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Is home ownership becoming unachievable?

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Owning a property has always been the great Australian dream. But with the latest statistics from Moody’s Investors Service stating that Sydney and Melbourne home owners spend as much as a third of their household income on mortgage repayments, it seems that this dream is starting to look less and less plausible as house prices continue to rise.

According to the 2016 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, owning a house in an Australian city costs 5.6 times the median household income. In fact, Sydney is now the world’s second most expensive city, ahead of both Los Angeles and London.

For Fred Schultz, the great Australian dream no longer makes sense, especially with the length of repaying the mortgage. Inspired by the Tiny House Movement—the global community of city-dwellers rejecting mansions for miniature dwellings that enable sustainable living—Schultz believes that the benefits of settling for a tiny house far outweigh the upfront costs.

Meanwhile, Sydneysider Bill Johnson spent the last decade living on a boat in various locations around Sydney Harbour. For him, the Australian dream has more to do with creating a home that is true to his needs. But though he is already living his fantasy life of living in a boat, poor regulation, maintenance costs, and distance from essential services make this lifestyle difficult to sustain in the long term.

For new migrants and those with different cultural backgrounds, stable housing can be a route to community and mutual support. Such is the case for the Kapit-bahayan Cooperative, a cooperative established by Ruben Amores providing affordable housing for Filipino families. The sense of ownership develops a sense of empowerment among tenant-members.

Nowadays, the Australian dream no longer needs to conform to the ideal and traditional. As Schultz puts it, it now involves “looking beyond the options that are available.”

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