Making It real
My story in attempting to bring a new housing type that improves affordability, livability & community resilience
As much as I want you to experience my captivating writing style by encouraging you to read the entirety of this blog, I’ve already given you the core message within the title: Time. Of course, there is much more to it, but the importance of this indiscreetly abused resource can be highlighted in this one simple question; How much would you value if you were given an extra 4 weeks of free time per year? What would you do with it? This is not as far out of reach as you may think.
When I reflect on what I enjoy the most about being alive, it’s never the experience of sitting in traffic or knowing I had close to an hour travel before I would arrive at my front door. The time lost in daily commuting is a complete failure of our city planning and I wanted nothing more but to protect this non-replenishable resource. This placed extraordinary value on local amenities to ensure that everything I needed or wanted, would be within walking distance or could quickly be accessed. Like many inner suburban areas, Northcote is blessed with a richness of amenities as it was designed when car possession was not a right to exist as it is by some newer communities today. The suburban arrangement where amenities are within walking distance is increasingly not the norm as such constraints as affordability, planning, and population growth have driven us further from where daily services and loved ones are located. Yet when thinking deeper about it, I was becoming convinced it wasn’t just the commute that was sucking our free time.
When considering our environment in conjunction with the full cycle of family life, there appeared to be a whole raft of challenges that if you looked at each in isolation, you could easily miss that they were all contributing pixels to an unforgiving time vampire. It was the sum of a range of life demands and challenges which was indiscreetly sucking our time and inadvertently exacerbating modern dilemmas such as; family fragmentation, community disintegration, dementia and mental health issues stemming from loneliness. It was almost as though we had forgotten what was important as we slogged away at trying to reach a preconceived expectation of what home ownership should be as defined by an inflexible planning system and reality TV.
At around this time, I was also contemplating what would happen to my aging parents and those of others who would soon need more attention and care. On the flip side to this, demand for childcare services was exploding as more and more families were needing dual incomes to stay afloat of life expenses. I would often hear of the challenges of drop off’s and pick-ups, but this was also dependent on how lucky parents were in finding a center close to home or one at all! The way we were choosing to live seemed to be out-of-sync with the systems we were forced to work within, and I couldn’t help but feel that if things didn’t change, social issues would eventuate. Counter-intuitively, this was not being helped by strong economic growth.
Increased property prices were only forcing many further away from friends, families, services and work. Increasingly our time was being spent running from place to place or working to support our growing families whilst also keeping an eye on ensuring we had enough retirement funds to support a longer life for both ourselves and our parents. This was leaving little time to enrich important relationships or allowing us the time to do those activities that we desired to do but kept putting off. As I was reflecting on this, I remembered my time in Europe where I lived with my Cousins family which was in a house containing 4 generations.
Even though at times personal space was a premium, there was an inherent balance and evident teamwork where every household member would share daily chores and assist each other where needed. Dropping kids to kindergarten and taking grandparents to a doctor’s appointment was easily coordinated allowing a deeper focus on other matters. Obviously for this to work the way it did, there needed to be a broad understanding and respect between all the household members but there was one other key contributing factor that contributed to the harmonious relationship; the way the house was designed. Even though the house had an external form like other homes, internally it was designed with separate living quarters allowing a sense of ownership whilst offering a personal sanctuary that families of different generations needed. Even with these separate living quarters, much of the household activity would revolve around the ground floor kitchen where grandparents would often care for the grand-kids while the income generating parents could focus on other matters knowing their children were in the best of care. There was something both magical yet uncannily logical about this arrangement that clearly demonstrated that everyone in that household had more time to do what they wanted to. I arbitrarily estimated that each person would have been saving between 1-2 hours per day as a result of shared chores and expenses. That’s a whole 4 weeks free time returned back per year.
It was here I started to wonder why such an arrangement was not commonly discussed or considered within the context of Melbourne, especially when pressures from spatial constraints were becoming more evident.
A property expert with over 25 years experience working across both private and public sectors, predominately within the housing space.