Two weeks later, I’ve realised I missed its main takeaway

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Last week, a fairly ordinary place in our street, similar to ours, sold for $4.7 million. I suppose I should be congratulating myself on how well I’ve done in the capitalist game. And it’s only fair since I’ve “worked hard all my life”. In truth, all we’ve done is pay the exorbitant price of $180,000 for our place, then hung around for 40 years. This makes sense? Surely, this crazy game can’t keep going onward and upward forever.

It’s now been two weeks since Treasurer Jim Chalmers delivered his budget, but I’ve only just realised its main content is not the one-year $300 electricity bill rebate we’ve obsessed over, it’s the evidence the government has finally accepted our housing system is dysfunctional and must be fixed. The budget papers include a long statement spelling out what’s wrong with housing with a candour I’ve not seen before.

The hard truth is that, until now, the pollies on both sides have only pretended to care about how hard the young were finding it to afford a home of their own. Why? Because the number of voters who own a home – whether outright or still with a mortgage – greatly exceeds the number who’d merely like to become a homeowner. As John Howard used to say, he’d never heard any homeowner complain about the rising value of their property.

All the things pollies do in the name of helping first-home buyers – such as cutting stamp duty on the purchase price – don’t actually help, and probably aren’t intended to. When they claim to be helping you afford the high price, they’re really helping to keep it high. If they helped you and no one else you’d be advantaged. But when they also help the people you’re bidding against, it’s actually the seller who benefits.

It’s the same with the Bank of Mum and Dad. The more parents help their kids afford the high prices – as I have – the higher those prices will stay. Again, the sellers benefit.

When the value of the oldies’ homes just keeps going up, this constitutes a transfer of wealth from the younger to the older generation. The Bank of Mum and Dad transfers some of the wealth back to the youngsters. The losers, however, are those kids who didn’t have the sense to pick well-off parents.

Illustration: Andrew Dyson

But what makes me think the Albanese government has seen the light?

Well, for a start, it makes more political sense than it used to. Not only are younger people having trouble affording their first home, they’re being hit with big jumps in rent thanks to an acute shortage of rental accommodation.

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