Why House Prices Are Ruining Your Friendships
It’s no secret that house prices in Australia have evolved from being the centrepiece of the ‘Australian dream’ to becoming the villain in the Australian nightmare.
We know that fewer and fewer people can afford to buy a house and for many of those who can get their foot in the market, they are increasingly likely to buy in outer suburbs and regional areas, where prices are lower.
While that move can make financial sense, it can have some serious social impacts -- not only does it mean that a big chunk of time is spent commuting to work, but it also means new buyers are living further away from their established communities, from the cafes where the staff knew them by name or their local book clubs.
And it’s also affecting friendships.
Researchers from the University of Virginia have found that when people move away from their established communities, it can result in a weaker commitment to those friendships -- so instead of texting every other day, you might check in with each other every other week instead. Regular drinks or brunches begin to taper off into monthly catch-ups, and then every other month. And eventually, those plans to catch up stay just that -- plans.
This isn’t a frivolous concern; study after study has proven that having a strong network of friends makes us happier and healthier. It can help reduce stress, increase feelings of well-being and confidence and even play a role in helping us make better lifestyle choices, like drinking less.
Some studies have found that adults who have strong friendships can even live longer.
So when that network is disrupted because people can only afford to buy a house dozens or even hundreds of kilometres away, the flow-on effect can be far greater than anyone might have thought it would be.
As wage growth remains stagnant and property prices continue to be out of reach for many people, the rates of homeownership are falling. Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in July revealed that homeownership has fallen from 71.4 percent in 1994-95, to 66 percent in 2017-18. For young people -- aka, those aged between 25 to 34 -- those rates have also fallen, from 38.6 percent to 36.8 percent.
For those who do -- or are looking to -- buy their own slice of bricks and mortar, it’s the outer suburbs that are the most affordable.
In Melbourne, Roxburgh Park, Kalkallo, Mickleham and Craigieburn -- which are located almost 30 kilometres from the CBD -- are the most popular for first-time home buyers. In Sydney, the distance is even greater: the suburb of San Remo (107km from Sydney CBD), Gorokan (107km), Charmhaven (106km) and Budgewoi (112km).
Adult friendships face lots of tests -- new relationships, marriage, kids and focus on work are all regular spanners that can put distance between us and the family we choose. Moving further away, where it’s harder to meet spontaneously or for extended periods of time, puts an understandable strain on those connections.
And as long as property prices continue to be wildly disproportionate to wages, it’s understandable that many young homebuyers will seek the great Australian dream further away from their establishment communities.