The deceptive story of virtuous homebuyers
There's a genre of newspaper and magazine story that's been annoying me for a while: the virtuous home buyer.
They scrimp and save and, in so doing, become a moral exemplar for the unwashed, unpropertied masses.
I've no problem with the hard work and austerity required to pay off a mortgage. My problem is the suggestion that everyone else isn't also working hard and living austerely; that there's a level playing field, in which some are just magically better at the game.
My latest for The Canberra Times:
A story is currently filling the weekend newspapers and real-estate lift-outs. A story of struggle, frugality and the entitlement that stems from these. A couple buy property. They work very hard, buy no-name groceries, never have coffee or dinner out – they're proud penny-pinchers. Perhaps avocado never touches their lips.
The problem with this portrait of virtuous acquisition isn't that the facts are false. Of course these families exist. Of course they need to scrimp and save to buy houses whose prices are appreciating faster than wages, in a market primed by tax incentives.
The problem is that this story is narrow and misleading. It uses one of our weaknesses – for a good yarn – to distort reality, and dresses up considerable privilege as morally pure hardship.