Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews speaks to the media on in Melbourne, Australia, Oct. 26, 2021. (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
The ability to own one’s home is central to the Australian way of life.
Saving up for a deposit and being able to pay off a mortgage is the greatest sign of independence and personal responsibility in our society.
Yet Victorian Premier Dan Andrews recently told The Guardian that the “great Australian dream” of owning a home was less important to younger Australians.
These remarks come in the aftermath of his government’s proposal to introduce a levy to fund social housing that has since been cancelled.
The premier offers no survey results or data to back up this claim. Instead, he cites personal anecdotes from talking to his “kids and their friends.”
He said: “They’re much more focused on perhaps living where they want to live, and ownership is not such a big thing. They are happy to rent with secure terms.”
This lacks context. The more defensible assertion would be that young people want homes but can’t due to barriers to entry into the property market that are beyond their control.
Note that the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) conducted a survey in 2016 and found that only two percent of young Australians indicated they didn’t want to own their own homes.
Yet it’s true that homeownership among the youth has been a declining trend in recent decades due to barriers to getting into the property market.
What the premier didn’t mention was that median house prices in his hometown of Melbourne, for instance, have risen more than 35 percent since 2019.
Worse yet, a 2022 report by the Urban Reform Institute titled “Demographia International Housing Affordability” found that Melbourne was now the fifth least affordable place in the world to buy a home.
This helps us contextualise why young people in Victoria may reluctantly end up staying at home with parents or rent-splitting with mates.
In fact, the premier ought to know the trend isn’t even new across the nation.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows a steady decline in youth homeownership over the past three decades.
Homeownership in the age bracket from 25 to 34 has dropped from 52 percent in the 1970s, right down to 37 percent in 2016. These figures are absolutely alarming.
We can see how average incomes aren’t able to keep up with rising property prices.
Homeownership should be seen as an existential issue for the future of free-market enterprise in Australia.
Owning a home affords us both a material and a moral stake in what lies ahead of us.
It brings a desire to preserve the surroundings of our local community. It helps embrace the opportunity to be responsive to collective decision making at the strata and council levels.
It helps us appreciate the virtue of private property, something we too often take for granted.
Remember that for most of humanity’s journey, people had to live under a system we now call serfdom.
What this meant was that most people who tended to be peasants and farmers would be permitted to work and live on large acres of land deemed to be the property of the ruling elite.
The Industrial Revolution gradually changed all that. It eventually resulted in the emergence of societies with much easier upward social mobility.
Our longest-serving Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, argued that “… the home is the foundation of sanity and sobriety, it is the indispensable condition of continuity, its health determines the health of society as a whole.”
Menzies openly advocated for homeownership as a bulwark against communism in his initial two decades.
He believed that aspirational Australians who focused on paying down their mortgages would be less likely to revolutionise the world on ideological grounds.
Without a doubt, Australia should continue to remain a place that inspires every aspirational young individual to be able to own a home.
What we see at present is less mobility, rather than more.
Given how central homeownership is to the Australian way of life, Premier Andrews should be focused on lifting the barriers that make it difficult for young Victorians to own their first homes.
Falling short of that would give Victorians, young and old, an excellent reason to look at an alternative premier at the next polls.