Wednesday, April 07, 2004

NSW stamp duty: “The goalposts have been moved”, cry boomers

For probably the first time, an Australian government has made a decision that unequivocally benefits the young more than the old. For decades it’s been the other way round, of course. So when some modest, and actually age-neutral changes to NSW stamp duty were announced yesterday – changes which eased affordability for first-home buyers, and decreased affordability for property investors, various venomous and hyperbolic reactions from boomers and their ilk in today’s SMH serve only to confirm my worst prejudices.

Personal Finance Editor Annette Sampson says that, with the changes, it is now time for would-be investors in Sydney residential property to think about investing interstate or in shares instead. Hardly a shocking situation, you might think – you know with those new-fangled railroad shares that were all the go in the 1850s but are now worth shit, did someone move the goalposts in the meantime? Hardly.

Undeterred by reason, Sampson both takes the changes very personally and relishes the opportunity to invoke of bit a schooldays psycho-drama; the changes thus “clearly . . . put out the not-welcome mat for property investors”. Gee, what are they going to next to property investors, Annette – call their mothers mean names? Grow up, boomers – and if you’re “already [coping] with low rental returns and muted prospects of capital growth” then maybe you need to face the fact that you’re financially fucked. In which case, don’t only not expect a shoulder to cry on, from my POV, but a huge and joyous “I told you so!”, such as your brow-beaten parents have not dared to give you since you were teenagers. And no apologies for this latest, gratuitous psycho-drama, either – you started it, Annette!

Similarly to Annette Sampson’s tantrum reversion, president of the Real Estate Institute of NSW Rowen Kelly is being Oedipally oxymoronic in saying that the changes would hit "mums and dads investors". Huh? Is s/he talking about "mums and dads” (= people on ordinary incomes) or is s/he talking about property investors (which, in Sydney usually equals sitting on a minimum total million dollars of housing, spread across two or more holdings)?

Finally, we have this petty piece of sniping by Property Editor Jonathan Chancellor:

Some commentators suggest the 165,000 first home buyers who have taken $1.6 billion in grants since July 2000 have soaked up demand for first home purchases. It may be some time before they become a vital, normal market presence again.

In other words, GenX can’t be expected to react as any other set of human beings would, and to now adjust their budget big-tickets in the light of house-buying just becoming cheaper for them (and, conversely renting probably more expensive). No, to even acknowledge that would be too close to chalking up a “win” for GenX, wouldn’t it, Jonathan?

To which I say, after 22 years of having the goalposts moved on me throughout my adult life – via unemployment, uni fees, and passenger cars-of-mass-destruction for starters, it’s about time we scored a win. It’s small and it’s late, but a win is a win.

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