By Ross Sharp
Once upon a time …
It is 1983 and I am 24 years old, employed and on a wage of about $20,000 gross per annum.
After a few brief and bootless assays at sharing flats with girlfriends (break up, move back to the parents, break up, move back to parents, repeat chorus), I decide I shall find my own place, me, myself and I, for I am a solitary man by nature, a misanthrope some would (justifiably) say, and yearn for a modest Fortress of Solitude that I may call my very own.
Eventually I do. A one-bedroom older-style flat in a small block of six.
In Sydney’s Kirribilli.
For $65.00 a week.
Yes. You have read that correctly.
After a couple years, one night there is rap upon the door, and it is the owner who regretfully (for I have been a good tenant) informs me he has decided to sell.
“Oh”, I say, and then, out of curiosity, I ask him, “How much are you selling it for?” and he responds, “The agent thinks I could probably get 65 or $70,000 for it. Why do ask? Are you interested?”
It is an amount of money I can grasp, I can understand, about four year’s annual salary, and yet, because I am a single man, with no desire to marry or have children any time soon, and barely a half dozen years out of school, the thought of being beholden to a debt for the next twenty or twenty- five years holds no allure.
At this point, you must understand, the national obsession with “property” had yet to evolve into what it has become today, an almost psychosomatic illness of avarice, of base greed. There was no stigma about renting back then, and a young man or woman could happily rent (at a reasonable cost) for as long as they liked, sow their seeds as they saw fit, party ‘til they dropped, before the thought of “settling down” with a partner, having children, whatever, became an attractive and desirable option to them.
However, we now find ourselves in a world where, as soon as you finish high-school and venture into the domain of adulthood, you can expect to be immediately assailed and assaulted by some dreary, sallow-skinned, dead-eyed, beef-necked knobhead from the world of finance, investment and real estate insisting you must immediately start planning for retirement and “buy, buy, buy!”, “now is the time to get into the property market, now, now, now!”, every day these shills, shysters, hucksters shriek, every day is the time, every week, every year, and “DON’T MISS OUT!”
Why wait until tomorrow when you can panic now and avoid the rush?
I begin to look for alternative lodgings, and find myself in a suburb which shall remain nameless (think of skeletal blue-rinse ladies and small, yapping, snapping, fluffy white dogs; think of a zoo) in a concrete, sunless shithole for $90.00 a week, and then, after a year, $110.00, yet my wage has barely changed from what it was two years prior. To relieve this increasing burden upon my purse, I make the decision to seek out share accommodation, and spend the late 1980’s and all of the ‘90’s in same.
After seven years sharing a flat in Sydney’s inner west with three other people (and, frankly, having a ball most every night), the flatmates have found partners, they have paired off, and moved out to begin their lives together.
I have not.
I begin looking around for a new place to live, preferably by myself, (for I am now 40 years old), the same general area, as I work in the CBD, and somewhere close would be preferable, however, as I peruse the “To Let” advertisements, I realise this will not be possible, as the rents being asked now amount to over one-third of my monthly wage.
“I can’t afford that” I think, for my wage (still), has not kept apace with the rising cost of living.
I move to the N.S.W. Central Coast where the rent is affordable, and resign myself to a two hour commute each day, not exactly a gruelling hardship, but by the working week’s end, the only way anyone could get me on a f*cking train over the weekend would be at gunpoint.
I stay there for almost five years, yet I have tired of the job I had at the time and seek out another.
I find one. In Brisbane, Queensland. I move.
There is a flat, a 30-minute walk to work, a 10-minute walk to the train station and shops.
$360.00 a week.
It is affordable to me, for, by this time, after 30 years of continuous employment, I have finally attained that magical, mythical status of “average wage earner”.
Can I have a “Hallelujah!”? Can I have an “Amen!”?
I am there for 10 years and 7 months, after which time, I return to Sydney, having been made redundant in February of this year. It was a job worth losing, and I was fine with that, as the last several years my mental health had rapidly deteriorated (Queensland will do that to a person, being Queensland), panic attacks, anxiety, depression and such; however, as the bartender in Billy Wilder’s “Irma La Douce” would say, “That’s another story”, and for another time.
4 or 5 years before this, the flat across the hall from mine, identical in size and layout, is sold.
Yes. You have read that correctly.
I think to myself ,“Who in their right f*cking mind would pay half a million bucks for a 2 bedroom flat?”
It has a view of the flats across the road, and the flats either side of it, its only difference from mine being wooden floorboards, and Miele appliances in the kitchen, the kitchen being the size of an en-suite toilet.
For a half-million.
Equal to over 8 times my then gross annual wage.
A half-million. Plus interest.
“BUY! BUY! BUY!”
And now, in this time, not that one …
On Channel 7’s “Weekend Sunrise” on Sunday, mortgage mogul John Symond, of Aussie Home Loans fame and fortune, was bemoaning, wailing, most shrilly, changes to the current negative gearing rort being proposed by the Australian Labor Party.
He warned of an “economic Armageddon” should these changes be implemented. He warned of the loss of 10’s of thousands, hundreds of thousands jobs lost. He spoke of “mums and dads”, and he spoke of them again. And again. And again. Ordinary, humble investors of modest means (mums and dads), they’re f*cked, they’re done for, they’re in the toilet, losses of thousands upon thousands and thousands of dollars on their investment, mums and dads and dads and moms, the whole country, ruined.
This “negative gearing” thing, when I hear it spoken of, my eyes glaze over, my head aches, it gives me facial tics and Tourette’s, and it doth cause me to pirouette in dizzy circles, bark at shadows, and bite the heads off chickens, it maketh me squirt, it leaveth stains on my trousers, and sweat upon my furrowed brow.
Why, it was not that long ago, not long ago at all, that John Symond, owner of a 50 million buck mansion on the harbour with 5 toilets (I pass no judgement, I merely assume he has an extremely weak bladder) said this …
“Negative gearing wasn’t designed for people who can afford to go and buy $1 million, $2 million, $3 million houses or apartments for negative gearing to offset the bulk of their interest payment off their tax. So negative gearing does need to be looked at in the tax system because I don’t think it is fair at the moment. I think it leans very heavily to the high income earners and that needs to be brought into line, as is hundreds of other aspects of the tax system.”
And this …
“Two years ago when I went out and said listen, I believe property prices are going to drop five or 10 per cent, well, did I cop it from the industry players, from the real estate players. That doesn’t worry me. And if it means we cop a flat patch in our business, I’d rather long-term health that short-term pain.”
“How can young people get into housing? I looked at statistics a couple of weeks ago and I was appalled. In Sydney alone there’s more than 100 suburbs where the average home price is $1-million. In Melbourne, 40 suburbs. Come on! You know, that is crazy. And what’s worrying me about the social impact, this is opening up the great divide of the haves and the have-nots.”
Which brings me to this …
If you are the type of man or woman, or young couple on an “average” wage and you are prepared to shell out upward of four or five hundred thousand bucks for a characterless, hastily built ratbox in a block whose foundations are most probably made with dodgy Chinese steel and electricals simply to get into the “market”, then you are a bloody idiot and you should be beaten about the head with a golf club repeatedly until you wake up to your stupid f*cking self.
If you are the type of person who is prepared to fall for The Big Cons peddled by the vested interests of the real estate, investment and banking industries, the scare campaigns, the bullshit, the lies which, if told often enough, you begin to take as truths, then you are a bloody idiot.
Lest we forget, the Global Financial Crisis was not sponsored by any union movement or members.
It was sponsored by those aforesaid industries, no member of whom has, or ever will be, held accountable for it.
And so, I beseech you …
BLOW. THIS. BUBBLE. UP!
Pay no heed to this screed of greed, for all possessions, in the fullness of time, are lost.
If these grasping bastards are looking to you for a blood sacrifice, tell them to slit their own wrists.
As John Waters, of Hairspray fame said during the 2015 graduation speech at the Rhode Island School of Design …
“Go out in the world and f*ck it up beautifully. Design clothes so hideous that they can’t be worn ironically. Horrify us with new ideas. Outrage outdated critics. Use technology for transgression, not lazy social living. Make me nervous…. It’s time to get busy. It’s your turn to cause trouble.”
Can I have a “Hallelujah!”? Can I have an “Amen!”?
Ross Sharp has returned from his sabbatical and can be read on his own blog site: Smelly Tongues