When housing is out of the reach or ordinary people, everyone loses

There are lots of reasons why people work. The privileged ones do it for joy and fulfilment, the purpose-filled find meaning in work, and for most of us, whether we love or loathe our work, we do it to keep a roof over our heads and therefore to support our families.

Things go wrong when no matter how hard we work, or how motivated we are to work, the rewards of that work are insufficient to put a roof over our heads. When the roofs of properties seem to be heading skyward faster than a launching satellite, with housing costs placing homes in a rarefied atmosphere, work plays an increasingly irrelevant role in meeting fundamental life needs. This is not a good thing.

Housing prices go up, up and away.

Housing prices go up, up and away.Credit: Dionne Gain

If we forget that a house is a home, and see it instead as an economic token, an investment instrument, homes are destroyed, and communities with it. While investors might argue that they provide a social good by making housing available, the rents they demand reduce the pool who can afford to make a home.

A collection of homes make a community, for adult children, grandchildren, extended family and friends. When these homes become mere houses, those starting out, our children, and those grandparents retiring, are forced to move away due to housing costs.

Careers are unduly warped by the scramble to find jobs where there is half a chance of finding a roof one can afford. Some are so desperate they even contemplate the unthinkable and move to Queensland!


When communities lose large swathes of young people leaving in search of nothing more than basic human needs, we all lose out. Once you can’t find a nurse in your community, we are all in trouble, especially the elderly and vulnerable. This week Wesley Mission announced the closure of three aged care facilities because they argue they cannot find sufficient suitably qualified nurses. All of these facilities are located in areas with impossibly costly real estate for those workers.

Communities cannot function without a broad range of occupations including community and personal service workers. It is all very well to say such workers can live on the periphery of cities in cheaper accommodation, or let them endure two or more hour commutes from outer regions, but this is not sustainable, it is not good for those living in these high-rent districts, and dare I suggest it is not fair.

I hail from the United Kingdom, where wealth and advantage have been inherited for centuries. I am seeing in Australia the same pattern emerging, with children of the wealthy enjoying different educational opportunities, better networking, and the financial backing through the Bank of Mum and Dad and inheritance to get in on the great house investment scheme that is increasingly beyond the reach of equally talented but less well resourced members of society.

We risk building systemic barriers to career opportunity, and we all lose out on the talents of those that want to contribute to local community but cannot afford to do so. Do we really want to be a nation of property barons and serfs?

Dr Jim Bright, FAPS owns Bright and Associates, a career management consultancy and is a director of ed tech start-up Become Education, www.become.education. Email to opinion@jimbright.com. Follow him on Twitter @DrJimBright

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