Melbourne's Highly Habitable Hallucination

Melbourne is the most 'liveable' city in the world, so goes the official yarn. It's mentioned in the news, shared on social media, and bragged about in bars. But it's not actually true at all. While The Economist magazine's graded list of 140 major global cities has put Melbourne at top for six years running the table itself is designed specifically for companies negotiating how much they should pay their executive staff while they’re away on assignment. The list is in no way at all aimed at regular working people living permanently anywhere. This is why it does not include the vital issue of housing affordability. Why then does Team Melbourne keep sighting this arbitrary title? It's because a comforting story goes a long way in the face of meathook realities. 

In Melbourne the freeway traffic flows like sludge in a moat, the streets feel more violent, and the airport experieince just kind of sucks. But all of that is trivial compared to the problem on the literal horizon. Self-erecting cranes hang over the city like marionette paddles, lifting one nondescript apartment building into the skyline after another. Regular working people cannot afford to buy into these enormous buildings. Because they are not really homes. They are blocks of money bought by investors with access to uber leveraged interest-only mortgages.

The loans that support the foundations of the housing market slush around in low rates and high employment, almost waiting for something to break the miniscus. Melbourne is a city built on a shared hallucination. People know that it is no longer as liveable as it once was. Everybody has been so much apart of the story for so long that it has become impossible to imagine anything else. Can real estate valuations, like the skyline towers themselves, go on forever increasing? By definition if something cannot go on forever at some point it will stop. And historical debt binges have always ended the same way - in violent vomitous deleveraging.