Instability, home ownership and kids

Kids playing at home Image courtesy of Moving at the Speed of Creativity

When you’re a kid, your home is such a massive part of your life. It’s your base, it’s where you spend time, it’s where you make (and lose) friendships, and, above all, it’s constant. At least, that’s the theory.

I had a good childhood. I had two loving parents, two wonderful siblings and a few adorable cats. I was lucky to be raised in a family that cared for and nurtured me, through good times and bad.

By the time I left home aged 17, I’d also moved house at least 10 times

By the time I left home aged 17, I’d also moved house at least 10 times (I just tried to count an exact number, but I genuinely can’t remember every house I lived in) in at least 5 suburbs across Wellington.

The impact of this was considerable. I was fortunate enough to remain at one primary school and then one secondary school throughout this time, but the stability that a home is supposed to provide eluded me. The result of this still effects my life today.

to have the chance to know that home is home and will always be a place they belong

Now, as I near my 30s, I’m thinking more and more about what I want for my own kids one day. Above all, I want them to have stability at home, to have the chance to know that home is home and will always be a place they belong.

I’m not particularly attached to the idea of home ownership. Because of my upbringing, I don’t really know much about it – it is relatively meaningless to me. That typical kiwi dream of a quarter acre section which, with some wire and hand-me-down DIY skills, you make your own, is foreign to me. What I do know about, however, are the downsides of instability.

Instability means your neighbourhood friends don’t stay. Those kids who you get a joint babysitter with, play backyard cricket with, have your first sleepovers with, they change. 6 months after you meet them, you’ll never see them again, and you have to start from scratch with a whole new set of 7-10 year olds on a whole new street.

Instability means your room isn’t really yours.

Instability means your room isn’t really yours. One day you’ll have enough space for your bed, your desk and all of your toys – the next, you’ll have to decide which toys you really want as the rest go into boxed storage or to your cousins as there’s nowhere to put them.

Instability means your favourite playground with the awesome balancing beams and big twisty slide is now halfway across town instead of a 10 minute walk away. You’ll look forward to visiting your cousin as her house is close and you might get to go to the park together.

Instability means swapping the beach who’s rocky outcrops you know like the back of your hand for a busy street where your cat gets run over and your mornings are signalled by the first jet plane roaring overhead.

we’re living in a country with a culture and laws that support home ownership

I have no philosophical objection to renting. If New Zealand had pro-renter laws, where you could make a home your own and ensure stability in a rent-for-life situation, I’d stay renting with pleasure. Instead, we’re living in a country with a culture and laws that support home ownership, while making home ownership further and further out of reach for most people.

So, I’m starting to save. Along with my civil union partner, we’re lucky enough to be earning incomes that mean home ownership in Wellington is a realistic possibility for us one day. But while that’s a survival tactic in this messed up world for us, it isn’t accessible for many.

At a time when you’re personally the least mobile, being deprived of stability due to mobility out of your control

I’m thinking of all those kids to come in the same position I once was. At a time when you’re personally the least mobile, being deprived of stability due to mobility out of your control. It’s rough.

A lot of what we hear from politicians is about making home ownership more realistic for more people – regardless of whether the policies would work, this is the rhetoric that surrounds them – but that ignores the growing number of people who will never be able to afford to buy, or who want to continue to rent.

Pro-renter policies – those that improve the quality of rentals, the affordability of renting and the stability of renting – are a must for any future Government. I’ll post about some of these in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, I ask:

Won't somebody please think of the children?

About Asher (12 Articles)
I've spent most of my life in Wellington (with some time overseas and a few years in Christchurch too). I like politics, whisky, cats and brunch. Best place to find me is on twitter, @ashergoldman.

2 Comments on Instability, home ownership and kids

  1. anarkaytie // January 10, 2015 at 1:08 pm //

    Oh, the irony of that image :p

    I could write volumes on this topic from the perspective of a parent who became de-housed, and struggled to keep the roof over my own & my children’s heads while renting (and still struggle, despite said children being mostly grownup now) – because there are systemic injustices that keep people on low/er incomes renting, for longer now than ever in the past; but I think you have covered this one pretty well.
    Having to pack up and move (again, and again … ) is destabilising for anyone, parent, child or elderly renter.

    Currently the paradigm at the Tenancy Tribunal is weighted towards protecting the ‘investment’ made by the property speculator who owns the rental property, and does little to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords.
    It takes a huge effort to get a finding against a shoddy landlord (I know this personally, I’ve seen two cases through and won both), and often the settlement comes years after the events triggering the complaint – not helpful for someone with responsibilities to keep children/teens housed & cared for.

    Like

  2. Struggling with this at the moment as we contemplate school (or homeschool?), and where we may live over the next wee while

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