a plan.