Friday, November 11, 2011

A Tale of Two Tenancies: Public and Private

DH's street has public housing on one side, and privately owned single-storey workers' cottages dating back to what looks like the early 1900's, on the other.
It has been a stable community on both sides for over the dozen years since DH has lived there. But as the old home owners pass on, people who grew up in the street, the cottages, which are very tiny, hot and pokey inside,  are being bought up by speculators from a country which shall not be named, beginning with the letters Cashed-up, who have no love for quaintness of the Inner West, and who tart the cottages up cheaply in order to let.
Last year a lovely family with a 3 boys from baby to kinder age moved in. A new special chemistry between them and some of the houso families with little kids of their own. Every day, the street was filled with love and laughter. (Yeah, really!!  'Scuse sentimental tearing up as DH types).  Everyone sat on their stoops or the curb till dusk, watching, joining in or chatting as the littlies were taught cricket and other games by a couple of dads.

There hadn't been such joy in the street since about 7 years ago when the earlier cohort of neighbourhood kids finally grew up, went off to Uni or TAFE, or began brilliant careers. Yes, eat your hearts out, "Housos" fans, but our little street of just 8 houses, has already produced 5 Gen Y Uni and TAFE graduates or near-graduates, in Commerce, Arts, Music Management, Medicine, and Librarianship, plus a senior manager in a multinational corporation!
And all those kids gathered outside DH's house where a basket ball hoop was affixed to a wall by a neighbour.  For hours on end, every day, year after year, DH delighted in the regular thump, thump, thump of the ball hitting the wall, knowing that it meant the kids were alright, having a safe place to hang out. And they were so nice too, always asking "Are you sure you don't mind us being here?".
But with the new neighbours it was all to end, all too soon. Coming home one afternoon, DH saw removal vans. After just 6 months, the landlord decided he'd sell the place to make a profit, the private tenants were given notice. Being lucky enough to find another place at short notice, they were off.
It was so sad. The street has reverted to its quieter more insular ways, with only one cricketting dad left to lead the team to glory.
Thus do our rotten private tenancy laws destroy communities, on the whim of landlords eager for profit.
And what happened? The landlord changed his mind, the house didn't sell, and no-one will rent it because of the exorbitant rent he wants for this corrugated roofed hothouse. And there it has sat, empty, for the 2nd year in a row, in the middle of our city's housing crisis!

And the moral of this story is, as always:
Broken communities and housing shortages are not caused by houso wastrels wanting a "handout for life". All this is caused by governments who won't stand up to the landlords' lobby, and who will not enact fair tenure laws in the face of small-time investors who are free to prey on the needy.
"How simplistic of DH!", I hear you say. And no doubt it is, no doubt it is, in this best of all possible free-market worlds.

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