Sunday, May 13, 2007

A mother's day moan

I'm about to bitch about the housing market. For those of you who've heard this one, please bury your heads in the sand now.
It sucks to be a renter in Melbourne. It really does. It's actually horrifically depressing. Our rent has just gone up $80 a month. $80! Last time I had to deal with a rent hike was a few years ago and it was $5 a week. The thing that sucks most about $80 in one fell swoop is that it seriously cuts into what little we have that is play money. Unassigned, coffees out, a couple of videos, a bit of gratuitous chocolate money. What's more, the amount they want breaks down (if you do the whole multiply by 12 and divide by 52 thing to turn monthly rent into weekly rent) to $300.99. 99c! Just so they can squinkle an extra $50 a year out of us. THE BASTARDS.
And do we get any more value for our money? Of course not. We still have a hole in our kitchen window that we have asked, begged and pleaded with the landlord to fix. We have cracks in the wall (when people come to visit Frederique likes to give them the crack tour - she's a little worried the house is going to fall down in the middle of the night. Apparently the landlord doesn't share her concerns. This is because he doesn't think about us at all, except when he's making the decision to up the rent). We have crumbly plaster, missing sections of skirting board, and a grape vine that ate Paris that the landlord generously offered to have cut back for us (then promptly forgot to give a rat's arse about us). But they didn't put the rent up because the house is worth it. They put the rent up because there's not much we can do about it.
Moving is of course an option. We could move into a one bedroom flat (maybe if we're lucky a 2 bedroom tiny gardenless flat) in an area where Fred and Una could still go to the same creche and where we might get a place for Fred in 4yo kinder - if we move into another council our chances of a place for next year are slim. In fact, they're not even that great here, though luckily Fred can do 4yo kinder at the creche that it took us 2 years to get into. Our friends are in this area, most of them bought a house just before the market shot through the roof. Yeah, we didn't do that. Some of them are renting and at some point, like us, will be driven out of the area. If we move to a different area, the chances of us finding a place at creche for Fred and Una (let alone a place at a creche that we like) are almost nil.
We actually got this house without looking at it. There was so much competition for houses, it was a week of insane heat, Frederique vomited from sitting in the back of our hot car driving around in the heat of the day looking at houses. So we went to a nice air conditioned real estate office and applied for everything on their books that we could afford (which you aren't allowed to do). We signed the lease sight unseen. No one had seen it. That's why we got it. The market is still insane. Prices are rising. Investors are buying again because rents are going up, so the prices to buy are rising too.
There's things about this house I love. Sitting in the alcove at night watching the tellie, the high ceilings on one side, aeroplanes in the sky outside. The backyard, the size of the girl's bedroom, the funny internal window between the girl's room and the lounge room that they climb through (and through which we can hear them giggling at night). Bad things include having to write in the living room and the lack of space for more babies (should one happen upon us) and the stupid micro bath that is up a big step (bad for pregnant ladies, should one want to shower there - and no I am not pregnant, but one day I might like to be.). And the fact that the house is possibly going to crack in two and all the other things I already whinged about. Realistically though, our days here are numbered. The rent will continue to rise and it seems mad to start Fred at a school when our chances of continuing to rent in this area (let alone buy - don't make me laugh...and cry) are minimal, to say the least.
The thing about moving further out (besides the creche/kinder issue) is that then we greatly reduce our access to all the free stuff that makes our lifestyle possible. No more riding to the museum, walking to Ceres or Kate C.'s place or to see Zoe and Dan. Depending on where we move to, less time with family like Martin's parents, Mart's sister and Fred and Una's cousins.
Plus we tried living in the suburbs and it made me seriously unhappy. I am sorry to people who live in suburbs and like it, maybe we just picked the wrong suburb. But I need people to live on the streets, not behind their front door. I need to feel like there's a buzz in the air, that people live in their area, not get into their car in their remote controlled LUG (that's garage in real estate speak) and drive somewhere else to live their lives. I didn't move to Melbourne to live miles away from it. I moved to Melbourne for the CBD, the inner suburbs. I want pedestrian culture, bike tracks, museums, schools that serve lattes at their school fairs. I want to shop on a street - I hate shopping centres. I hate them. I HATE THEM. (Did I mention I hate them?) I want air. I want light. I want a FREAKING house.
There are suburbs we could afford a 3 bedroom house, maybe even we could afford to buy one (I don't particularly want to buy a house, except that it sucks to be a renter in Melbourne). I have nothing against these suburbs or the people that live there. It's just that I don't want to live there. I want to live here. Or here-ish. I want to keep our childcare centre, Fred's ballet school, our place in the queue for kinder. Our friends close by, family a decent-ish drive away). But I want all this and a 3 bedroom house with walls. Apparently this is being fussy and demanding. Thus a long ranty post filled with impotent rage. If you came this far, you're very kind. Thanks for listening.
Happy mother's day me. I got things and lunch out of the deal. And to my mother, Fran. And to all the mothers I know. You're all doing a marvellous job.


  1. BASTARDS... That's far too kind!! And greedy too... And good reading for Soup du Jour - soup needs a bit of substance from time to time.
    Ms Soup

  2. Hey, if you can't bitch on Mother's Day it is not much use, is it? I was having a good one, too, till I found out my nephew's integration funding has been severely cut - action all stations tomorrow. (He is integrated, my son never was, however they both have the same diagnosis, so the bond is there.)
    Let's maintain our rage, shall we? Told my daughter about your book's excellent review in ABR, too, Penny. I shall have to buy some of these books...

  3. Argle to rent rises. As a landlord I can only stand up for us evil people by mentioning interest rate increases .. they do bite. HOWEVER!! You have EVERY right to get broken windows fixed. We have one too which is conveniently being ignored. Promises made by our landlord about plenty of things have been conveniently forgotten and ignored. As a long time renter I consider us to be excellent landlords though, I'm onto anything the tenants ask for immediately.

    Penn keep looking around West Preston? I want to hear about your 'stuff' too. I received gorgeous drawings and cards and was un-PC-ily thrilled with my iPod dock.

  4. i hear your pain. however i am currently in the amazingly lucky situation of having my parents as my landlords. the rent is still north-fitzroy painful, but at least i can ring up my landlord at any hour and say 'dad! there is no hot water! fix it or i won't love you any more!!!"

  5. Ah yes, Love. An excellent currency, much better than money.

    Dusty, I get what you're saying about rising rates, however rents don't go down when rates go down - in fact the last time interest rates went down, house prices shot up and rents shot up to match. I don't know if I believe that tennants should cover rising interest rates, surely it's part of the ups and downs of any kind of investment. I particularly liked what the article said about longer term leases - which wouldn't apply to you particularly Jo since you need a certain amount of flexibility as it's your principal home that you're renting out. But this house isn't anyone's home, it's a long term rental property - and I'm talking about protecting long term renters - you've always chosen shorter term renters because of that flexibility. Besides your house is much much nicer than this one.

    There are greater social reasons for protecting long-term renters too - if rents and house prices continue to rise, then a lot of service providers who don't earn high wages like teachers, nurses, childcarers etc are going to pushed out and vital services will suffer.

  6. I hear you. It sucks.

    I find a "notice to do repairs"* works wonders. It's an official request that you can get from the tenants union and it's the first step in the process to take them to the tribunal. Shits them no end. I was going to send one a month at one point then they fixed the roof and life as a renter became bearable again. And I'm one of the lucky ones. Hmmph, now I'm ranting, what we need is a flood of affordable social housing onto the market, that'd work.

    Oh and happy belated Mother's Day :)

    * or called something similar.

  7. I remember when The Great Hailstorm of 1999 punched the skylight out over my bed, and totally destroyed the whole of my bedroom. We contacted Residential Tenancies and were told that we didn't actually have to pay rent until the stuff was fixed.

    My boss has just had her retail rent hiked to $780/week. The cafe up the road, with the same landlord, pays $140/week.

    I went and got waxed for mother's day. I was so zonkered i actually fell asleep and "snored gently" during the armpit bit. The beautician was a bit puzzled.

  8. We had th esame prob here in Brisvegas. Housing prices went up, rent was still schaep, housing prices stabilized, rent went up, and up and up to match the housing prices. We moved another 10 mins out of town, so I now have a 20 min drive to drop Jman at school. Luckily we got the place in a snap, we stayed with the same realestate and they prefer tenants that they know rather than newbies.
    If you have a lease, you should be able to Bitch to the Tennants Union (or Vic equiv.)of ridiculous rental increase. Here in QLD if you have a lease they can only increase to a reasonalble level.... ooo, found this for you..