“You gotta own a piece of dirt,” the man said. No, he wasn’t a farmer. In fact, what made this noteworthy was that he was in the business of selling apartments.
If you decode his statement, he was saying that you must own your own home and, furthermore, apartments don’t really count.
It’s a typical Australian attitude – certainly compared to the larger cities of Europe, the USA and Asia – but, thankfully, those expressions of what you can only describe as dirt-think, are changing.
Just how great that attitude shift is, the developers of a new scheme at Sydney’s Olympic Park are about to discover.
Mirvac has just opened the doors of a new build-to-rent development – two towers out of four residential blocks – near the stadium.
This, they say, is the first of its kind in Australia. And as such, Mirvac executives are fully aware that they are battling not just dirt-think but misconceptions about what “build-to-rent” means.
Specifically, a lot of people confuse the concept with affordable housing. In some ways, that could not be further from the truth.
In fact, you probably could rent comparable flats in the area for considerably less. They say Opal Towers is going cheap.
But seriously, Liv Indigo (for that is its name) comprises two towers with 315 one, two and three-bedroom apartments, luxury facilities and hassle-free, money-saving living arrangements.
For instance, you don’t have to buy white goods – they are installed – there is no bond, you can cancel your gym membership because there’s one in the block, there are meeting rooms and a cinema that you can rent for movie nights with your mates.
There are also no stupid by-laws written last century that you can’t get rid of and no committee members leaving rude post-it notes on your door, … because there’s no strata committee … because it’s not strata – the blocks are owned by one entity.
There are also maintenance people on site to fix things so you don’t have to call the rental agent and they (maybe) call the landlord and they (maybe) call the strata manager and something (maybe) gets done the week before your lease runs out.
Oh, and yes, there are no rental agents, rent rises are capped and the blocks are pet friendly.
Now, if this seems like a huge ad for Mirvac, it’s not intended to be. That developer just happens to be the first to bring this new kind of living online in Australia ( at least, at this level of relative luxury). But I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last.
Young Australians are gradually beginning to realise that there’s more to life than getting that much-vaunted foothold in the property market and then paying for it for the next 25 years. How sad is it when one of our great life ambitions is to be mortgage-free?
Okay, one good reason we buy property is so that we always have a home to come back to. But when your lease is for a year, rather than six months, that’s double the sense of security and ‘home’ that most renters get.
And if this landlord isn’t turning over tenants regularly to make it easier to raise rents, you can stay as long as you like.
So, is this the future of renting in Australian’s cities? Maybe, but perhaps there’s more.
Consider the huge luxury complexes like the one I featured in these pages 18 months ago, where there’s a dog park, a running track, an indoor golf driving range and an exclusive residents-only licensed club.
One thing that Mirvac and other developers could do is re-rand this kid of housing. Build-to-rent isn’t affordable housing … unless you consider time-poor business people as being disadvantaged.
Maybe something like “Selective Rentals” or “Choose-to-rent” would be appropriate. It would certainly help to prevent rental being a dirty word in the minds of the “housies” who need to keep their feet on the ground.
A version of this column first appeared in the Australian Financial Review.