Home loan stress threatening millions of households in Australia
7 September 2018
An immense financial and social crisis is developing in Australia because of extraordinary levels of mortgage debt, falling property prices, rising interest rates and the driving down of real wages.
Nearly one million households—one in four—are already being labelled “mortgage prisoners.” That is, they are trapped in debt while house values are falling. That number will soar as interest rates rise from their current record lows, according to detailed research published in the past two weeks.
This financial trauma is concentrated in working class suburban and regional areas, where some postcodes have at least 90 percent of mortgaged households “in stress,” meaning they do not have enough income to cover mortgage repayments and other living expenses.
These statistics provide a glimpse of the intolerable conditions that confront millions of working class people, while corporate profits soar on the back of record low wage growth and the increasingly casualised, insecure and under-employed workforce.
A speculative property bubble fuelled by cheap credit has underpinned economic growth in Australia since the 2008 global financial crash and the 2012 slump in the China-driven mining boom. Over the past 12 months, however, that bubble has begun to burst, while interest rates are beginning to rise at the same time.
New figures this week show Sydney property prices dropped 5.6 percent over the past year, while the national market fell 2.2 percent. It signals the end of a five-year boom, during which prices in Australia’s biggest city rose 70 percent and household debt rising to 200 percent compared to disposable income—one of the highest levels in the developed world.