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My house is on the city’s coastal outskirts, where even there the soulless architecture of the rich is multiplying. Happily, it thwarts the elegant lines of the multiplying glass boxes by being a squat concrete block cottage painted in Resene Scandal. Ownership makes me a "have" in a country fast filling with "have nots" and "never will". I did not invest well or wisely to attain this lofty status. I did not squirrel away my nuts, predicting skyrocketing property prices. I simply came out of the emotional tumbleweed of a separation holding the only thing the other person didn’t want.
The house was worth $140,000 10 years ago and - probably because it sits on a largish section - is now worth nearly half a million dollars. Half a million dollars. This is a place where, if a rat dies under the floorboards, I have to lux up maggots.
Yeah, whatever. For any young person dreaming of home ownership, saying, "Oh, it’s a s... box, really" is right up there with other annoying old people stuff like "that time I went to Egypt" ("Oh, the places you can’t go!"), and leaving voicemails.
Even though its value has increased because rich people went crazy and bought all the houses, I’d find it hard to contemplate selling my wee bach. Fondly do I recall the days when I was renovating it myself, when there was no toilet or shower or kitchen, the months of digging holes in the garden like a dyspeptic cat, rage-chopping the trees with a $10 handsaw, boiling the jug for two-minute showers achieved by hefting a water container up on to a shelf. Those days now seem like the best of my life, so filled were they with small and large achievements, a sense of pride at each advance into civility and comfort. Hot water out of a tap! A toilet! (I still wee in the garden every now and then, for old time’s sake).
I know how lucky I am, luck being a kind of universal fairness designed to even things out so that the tiger in our lifeboat doesn’t eat everything.
Recently, a development was proposed, rejected, being appealed, that would turn parts of the headland into a housing area. This land is over my back fence, where right now there is a paddock of leaping little lambs. If the appeal is successful, I will go from living in a sparsely populated rural location with enough privacy to wander about stark naked should I wish, to contemplating a brand-new subdivision from the throne of my composting loo. Of course I don’t want people and houses where currently there is only grass and sky, who would? Equally, I don’t want to be some sullen grey-haired biddy opposing housing during a housing crisis.
Folks need somewhere to live, and change is inevitable; although the loss of a stand of 100-year-old macrocarpa trees planted by lads who never came back from WW1 would be a blow. Thing is though, the people who need housing the most never seem to be the ones who benefit from rural land being opened up for development. Invariably, because the banks love you if you already own property, the wealthy, never able to leave an available asset un-portfolio’d, gobble it up, because fairness isn’t in fashion and you can say, "be kind" until you’re blue in the face but they’ll still cheat lockdown and nip off to their holiday house.
The acronym nimby usually applies to leafy suburb dwellers who find housing for the less well-off objectionable if it’s zoned anywhere near them - but I’ll tell you what I don’t want in my backyard: rich people. They eat all the luck and leave none for others. They are a blot on the landscape worse than, yet sadly also equivalent to, a hundred glass boxes.