An Open Letter to Joe Hockey About Sydney Housing Prices

So I come from this far-away land called Australia and on this lil island, we have a Treasurer named Joe Hockey.For a while, in Sydney, housing prices have been going up and up. Its hugely expensive to rent in Sydney, let alone to buy a place. This housing pressure has been experienced across all Sydney, even the outer suburbs but most forcefully closer and closer to the CBD.

To give a few rental examples that I have personally heard from people I know:

  • One bedroom apartment located 5 mins walk from Central Station = $AUD 600 per week ($USD 465 / 412 euros)
  • One bedroom apartment located 30 mins walk from Central Station but still in one of the inner-city suburbs = $AUD 400 per week ($USD 309 / 274 euros)
  • One bedroom apartment located in Mosman sold for $770,000 (a wealthy suburb, next to the water, 30 minutes away from the CBD by public transport)
  • One bedroom apartment located in Blacktown sold for $465,000 (a suburb located approximately 45 minutes train ride from the CBD)

What this results in is that people are staying at home longer and longer, until they are 26, 27, 28.. even older. And the simple reason for this is that it is just too expensive to move out. They decide to stay at home where their food, rent and utilities is all paid for by their parents, in order to save up for their first home.

My own personal issue with this is that I grew up with this idea that I would move out of home young. It was this whimsical idea that I would be free and have my own place and all my friends could come over and I could throw all the birthday parties I ever dreamed (I was never allowed people over and have only ever had like one birthday party when I was young, it hit me hard). And with moving out, I thought of all the other come-of-age thing that would come with it. I imagined living paycheck to paycheck, eating old food on the couch with my friends because money was tight and, of course, learning how to do the dreaded thing that they call laundry. Perhaps it wasn't the most realistic or space-efficient way to think but, to me, it was more about the freedom and the passage of growing up.

So, safe to say, the housing market has become a red hot issue in recent times. And when Joe Hockey was asked how he thought young Sydney-siders could afford to buy their first home, he replied “get a good job that pays good money.” Ohhh, I hadn't thought of that Joe, thanks bud.

And here is Mel Wilson's open letter to Joe Hockey, in response to his very sound advice. In it she details the actual maths behind how a young person might go about purchasing their first home in Sydney. I have reproduced it below, in case something happens to the original post but you can also just click hereto see it in its original glory.

Dear Joe,

I just wanted to touch base with you regarding your comment that young people are able to enter the property market if they just “get a good job that pays good money.”

I just wanted to ask you how one might go about this? Are you going to be reviewing all the current Awards that are in place to ensure that most jobs pay “good money”? Are you going to be creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs that, under your Awards, pay over $100,000 per year?

Apologies if I have missed this fantastic news, but as someone working in 2 senior HR roles, I believe I would have known about this so that I could pass the message on to some very tired, over qualified employees who currently fall under various Federal and State awards and are being paid between $18 to $25 per hour.

Are you aware of what the average Australian wage is? Are you aware of what the average Australian mortgage in Sydney is? Are you aware of the first-home buying process?

Just in case these facts and figures aren’t available to you, I thought you might be interested. The average weekly wage according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics on 1st January 2015 was $1,128.70, or $58,692.40 before tax. This means a take home amount of about $904.00 per week. The median house price in Sydney, according to the Domain Group Housing Price Report, as of March 2015, was $914,056. Not sure if you know how first home buying works at the moment, but you normally need a deposit of about 20%. This is to pay for the Stamp Duty (which is a State Tax you must pay every time you buy a property), and also to assist in the approval process so that you don’t need to pay Lenders Mortgage Insurance.

So in this instance, the first home buyer would need about $182,811.00 saved to purchase a house that is the average price in Sydney.

So to go out and get one of these “good jobs that pay good money” I assume these young people you speak of would need to go to university first.

On average, it takes about 3 -4 years to get a degree, so if a young person goes to University straight out of school, they can expect to finish their course and be ready for the workforce at about 21, with a HECS-HELP debt of over $20,000. To make this a bit easier for you to understand, let's say there is a young person named Joe Junior who has done just this. If Joe Junior is extremely lucky, and is up there with the best of the graduates from that course and that year, he will get a job straight out of University paying usually under the average wage.

However, lets just be extremely generous here and say that Joe Junior got a job and was on the national weekly take home wage of $904 per week.

Joe Junior needs to only save every single dollar worked for about 4 years to save his $182,811 deposit for their first home. Thank you, Mr Hockey, for throwing in that $7,000 first home owner grant too – that meant Joe Junior could get into his first home 8 weeks earlier!

Just a quick side note, this example does not take into consideration the rising house prices, or Joe Junior’s HECS-HELP debt that he obtained from getting his degree to get one of your so-called “good jobs”.

Joe Junior is now 25 (not so junior anymore), has been living at home with his parents this entire time and has not been able to spend a single dollar on any bills, board or holidays or public transportation. He also can’t afford a car or petrol for a car but then again “poor people don’t drive cars”. Oh wait, Joe Junior isn’t a poor person – he has a “good job that pays good money.”

Luckily Joe Junior’s parents have been happy to drive their little Joe Junior to and from work every day and provide free housing, clothing, medical expenses and also provide the food for his breakfast, lunch and dinner each day.

So finally Joe Junior has saved his $182,811 deposit (of which only about half will go towards his mortgage due to the stamp duty cost), and can now purchase his first home, with a mortgage of about $822,650.00.

According to the Commonwealth Bank’s online mortgage estimator, the repayments for a mortgage of this amount are $1,073.00 per week over 30 years.

So hopefully Joe Junior’s average weekly wage of $904.00 has gone up enough to cover the cost of the mortgage. Joe Junior has been applying for these “good jobs hat pay good money" that you speak of (I assume by "good money" you mean more than the average wage as you have just seen it is not even enough to cover the cost of the average house prices' mortgage in Sydney), but hasn’t had any luck as yet. He needed to stay in the same job post university to demonstrate to the bank job stability so that he could purchase his first home. So he only has a degree, and experience in the one job, one industry, and there are just not that many jobs out there paying “good money.”

Joe Junior now also can’t wash his clothes, eat food, or get to and from work as he no longer lives with his parents, so getting one of these “good jobs” is even more difficult.

So Joe Senior, are you really aware of all the facts and figures when you says things like buying your first home is “readily affordable” to young people?

Just slightly confused as to what you were thinking when you said these words at the media conference in Sydney.

Looking forward to another one of your politically correct, direct and well thought out responses.

Regards, Another baffled Australian

All credit to Mel Wilson for her concisely written, reason-based letter. Shots-fired.