What is your Sydney housing endgame?

April 11, 2021 — May 26, 2021

This is a draft of a thing I am thinking about. Subject to revision, hatemail and criticism. Please do weigh in.

Figure 1

If you are counting the days until you get to tree-change to some remote property where you do not need to meet humans, save yourself a few minutes; you can skip to tree changing.

1 Citylyf

Here’s the thing, city folks, I love this town, and I want to stay in it with you. But the current way I’m surviving is not sustainable and I want to work out how to do it better.

Value proposition: this town has a lot of stuff I love on tap. Arts! Sciences! Technology! Cultural diversity! Strangers! Friends!

But it’s getting hard to afford to live here to access these things, and hard to imagine these things will be any good if no one else can afford time to enjoy the things either. Which is to say, the rent is too damn high for me, but it is worse for other people who have less money than me, and it is boring to hang out only with rich people. What if I want to live somewhere where not only people like me can afford to live?

I want to do all those urban things, and I want to do them until I die, and I want to work out how to do it. Also, I am a big ol’ utopian collectivist so I want to propose some kind of communal-living cost-minimising situation. Hopefully other people will be interested in this idea and we can all live a little more affordably, and maybe hang out and generate culture with other collectivists, and that will be one small piton in the affordability and interestingness cliff.

Figure 2

Also, if we all don’t find a way of spending less on this nonsense then I feel we are in fact feeding the flames of boringness, or at best, contributing to some absentee rent-seeking boomer’s yachting fund rather than our own communities.

There are many alternatives; I have seen a few permutations of collective living in my life: sharehouses, punk warehouses, housing cooperatives, Baugruppen, multiple occupancy communes, Nightingale Housing, Assemble communities… People set these up while buying the place, building the place or just renting the place.

Currently we have a lot of collective utopia at Craic Alley, but I gotta tell you, our landlords are serious liabilities and we cannot see staying with them being a long-term investment. Maybe medium term.

So! Groundwork for the next step.

Does anyone want to set up a thing? a housing project, a low-fuss mini-utopia? Can we design our own community? Anyone in for a long-haul bit of building the future we want to live in?

Figure 3

Desires (for me):

  • Multiple people with a mix of private and shared space
  • cheap per capita
  • space for hosting events maybe so we can share the love with neighbourhood
  • simple enough to run that it does not consume my whole life
  • maybe somewhere intrinsically interesting, i.e. diverse, vibrant
  • nearby parks and trees and stuff
  • people with whom I can get along, without necessarily agreeing on everything
  • welcoming space for queerness, neuro-atypicality, nerds and idealists
  • sensible financial arrangement and governance so we can divide responsibilities and risks evenly
  • some autonomy to decorate and make it awesome in whatever way suited the massed collective interests
  • vague attempt at insulating the place from the outside weather would be nice for a change but let us not be too ambitious here, this is Sydney we are talking about

Dealbreakers (for me)

  • Not in a city
  • In deep remote suburbia
  • No natural light
Figure 4

Non-dealbreakers (for me)

  • living with kids
  • garden, or not
  • having to fit out a place
  • Loud locations. I do not mind personally, especially if we are somewhere where one could double glaze the windows and noise-proof the doors.
  • Indolent brutalism. I do not particularly need the place to look like a homes-n-garden mag. I can compromise on aesthetics, although it would be lovely not to pay too large a premium for things to look glossy. 1

Buy or rent? Depends what people are up for. There would be a fair bit to do: find a place, set up legal governance issue, finance the thing, maybe even fit it out, throw in some double glazing. Negotiate where the pole-dancing area is and what hours we crank the dance floor and how many plants for the co-working space, safety protocols of the sex dungeon or whatever idk what would even be in such a house that is up to other people’s dreams and visions. But if we got some interested parties and split the burden this could be even something close to fun and if not easy, then… no harder than any other plan for navigating the Sydney housing hellscape.

And where, that is a whole ’nother question.

Figure 5

2 Tree changing

Moving to the country? Good for you! Have fun. I would be interested in setting up reciprocal guest-room arrangements for when we visit each other.

Figure 6

Footnotes

  1. Mostly-functional punk DIY upcycled peasant glam is my interior design sweet spot. Specifically, I don’t need plaster or dry wall or kitchen makeovers or counter tops with just the perfect size gap for a white goods that will leak somewhere we cannot reach it to fix, except insofar as it is required by law in our depressingly prim building codes. The set-dressing of middle-class acceptability theatre does not do a whole bunch for me personally. Exposed conduits and pipes and concrete are great, I reckon, if I can throw up a mural on that concrete to take the edge off. Moreover, brutalism has advantages. The ability to conveniently and cheaply fix or customise things because they do not have to be just so, this pays dividends. I know chrome fitting makeovers do wonders for the valuation of one’s speculative investment property but just quietly, I am indifferent to such niceties. Sshhhh don’t tell anyone that there are people like me we need to prop up the kitchen renovation industry for the good of the Australian economy.↩︎