Housing is becoming an increasingly fraught issue in cities. Not just in Melbourne and Sydney, but in London, New York, Tokyo and the other one. More money gets you less space, and fewer of the fancy conveniences that we take for granted in the modern world, like hot water and access to a kitchen or toilet that isn’t literally in the same room as the toilet or kitchen.
I’m house-hunting at the moment, having been booted out of my current place by what I’d like to think of as a greedy bloated slumlord puffing on a pipe packed with the sorrows of the less fortunate, but she’s actually just a nice lady who wants to move back into her flat that she (probably) owns through a combination of good luck and solid investment choices. (I imagine wherever she was living before that boosted the rent on her, or something) So now, due to the trickle down economics of rental pressure, she has to dispossess me of my little place in the world and cast me out into the cold world of traipsing through property listings figuring out what comforts I can compromise for proximity to the city that is the base of my livelihood.
Yesterday, after another fruitless round of inspections, including a tour through a place surrounded on three sides by construction zones and one of those places that’s like an exquisite form of self harm (being $30 above my weekly budget, and therefore an utterly unreachable paradise of wooden floorboards and natural light), I sat on a corner in the rain and spoke for a while with a troupe of snails who had come out for a quick shower.
Here’s what these smug homeowners have to say about the property market.
Dennis is a common garden snail, born with a thin shell that he’s built up over the years by packing his own lunch and refusing to eat avocado on toast. When I asked him if he thought maybe that his shell had come in part by virtue of his birth as a snail, Dennis scoffed. ““When I was trying to build my shell, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each. If you can’t afford your own shell right now, all you have to do is wait for your parents to die, and then move into their luxury shell, or sell it and buy two smaller shells, one as an investment. Assuming your parents have a big shell, which in my experience, all parents do.”
A large African snail, Sandra acknowledges that the market has changed, but points to historical precedent in telling home-seekers that it used to be a lot worse. “We’re a long way from hot-bunking and flop-houses, where people would pay a few dollars to sleep in a chair on a rope. This is hardly the depression. Kids these days are immensely spoiled – they want a place they can live affordably that isn’t ankle deep in sewerage, and three meals a day. If they want to save money, they should just move to a shack in the country and commute in four hours a day. I heard of a guy who did that once and now he has a house.”
Violet made her money as a model in the 80s, back when a career in the arts could actually be profitable. She has three investment properties, but describes herself as ‘not that rich’. She’s pretty confident that the housing bubble will burst, but warns potential investors that overall this will be a bad thing for the market, saying, “a fall in the nation’s average house prices is likely to weaken the sharemarket, other investment returns and superannuation balances.” So be careful what you wish for, when you’re wishing you had a place to live that you’re not constantly in danger of being uprooted from or priced out of.
These five snails live together to save costs on electricity and rent. They have a chore wheel, and although they’re all adults with independent lives, say that they enjoy the communal spirit of sharing space and a Netflix account. Sometimes they have a wine and cheese night, which totally makes up for the occasional inconvenience of having to pick someone else’s pubes off the mirror in the bathroom. “Though fucking Steve always refuses to do the washing up.”
As a generation of slugs in hats, we can take a few tips from these happy homeowners. Our options seem to be:
1) be born rich;
2) have rich parents in ill health;
3) be born thirty years earlier;
4) have a house instead of a skeleton;
5) eat less avocado on toast;
6) give up your dreams.