They say that it takes 20 years for someone to become an overnight success. Jack Toohey did it in ten.
After a decade in media, founding his own production company, and working with some of the biggest organisations in the country, Toohey cracked the sphere of public awareness two weeks ago. His videos explaining Australia’s housing crisis have gone mega-viral.
“The whole idea was that I was going to try and talk about big issues and condense them down into two-minute videos,” Toohey explained during an hour-long sit down with The Latch.
“I was never expecting it to go as crazy as it has and end up on, you know, everywhere”.
When he says ‘everywhere’, he means it. In the past two weeks, he’s been on the Today Show, the ABC, Triple M, 3AW Radio, joined Twitch streamers, and met with MPs in the Houses of Parliament.
The first video in his series has touched a national nerve. Entitled ‘The Problem,’ the clip has racked up 5.2 million views on TikTok. Successive videos, in which he delves deeper into the economic and political ideologies that have motivated the wholesale auctioning of our national assets, have also done well.
However, as the series progresses, Toohey cuts closer to the bone with his assessment. In doing so, he’s also drawn the ire of the toxic triangle of right-wing media, baby boomers, and hyper-online people.
“The first video was amazing, but this one is all about socialism,” one comment on his Instagram post reads.
“That’s communism. No thanks!” reads another.
“You will own nothing and be happy”.
“I’m unfollowing this NWO propagandist.”
They go on like this. What appears to have angered certain sections of the population is Toohey’s dig at the prevailing ideology. He unpacks the fact that housing was cheap in the post-war era because the government at the time built around 20% of all new homes. Today, that figure is just 1.5%.
He then explores the concept of neoliberalism, a free-market ideology popularised by President Ronald Regan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. The basic idea here is that governments are inefficient and that opening everything up to the market would be a better way to run society. Coincidentally, it’s also far more profitable.
As Toohey’s second video states, “Homes become investments, people become resources, policies become business plans”. In pinning the blame on the 1980s political philosophy, still the prevalent belief in today’s system, Toohey is going after the architects and profiteers of society themselves.
His grand solution to the housing crisis is to fund a major boost of social housing, as we did in the post-war era. Interestingly, this was also halted because of fears over ‘communism’ under the Menzies government in the 1950s
“In this future, 60% of all people live in public housing. It’s high-quality, affordable housing for all,” his third video states. The ‘utopian’ future he’s describing is actually present-day Vienna, Austria.
Nothing he’s saying is new or controversial. Every economist and developer in the country will tell you that the housing crisis is caused by a supply problem. There simply isn’t enough to go around, particularly in the areas people want to live. How we get more of that is where politics starts to come into play, and things get dicey.
The ‘Boomer’ pushback to Toohey’s message has been as scathing as it is predictable. Old and debunked lines about historically high-interest rates and spending too much money on cappuccinos and overseas holidays were trotted out on 3AW’s call-in programme. But the ridicule and dismissal do not stop there.
During his chat with The Latch, an ‘exclusive’ expose was published, attacking Toohey’s ‘hypocrisy’ for critiquing the housing issue when he himself was born into a wealthy family.
“This is what happens to young people when they’re trying to speak out for young people,” Toohey said, reading the piece for the first time.
“All they’ve done is look at my LinkedIn profile and my Dad’s LinkedIn – all public record stuff.
“You speak up against the system, you speak up about your experience, they will f*cking destroy you. It’s a protection racket. This is the protection racket”.
Still, Toohey is unperturbed and has resolved to keep pushing his message. He published a response video to the article the same day, stating that he has always been “very open” about his own privilege. He added that social media is a threat to the control of national political discourse and that ad-hominem attacks are to be expected.
“They don’t talk about the ideas I put forward, they talk about my upbringing. They want to make an example out of someone like me, so that someone like you doesn’t also stand up,” he says in the video.
Toohey explained to The Latch that he got into housing because it’s a pressing and ever-present issue. Just this week, Parliament has been torn apart as Labor has been blocked from passing legislation they believe will help address the problem. The Greens, in blocking Labor’s $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund Bill, have demanded a national rent freeze. An additional $500 million for social housing hasn’t swayed them.
“I knew that housing crisis stuff was something I was experiencing myself. All my friends are getting married and having those late 20s, early 30s conversations about settling down and none of us… can,” Toohey said.
“Once I started doing that math and actually doing the research, I was like, ‘Wow’. That was the first time I’d seen it so plainly. I’ve known that house prices are rising, but I wasn’t able to put it in perspective.
“That’s why I did the video”.
If Australia continues to build at present-day trends, and wages continue to trail property value, houses will become a luxury only the ultra-wealthy can afford. Data from CoreLogic has shown that wages increased 81.7% over the past 20 years, while property prices have increased by 191.1%. ABS data shows that the average loan in 1984 was $576,000 cheaper than in 2022. The average monthly repayment on a mortgage was also nearly $2,000 less per month. Those trends are only set to continue.
If politicians do nothing, Toohey envisions a future where “a small class of people own all the property in the private and rental market, and the rest of us own nothing.”
“In this situation, if more people can’t afford to own a home, then more people won’t have any money to own other things because we’ve spent all our money on where we live. If we’re not stimulating the economy, the economy falls apart”.
“It becomes this like feudalist hellscape,” he says.
In Toohey’s Australia, the government would own more of the rental market, driving competition with the private sector and thereby lowering house prices. He acknowledges that this will “hurt some people” whose property value will decline, but this is where he says the government ought to step in and forgive negative equity mortgages.
“It’s a controlled deflation of the market. That’s best case scenario. We control it, and we protect the people who are most vulnerable, which are people that are just going into the market,” Toohey said.
The message is a tough one to swallow for a nation whose economy is so intrinsically tied to the housing market. Australian banks invest in property at a far greater rate than anywhere else in the world. It not only stifles innovation but is a key driver of economic inequality.
With such vested interests in keeping this house of cards stable, Toohey says it’s no wonder that his message is considered a dangerous one. He positions his own role, and his videos, as an act of protest – something essential if young people ever want to one day own their own homes.
“Are you going to let that happen, or are we going to stand up?”