Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Homes Out Of Reach For Ordinary Workers

It has always been the conventional wisdom that it is more expensive to live in Sydney than in the rest of Australia. That has been born out once again by research by Bank West which shows that Sydney remains Australia’s most expensive place to live. And it’s getting worse.

The report identifies so called “key workers”, that is people such as nurses, police officers, teachers, paramedics and so on, who can no longer afford to live where they work. Across Australia, wages for key workers have increased by about 31 per cent, while house and unit prices have risen by a dramatic 66 percent. Although other capital cities such as Perth and Canberra have had more dramatic increases, Sydney was already expensive to start with. The report shows that 93 per cent of Sydney’s local government areas are now beyond the reach of key workers.

There’s no simple solution to this, but it is one of the most significant challenges confront all Australian governments, State and Federal, at this time. It’s not just a matter of a few people falling behind in the economy. It’s a matter of the whole community suffering from an increasing inability to both accommodate it’s members, along with an inability to deliver services to where they are needed.

Something somewhere simply doesn’t add up, and it is not sustainable. In the long run, such disparity inevitably leads to social disruption, and the break down of community cohesion. It’s simply un-Australian that ordinary families can no longer aspire to owning a home in a significant and growing number of locations. It’s a trend which cannot continue, but for which there is no easy escape.

Housing prices must fall relative to incomes, but how we get to that result without considerable fallout is the conundrum which currently confounds the experts. But unless our governments do come to grips with this problem the Australian way of life will be profoundly changed.

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