There's a housing gold rush in Australia. Will you strike it rich?
Why bother digging for gold these days?
Look at the soil beneath your feet. It holds far greater riches.
In the current housing crisis, have you googled the suburb of your childhood home to see what property prices have been doing?
A couple of weeks ago, a house in my old neighbourhood, a soporific suburb in Sydney's north, sold for $2.6 million. It last sold in 2006 for $555,000. 
That kind of capital growth has been common around the country, and it's turned our suburbs into goldfields, creating millions of paper millionaires.
But what's it doing to future generations?
It's common to hear warnings that this rapid property price growth is redistributing wealth from younger to older generations.
But it's doing something else, in the background.
According to researchers, the time needed for a median income earner to save a deposit for a typical property in Australia has increased from six years in 1994 to 14 years today.
Think about what that means.
If we drop the antagonism between younger Australians and Boomers, will it help to fixing our housing crisis, asks Gareth Hutchens.
Think of the extra hours of work that are now being demanded from first home buyers just so they can get to the starting line.
The property price boom is stealing time itself from younger people, and they have no say in the matter.
Consider the house that sold in my childhood suburb for $2.6 million. The 20 per cent deposit required to buy that house last month would have been $520,000. Only 17 years ago, the entire house cost $555,000.
That deposit is like a huge chunk of congealed time.
If you had the choice, honestly, would you prefer to spend that precious and finite time with your family and friends, or chained to your workplace trying to scrape together the wages so you can one day, finally, ask a bank for a loan?
The metaphor of "spending" time is apt.
"Do you love life?" Benjamin Franklin asked. "Then don't squander time; for that's the stuff life is made of."
In the classic book The Land Boomers, about Melbourne's feverish and destructive land boom in the 1880s, there's a great cartoon of Old Father Time.
See below.
It depicts Father Time as being obsessed with gold in the 1850s gold rush, but by the 1880s he's found another lucrative obsession that makes far fewer demands on his body: land speculation.
The caption reads: "This Victorian soil is rich stuff. It used to pan out hundreds … now it pans out millions."
As the personification of time, that old bearded man carries an hourglass on his back, and a harvester's scythe on his lap.
And in the space of thirty years, his entire profile changes. 
He starts off crouched in the dirt, with his miner's hat and boots, smoking an old tobacco pipe and drinking billy tea, toiling away for quick riches, but three decades later he's wearing a top-hat and suit, with shiny shoes, smoking a cigar with champagne at the ready, while perched above one of Melbourne's main thoroughfares which he pans for land-banks and building societies.
Let the good times roll.
In The Land Boomers, the author Michael Cannon explained how the laissez-faire conditions of Australian capitalism in the 1880s were highly corrupt.
Melbourne's political elite made out like bandits during the land boom, but for a time "every type and degree of man was involved".
"Clergymen, labourers, widows, schoolmasters — all grasped at the chance at quick wealth and invested their savings," he writes.
"Many borrowed widely to invest more than their assets were worth, and later formed a pitiful kite-tail to the catalogue of insolvencies."
He says for some years, an ambitious person could be practically certain of making his fortune.
"In the city there was fantastic competition for blocks, fanned by constant reports of fortunes which had been made by holding on to the blocks for a few months and reselling," he says.
"A few warning voices were raised overseas, but heard as from afar. In 1885 the London Standard pointed out that advances by Australian banks to their clients had increased from £92 million to £100 million. 'We should be terrified at 'progress' of that sort in the old country for fear that the bulk of debts might never be paid', said the journal. 'But the Australians boast of it. For them the greater the debt the greater the progress'."
Cannon says parliament also became "a sort of land speculators' club" where blatant 'log rolling' — the use of political power for private gain — became commonplace.
"Fantastic sums were borrowed and spent on extending the railway network; and when the rails reached any particular point, it was often found that syndicates of MPs and their associates had bought land in advance for subdivision and sale," he said.
"A rich state was plundered by the very men who had been elected to advance its interests; and many a perverted commercial and religious principle was advanced to support their causes."
Of course, when that whole feverish period of property speculation collapsed, it brought economic devastation to the state (and contributed to the terrible nationwide Depression of the 1890s).
Melbourne's population shrank by 50,000 people in a three-year period, according to Cannon, as families fled for a better life elsewhere, and it took decades for property prices in the city to return to their pre-Depression level.
A lot of time and energy had to be spent rebuilding a more balanced economy. 
In radically different circumstances to today, the city's people had enjoyed the effervescence of quick riches for a time, but it came at great cost to them eventually — and to the younger generations behind them.
Cannon said there was a lesson in there somewhere.
"Twentieth-century Australia owes some sort of debt to those who boomed and those who suffered, for they provide one of the most striking examples in history of the interdependence of all parts of the social order," he wrote.
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
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