Millennials, I’m a boomer and I sympathize with the housing market

NOTICE: Millennials, don’t hate me. I’m a baby boomer living in a pre-1930 house in a leafy Wellington suburb near a transportation hub.

I love my home and the neighborhood, and I’m actively starting to understand the idea of ​​apartment buildings popping up around me.

At least that’s how intensification was portrayed in a lively section of Wellington City Council’s draft spatial plan. The reality will be a little different.

I recognize Wellington needs to scale up and grow to accommodate current and future residents. Ultimately, our homes in and around town centers will be largely high rise, as in many European cities.

I am sickened by the idea that entire generations will be excluded from the housing market or cannot find decent accommodation to rent. It is a national disgrace.

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The main causes of the current crisis appear to be the continued policy of the government and city council, the lack of capital gains tax and the commodification of housing.

The reluctance of character owners to voluntarily sacrifice their homes to provide land for high-rise buildings is not a cause, but a complication.

I’m not your stereotypical boomer. I am politically left-liberal. I have paid for my higher education, I advocate cycling and walking, and I think climate action needs to be stepped up.

But I bought a house when the prices were much lower.

Houses of character are my natural environment. I grew up in a large 1912 house in Auckland, purchased to accommodate our large family. My father spent years decorating the house, inside and out, tying himself to the fireplace when he worked outside.

My Wellington Home was built in 1926 and is a native log cabin with stained glass windows. It gets a lot of sun and is earthquake resistant. He trembled alarmingly during the Kaikōura earthquake, but the only consequences were photos and images hanging slightly askew.

The house is dry and well insulated, but does not have double glazing (if only we could afford it). It is lovingly cared for and perfectly fit for use.

It has also become a ridiculously valuable asset. But this new wealth means little when you want to stay in Wellington where the family is located.

Prices and insurance have also skyrocketed. Without part-time work, we couldn’t afford to stay here.

As much as I see our home providing comfort and enjoyment for decades to come, older homes and all homes become parodies when left to rot, kept purely for rental income or capital gain.

I am appalled that many young people only know older houses as drafty, moldy monstrosities.

Many older character owners have grown up with the idyll of the house and the garden.

Our purchases were a natural progression of events. The housing crisis has happened around us. Nonetheless, we are here, well seated, and a little alarmed by the inevitable changes to come. But I think we are reacting more to the rhetoric around demolition and skyscrapers than to reality.

I applaud the mid to high rise building construction project in the CBD. These must be safe, warm, functional and affordable.

I hope the architects will create space for landscaping and common areas. I hope these blocks provide everything a house should.

I believe many older owners would be happy with higher density expansions in our suburbs, provided they are well designed and fit for purpose, which is certainly what new owners want too.

Given the high price of land in established areas, these are unlikely to be horrors. New housing must be marketable.

Many of us would also welcome reused character properties. If the bones are good, wouldn’t that be a cheaper and greener option than tearing them down and rebuilding them? Although sheltering fewer people than an average height.

Not everyone wants to live in a building.

More infill housing is another option, especially behind character homes with large sections.

From an aesthetic and architectural point of view, this preserves the character of the street. New construction can be two or three storey and designed to blend in with the whole, or to make interesting differences.

The sunny sections below road level could house six-story apartment buildings without interfering with the light and views of others. Tiny houses could appear in small sections.

Intensification can and should be done well, so that the amenities of the existing environment are not compromised too much for everyone.

I qualify as QIMBY (quality in my garden). Describing the housing dilemma as NIMBY (not in my garden) vs YIMBY (yes, in my garden), style rather than substance, boomers vs millennials, belittles the debate and alienates both sides.

This is not a situation either / or.

Boomers, let’s be thankful that we were born in an era that has given us the privilege of owning property and reaching out to those on the newer side of history. Their grievance is real. Many of us already know this, having watched our own children struggle to gain a foothold in the housing market.

We shudder at their mortgages, but at least they’re there.

Our beloved homes are highly unlikely to disappear – yet. Dilapidated structures beyond repair yes, and good riddance.

If these are on adjacent sections, this is an opportunity for something new and interesting, and if not in height, at least to accommodate several households.

In reality, it will take decades to build the infrastructure for high and mid-rise apartment buildings in the suburbs.

The availability of land will also be an issue, as older people may be tempted to stay in their homes longer. Land prices will be another obstacle.

The debate is not a binary yes or no to intensification. There are much more nuanced and exciting possibilities for the future of our city.

Let’s focus on quality for all and seek creative solutions from our top planners, architects and developers.

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