Posts Tagged ‘real estate’

Solving homelessness the Finnish way.

December 30, 2018

photohomeless-man-at-byron-bay.jpg

With the value of housing now plummeting with probably a long way down to go yet, no better an opportunity than to get away from housing mainly seen as an investment rather than a human right. A roof above our head wasn’t always seen as having to own it. It came about when the granting of ‘titles’ was invented. From then on it a became a thing of monetary value rather than a necessity for humans to have shelter away from the elements.   So, it was and the world of ‘real estate’ was born.  The last few years the whole of the Australian home ownership went on a bender with exploiting, speculations  and an explosion of the cost of real estate. I am just writing this when coming across an article about the growing problem of homelessness and how it is being solved in Finland.

“The Finns have turned the traditional approach to homelessness on its head.

There can be a number of reasons as to why someone ends up homeless, including sudden job loss or family breakdown, severe substance abuse or mental health problems. But most homelessness policies work on the premise that the homeless person has to sort those problems out first before they can get permanent accommodation.

Finland does the opposite – it gives them a home first.

The scheme, introduced in 2007, is called Housing First. It is built on the principle that having a permanent home can make solving health and social problems much easier.

The homeless are given permanent housing on a normal lease. That can range from a self-contained apartment to a housing block with round-the-clock support. Tenants pay rent and are entitled to receive housing benefits. Depending on their income, they may contribute to the cost of the support services they receive. The rest is covered by local government.”

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/02/how-finland-solved-homelessness/

Australia now has a golden opportunity to get back to social housing and solve the thousands of those that miss out on a roof above their head. It has been clear that most couples now find it impossible to get into the housing ‘market.’ The Government can try and get people to move to smaller and cheaper towns but the past has shown that sooner or later most are drawn to the large cities. Australia is one of the world’s most urbanised countries. Housing is a social right for a civilised country. It is shameful that now more and more people end up sleeping on the streets or in their cars. The answer seems so simple.

Provide decent shelter. The alternative is much more expensive.!

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Only the lonely

February 8, 2017

 

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But where are the people? This was very often a question asked during the time we had foreign students living with us. We lived in Balmain. It is a suburb which many Australians would classify as having medium to high density living. We always look back with fondness of the twenty years we lived there. It is the place where our children grew up. So, how come this question; but where are the people?

The foreign students came from Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Germany with a couple from Holland. The question has to be looked at from the perspective of living in cities. Australia right from the start understood it had space.  Space was lacking in England, especially in the big smoked filled cities. Thus the suburban block here was soon to be seen as desirable for people to be housed on. At the beginning, people lived in terrace houses joined together forming complete streets. Balmain was one of those earlier suburbs of Sydney with streets of terrace houses. Parks were everywhere and it still felt very spacious.

However, the foreign students came from cities that were teeming with people. They would form throngs on the streets. I am sure that those that have been to Asia understand there is a huge difference between density of people there in cities compared to here in Australia. It were those people on the streets that the students were sorely missing, even in inner city Balmain.

My parents soon after arrival in 1956 went to live in western Sydney. Real Estate agents and blocks of land were the main topics of conversation amongst the migrants.  We too were swept up into saving a deposit for our ‘own’ block of land.  There was no real understanding of the social consequences in making a choice of where to live.  To be near a rail-station was desirable but as for other desirable needs, it just wasn’t about or questioned. Migrants had a need to have a roof and security of an income, all else was secondary. It was like a fever. One got caught up in the frenzy of making a new life. It was all a bit puzzling for my dad. He was different.

The street that my parents ended up living in was like millions of suburban streets anywhere in Australia. There were people living in houses but you would rarely see them. It felt achingly lonely. Sometimes a curtain would stir or a car would drive by. For me it was deadly, spiritual dehydration. Sure, the petunias and rockeries were plenty. Rosellas would be screeching and flying about and then there was cracker night. This was a yearly event with bon-fire on the street, somehow mysteriously related to Guy Fawkes or something. It was an occasion for neighbours to meet up. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Fawkes

All this in response to having read a lecture by Hugh MacKay. He is a well know social commentator. “The State of the Nation starts in your Street.”

http://theconversation.com/hugh-mackay-the-state-of-the-nation-starts-in-your-street-72264

It seems to fit in what is happening with all that card swiping and waving at poles. We are forced to dealing with less and less people. Banking is done silently in front of an ATM. People buy food on-line and sit at home all sated and possibly overweight. The steel posts at rail stations. Most work will finally be done by  steel posts and robots. Soon we might go to bed enjoying the icy embrace of a steel post or with a rotating robot with a waving of cards giving consent to heaven knows what sexual delights

.

I don’t know what can be done to liven up lonely suburban streets. My mum did her best and was fearless in her search for social contact. It was difficult. All those Venetian blinds and that obsession with privacy. A sign of change is that most people now prefer an apartment close to the city. People do seem to want to live close to each other, able to walk to shops and work. People need people.

We shall see!

The Plight of the Sunday Mirror Girls and Real Estate Agents.

August 25, 2016
Me and mother 1995?

Me and mother 1995?

Estate agents are not far behind car-salesmen in the popularity range of professions. Even joining the army or becoming a police man are judged far above them. In the fifties, teaching was also a somewhat dodgy profession to pursue. It makes me wonder whether that might be the reason that our school kids don’t seem to be doing all that well. Apparently 45% of adults in Australia do not possess proficient spelling and math skills. But, if someone studied law, (even for those within the 45% semi-literate range)the prestige barometer would run red-hot. I noticed that amongst our elderly neighbours’ granddaughters, some are doing a university degree in ‘design.’

If job security is important I reckon, estate agents and car salesmen will probably be better placed than lawyers or designers. Australia has one of the highest rates per capita of lawyers in the world, and as for design, the Ikea flat pack with Allan key has taken care of that. Many are out of work and even barristers are scrimping around trying to make a quid. It’s in science and engineering that the future beckons and holds the best prospects.

Selling cars or houses does depend on smoothness and swiftness in seizing up the customer. If the pitch is overly keen, it might make the buyer a bit reluctant. There is the tendency of many people to go against a proposal if put too strongly. Lately Helvi and I are back ‘in the market’ as the parlance go, looking at houses. Even if just to spend time away from our own house. I like looking through other peoples houses. I quickly scan the bookshelves. Of course, bookshelves are not guaranteed.

Back in the fifties, my poor dad used to try and see through neighbours windows, hungry for sighting books. They were very rare. The best, in those years was a horse-betting guide or a real estate section resting seductively on top of little tables. In our house, my mother used to put The Catholic Weekly on top of any reading material. She held hope that we all would go through out teens wholly beholden by men of the cloth. We soon saw through their voodoo tricks. How can anyone take to walking on water and virgin births?

One of my friends remarked; ‘why do your newspapers have all those holes in them? I admitted, ‘because my mum cuts out all the provocative pictures of girls.’ Those photos used to be displayed in Australian Newspapers, especially the afternoon papers. The same papers also used to have screaming headlines with ‘SHOCK SEX’, or a whole page with just one three letter word ‘WAR.’ My mum thought she could save her family, possibly including her husband, from filth and decadence perving on grainy images of swim suit wearing girls.

As soon as we hit the car driving range we would pretend to go to church on Sunday. We all sat inside my old V8 Ford single spinner outside the church. We would take turns in getting snippets of the main sermon before getting back in the V8 and continue the perve on the Sunday Mirror paper girls, before we presented them home for mother to get her scissors out for. It is an endearing image I still treasure.

My mum was brought up together with her sister in an orphanage. She lost both her parents when very young. The orphanage was run by nuns in Amsterdam. As a child she took me to this orphanage and introduced me to some very old nuns who were still alive from the time she was a little girl. The orphanage was stone-cold with marble stairs. Her sister was there too, but strictness by the nuns separated them. She was forbidden to have contact with her. Her sister was my dear Aunt Agnes.

I surmised she must have got her staunch religious beliefs from that period. Her cutting images from newspapers that might invite her sons into carnal pleasures might well have been her intention to save us, and for that I have respect and my love. Of course, she failed, but that is a different matter. Apart from the cutting pictures she was also the eternally undefeatable worker and optimist.

A really great mother.

41yjSAQeq1L__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ oosterman treats

Moving onto ‘Own’ block of Land with ‘Deposit’ and ‘Easy Terms’.

May 13, 2015
Own Block with garage. Little brother tending a cabbage.

Own Block with garage. Little brother tending a cabbage.

Leaving the lean times and memories of tie-clips and perky breasts (furtively enjoyed in the timber yard) behind, we will now go forward to an episode that too might have been significant in  causing my intermittent scepticism of migration in general and my own in special. That is not to say, that not having moved countries things would have turned out to have been  any different. To now have reached a level of freedom, hopefully some insight, and to have the luxury of enough time still left to come up with some answers that have eluded me so far.

The saving for the future was now on in earnest. My mum became the financial wizard and accountant . It had to be struck with a compromise between pocket money and fast saving to get our own place to live at. How we slept those first few months I have no memory off. We had nothing on arrival except the clothes we wore and the 4 steel trunks that travelled with us on the boat. The vacuum cleaner, and the pride of our street back in The Hague, the electric washing machine, we had shipped over separately. We could wash our clothes and vacuum, but on what did we sleep? I can’t remember anything about bedding. Did we sleep upright? It is possible but I don’t think so. Migrants are made of pioneering stuff, but upright sleeping was never an option? Right now, people would probably reflect and call migrating; seeking a life-style! We would surely at first been seeking for bedding?

The extra hours worked now above the normal forty hours became vital. Each day mother would wait for us to come home but it was always welcome if we came home later than expected; ‘overtime’ was being worked and, at time-and-a-half, would bring our aim of moving into own place closer and closer. Of course, work on Saturday or Sunday was as close to heaven as dad’s Milky way. Double time-money delirium! Even though it meant forgoing the cake eating event on the creaky veranda during the Sunday morning.

Dad would put his pay packet under mum’s dinner plate each pay day which I think was  on a Thursday. Dad did this as a kind of weekly joke as if tipping the waitress for a nice meal. It might read a bit strange but families have their own jokes, don’t they?  I would just give my earnings  to mum straight away  without any formalities or any joking, and so did my elder brother Frank. The coffer was swelling, slowly at first, but with increasing speed in tandem with the urgency. One of the items still to be told to complete a picture of our stay with the Dutch friends and their generosity of allowing us to get on our own feet, was the early morning urinating rituals.

The old house at the time we were living in it was crowded with two large families. The Dutch family with five children and ours with six making a total of fifteen including both sets of parents. The toilet was outside and at the back of the lean-to that I used as a dark room and for all of us a bathroom. It was quite a walk, often too far for us and the boys would share the nr 1’s with the rats and three legged dog against the stacks of timber outside. This was especially so at waking times. There was a flimsy partition between our portion of the house and that of our friends who had the larger part including a couple of bedrooms upstairs. The  four girls sleeping upstairs would run down each morning and urinate loudly in a bucket which was next to the flimsy partition and clearly audible. This would result in a loud Dutch howl of laughter and coarseness from me and my brothers on the other side of the partition. We almost woke up early not to miss the ritual. That’s how it was then!

Over the next six months we heard amongst other Dutch migrants that the way forward was to get own block of land with a garage on it. The available time left after working o.t (over-time) was taken up by endless discussions on own block of land. It sounded like out of ‘Mice and Men’ and it was far above my Dad’s understanding or his interests, but not my mum. She knew the way forward was to do what other people advised us about. It wasn’t just the talk of other migrants. The world of ‘real estate’ seemed to be everywhere and Australia was at the fore-front of owning own home on own block of land. It was the very essence of what success was about. In any case renting was a waste of money and everyone nodded in agreement. It wasn’t made clear why that was so. But questioning ownership wasn’t on the horizon of pioneering migrants. Renting is what they had left behind!

Peace

Peace

It was a contagion that still lives on today. Nothing eases awkward social occasions better than the mentioning of ‘real estate’ and ‘home ownership’ around the dining table or even standing around an art gallery sipping the chardonnay while discussing Edvard Munch ‘The Scream’. Mum understood the language of ‘own block near railway station’, of mortgages, easy terms, deposits and interest rates immediately  and  had worked out that with the present level of income from Dad and her two eldest sons including so much o.t, we already had a ‘deposit’ for own block. Deposit and own block had the Oosterman family firmly in its grip. They were holy. My dad remained puzzled why we could not just go to the local council and asked to be given and provided  a modest home to live in. It was now all so different.

After a while he was happy with the star-lit heavens and totally trusted his wife to steer us into the security of own block and garage. The garage was allowed then to be lived in as long as the garage door was painted the same as the garage walls. Better still, take the garage door off and replace with a window to then help the local council in simply designating the garage into ‘a temporary dwelling’. It sounded so much more domestic than garage and was legal to boot.

Pardon me Madam; your Body Corporate is showing

July 19, 2012

Sometimes, it is true, storm clouds gather in Strata-Titled communities joined at the hips by the regulations of The Body Corporate. They say, and many historians agree, Australia really got on its own when land ownership was denoted by giving parcels of land ‘Title’. This is how the name of “real Estate” came about. I remember my father being very puzzled when, after arrival in 1956, he assiduously queried the name of ‘real estate agent’. Are their estate agents that are not ‘real’, was his logical Dutch question?  Apparently before ‘Title’ people just put pegs in the ground and claimed it as belonging to them. People squatted by putting down their swag between the pegs and went to work tilling the soil, had babies and went to sleep in between. The document of Title was called Torrens named after a pioneer of Title, Mr Robert Torrens. Robert lived to a ripe old age of 94 and is buried at Rookwood. It is claimed the last words he uttered, were, ‘ I am feeling as Crook as Rookwood.’

However, and this is the crux of this little piece, when many arrived and populations grew faster than Torrens Titles could accommodate, many wanted to share the same block of land on the one single title. This was first used by large Italian migrant groups. We all know that ‘en famille’ around the’ tavola’ and forever ‘en casa’ is what makes Italian lives tick and has so for thousands of years. Not for them the world of segregated privacy and gloomy darkness with the enforced separation of the Robert’s Torrens Title.

It was an extraordinary large Italian family who just all wanted to remain together on the one parcel of land but living at close quarters. The name of this very large family was Signore et Signora, ‘Strata’. After seven years of marriage they had nine children. Both papa and mamma were very busy and fertile.  The family included many uncles and aunties, many of indefinable ages. They were born so many years ago, they simply never thought of the passing years. They just wanted to be able to see any new bambinas and sorellis at any given time of the day. A beehive of life and birth with the occasional death celebrated at Rookwood with copious amounts of Chianti with lots of calamari and prawns. It has to be said though, in respect for those dearly departed; many aunties would dress up in black. Some had also forgotten who they were mourning for, but that’s how Italian families functioned best. It was all a bit of a tradition and many had died so long ago. Mourning and feasting were always very close, almost the same. Both involved the intake of good food and plenty of it.

That’s how it was around the late nineteen fifties or so. They called their multi families property, the Strata en Casa.  Officials that visited this large community of Italian migrants felt it needed a more formal and Anglo name and decided on Strata Title. And that’s how the term ‘Strata Title’ was born. It was incorporated into statutes and made into a stern law. Soon many communities followed suit.

However, and we all know when ‘however’ is used, it is usually followed by a disclaimer or worse, some kind of dreaded bit of news. When the Strata Title was used and incorporated by those not used to communal life in order to get a foot-hold in a cheaper form of ‘real Estate’, (are their Estates that are not ‘real’?) it now is a “Title” thick with possible stirrings of discontent. Some people do not hold to common values and shared Strata ownership and insist on doing Torrens Title things. In other words, they want to do individual things on shared communal property.

Many annual Body Corporate meetings are now steeped in anger and misgivings about differences between both forms of Title. Both Mr Robert Torrens and the Family Strata used to live harmoniously together.

Not anymore now. Or so it seem and it has come to pass.

Is Cooking a Thing of the Past?

February 2, 2012

Are we still cooking or are husbands coming home with a pizza box?

It always surprised me that during the last few years we were living in the smoky city of Sydney, houses in our street often sold at the drop of a hat (with, more than likely, a bucketing rise in their value).

Home and kids were commodities to be shifted around like so much else of temporary society. It was a way to the top and to the promised land of the financially ‘arrived.’

This was not always so. During our first stay in the inner city, many years ago, houses were cheap and affordable even to ‘normal’ people. They would then stay put and bring up their kids. Seeing the same faces at the same address was part of a daily routine for many years.

We had steady neighbours with just the one car and lots of billy-carting kids and cubby houses. The area was safe during day and night. But this idyllic life did not last.

It was when the Merchants of The Inner City Estate Brigade marched in and ratcheted up with ambitions so foul, with dollars and fortunes to be made, that the temptation for many was to sell up, satisfy mortgage lenders, move on elsewhere and far away, possibly without debt and have money to spare.

We stayed put and watched with amazement the conversion from humble terraces to belching mansions. In came remote garage doors and out went the kitchens, sinks and all, replaced at great cost with the latest Italian number: granite bench tops and one-handled hot and cold taps looking plucked from an expensive private doctor’s surgery.

After ten months and yet another owner, out went the Italian and in came the Swedish model. The Smeg appliances, food processors, micro ovens so large they could be sub-let to small families; mosaic timber butcher’s blocks on gleaming caster-driven trolleys and matching knives that could slice a buffalo.

Sadly though, amongst all this frenetic moving of kitchens and people, there was a noticeable drop in those familiar afternoon cooking smells. You always knew when dinner time was on its way, didn’t you? Fried onions and lamb chops and kids hanging around the doorways. Dads strolling down hills from bus stops, tired but peckish, and hopeful dogs waiting for scraps.

All that went when making a buck started to reign over cooking and kids and familiar neighbours. The smells disappeared for ever. Despite (or because) of that gleaming kitchenware, the cooking became too dangerous to the kitchens. A scratch could ruin thousands of dollars worth of stainless steel. The extractor fan could foul up. The knives could blunt. With the loss of cooking smells, so went the kids and billy-carts. But sellers of burglar alarms did well.

But hang on, what about all those cookery books and watching TV with Nigella and Jamie and all those delicious recipes? Ah, that is just to look good. A bit of make up for the kitchen.

Next morning the Domino or Pizza Hut boxes were piled up in the garbage and, in the meantime, the value of the investment house (not a home) had gone up an amazing, oh, $276, and that in a single day! Anxious mothers would not let their kids take the safe walk to school anymore. Instead, they started driving them in those Darth Vader vehicles and fear became the Joker in the pack.

Are most kitchens now just mock ups or stage sets, just for future open house inspections? No onions or anchovies will cross those Pine-o-Clean spaces again, thank you. We are too busy, preferring to feast off increased values. Hopefully, the downward trend in real estate is temporary and prices will rocket once again soon.

Or is there hope in values going down? Will the kitchen take its rightful place and food smells return? Just imagine a crisis so severe cars and petrol become unaffordable, house prices plummet and the art of cooking is resuscitated. Billy-carts and kids will return; dads will stroll down hills from the bus.

Or is that just pie in the sky?