Sun, 14 Aug 2022

SYDNEY, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- For generations of young Australians, the "Australian Dream" has been hinged on the success and security of owning a home with a backyard, but with house prices across the nation's major cities skyrocketing, nowadays for young people it becomes a dream increasingly out of reach.

Two such first-home buyers are Michael and Gina, a couple in their 30s living in a 2-bedroom apartment in a central location in Sydney. Despite saving for a deposit for over eight years, they found themselves priced out of Sydney's red-hot property market.

"There is just no way we could compete in Sydney's market, at every auction we went to the first bids were above our top-end budget," they told Xinhua.

The couple inspected dozens of apartments in their desired living location in the city, but ultimately decided to buy a detached home outside of the city while continuing to rent near their workplaces.

"Clearly, the 'Australian Dream' of home ownership for the next generation is fading. Young people today need almost three times the purchasing power that their parents needed to buy the average place, so even double incomes will not quite do it," said a November report from social research firm McCrindle.

The "fading Australian Dream of home ownership" report showed that over the last 40 years median house prices had grown nearly three times as fast as wages, and units over twice as fast.

In the last year alone, house prices in Sydney have surged a staggering 22 percent while wages have stagnated due to the pandemic.

In 2021, the median price of a detached house in Sydney was over 1.3 million Australian dollars (about 930,000 U.S. dollars), and units were almost 840,000 Australian dollars (about 600,000 U.S. dollars), according to statistics from property data company CoreLogic.

Associate Professor Chyi Lin Lee, a housing expert from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), told Xinhua that falling interest rates since the 1980s have been the driving factor behind Australia's 40-year property boom, and a multi-pronged approach would be needed to address the "complex factors" that have caused the housing affordability problem.

"We can't just rely on one sector, the private sector or the public sector, to meet all the supply ... limiting investor activities in particular areas is worth it for us to consider."

He said that as the population of Australian cities grows, residents would need to adapt to denser living if they want to remain in close proximity to urban centers.

"If the trend of housing prices increasing at this speed continues, that will change people's mindset and constrain what type of property they are going to buy."

A 26-year-old junior lawyer, Adam Lewis and his partner bought an 85-square-meter 2-bedroom apartment in Sydney's northwest for 760,000 Australian dollars (about 540,000 U.S. dollars) at the beginning of 2020.

They told Xinhua it took them nearly eight years to save for the 20-percent deposit.

"While everyone else was going out with friends and traveling overseas in their 20s, me and my partner were living with our parents and saving every penny for a deposit," said Lewis.

The 2021 Australian Youth Barometer report from Monash University showed that while young Australians were proactive in saving for a house, they also felt fluctuating house prices left the odds stacked against them. Thirty-two percent of respondents thought home ownership was an unrealistic goal.

Michael Fotheringham, Managing Director at the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), told Xinhua that housing unaffordability has forced young people to put other aspects of their lives on hold.

"The average age of first-time homebuyers goes up almost every year ... that means people are forming new households, getting married, and having children later."

Fotheringham believed that as people's housing options and needs have changed, so too has the narrative around the "Australian Dream" of owning a house on a block of land.

"The built form (of home ownership) is changing and people's needs are changing ... A quarter-acre block becomes something to look after and a liability whereas an apartment is much more manageable."

He said the historic trend of young Australians gravitating towards urban centers may also be challenged as working remotely has risen to prevalence during the pandemic.

"If where people are choosing to live is changing, and we don't know whether that's a short-term change or reversal of a long-term trend, the next 10 years might look very different to the previous 10 (years)."

One thing is for certain, the "Australian Dream" is beginning to be reimagined.

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