In the national imagination, real estate continues to function, as John Howard once had it, as a “timeless dream”. In the national economy, things are rather less dreamy, with our housing price-to-wage ratio now the world’s third worst and the value of new loans to investment property eclipsing those for owner-occupiers for the first time in the last financial year. Over the past 30 years the number of Australians renting has doubled, and in 2013, The National Housing Supply Council warned that “it seems certain the aggregate rate of home ownership will drop and the proportion renting will increase significantly".

Still, we’ve held fast to the idea for an awfully long time that the home is a site for financial and even spiritual ascent. Network TV plays to this fantasy with shows like Reno Rumble, House Rules and The Block. Fewer of us own houses. Far fewer of us benefit from the tax concessions available to owners of multiple properties. But Howard’s timeless dream -- better people have better houses and the best of us owns several -- continues to play in our heads, even if it has lately become a lived nightmare.