Extract From 'SUBURBAN ADAPTATION' by Trina Day
PROFESSION: Environmental Consultant
CURRENTLY LIVING WITH: 2 friends in a shared house
Janice has been looking to buy a house for about 4 years, but at her salary the options are limited. Janice has decided that it makes more sense to buy a property collectively, and is currently looking for people with similar lifestyle and environmental concerns to purchase a property together with.
Why have you decided to purchase property in Sydney?
I have been living in Sydney for 17 years, and have decided I don’t want to live anywhere else – my career, my friends, my networks are all here.
What are you looking for in a home?
Home for me is a place I can settle and put down roots. Having a garden is incredibly important for me, I have been living in this rental house for 6 years now and all the trees are in pots and waiting for a permanent garden. Some of them are 8 foot tall. Home is also, or I would like it to be, a sense of family. A few years ago I looked at all my friends and realised they had made a family with kids, pets, a house. I missed out on that, but I still want to be surrounded by people who I care about.
Why do you want to purchase property with other people rather than alone?
With my finances, my options are limited. I can either buy a small apartment in the city or a decent size house out of the city – somewhere like Woy Woy. Neither option really fits the lifestyle I want. A small apartment by myself with little or no garden, or moving to a town where I know no-one and have to commute.
So primarily it is a financial decision, shared capital costs and shared living expenses. But I am also keen to create this sense of family.
I have a fear of growing old alone, and I want to live in a place where everyone is involved in each other’s life and people work in the garden together and help out. I am also excited by the potential environmental benefits of a group of people living together. Shared capital costs could include solar panels, large rainwater storage tanks, compost, fruit trees, large vegetable garden etc.
How many people living at the property would be ideal?
I think a group of between 3 - 5 households would be ideal. 2 households seems too intense, and I think more than 5 households would be a bit unwieldy.
Would you choose to live with best friends or would you prefer a more acquaintance relationship?
I would worry that I would fall out with best friends and lose the relationship. This happened in share houses when I was younger. I would prefer to live with people who have similar interests and lifestyle as me, but who have separate lives. I want to keep my friends as friends, and meet up for dinners and sport and drinks like we do now.
Would everyone living in the property be owners or would people rent?
Long term renters would be fine. But the people I co-own the property with have to be very involved, especially at the beginning when all the decisions about finances, capital costs and legal arrangements are being made.
What facilities would be shared?
Mostly the outside areas. All the gardens and a bbq space and maybe a ‘rumpus’ space – for table tennis, or movies, or for harvesting produce, or for kids sleepovers etc. The laundry and washing line could definitely be shared. A guest studio. Maybe an outdoor bath. I would consider a carshare arrangement, but maybe we would start off with separate cars and then assess after a year or so.
Would it be compulsory that people engage in community activities?
I am not keen on too many rules, or forcing anyone to do anything. But I would imagine there would be monthly meetings to discuss administrative issues, and sort out any conflicts.There would be a regular communal dinner and drinks but these would be spontaneous rather than compulsory. I would prefer to live with people who want to be involved with the garden, but this would not be enforced.
Are pets allowed?
Definitely. I would want to take my cat and chicken, and would want others to bring their pets too. It may be a problem if someone had an aggressive dog, but this could be worked out on a case by case basis.
It would be great if children lived in the group. And I imagine it would be great for them and their parents to have extra people around for company and childminding. I wouldn’t mind if all the other households had children.
As you are intending this to be your long term home, does the design need to cater for less mobile people?
Good to consider this – but I love levels. I would love a loft bedroom, and split levels in the living areas. Maybe there could be one or two apartments on ground, and it could be possible to move into one of them if my legs stopped working. Or maybe having stairs would keep me motivated to stay fit. Maybe the apartment could have an upper level, and when I become old this could be divided somehow to rent out.'
Does an apartment for a future live-in carer appeal?
Maybe, but I imagine we could hire someone at an hourly rate for a few hours a day.