Why we won’t share our homes (really)

Did you live in a share house in your earlier days? Some of my best young adult memories and lifelong friendships were built in share houses.

Yes of course there were the messy flatmates, the ones that didn’t pay bills on time, the party animals and the downright disruptive. But what better way to meet a melting pot of humanity? This was particularly enlightening for me as a country girl moving to the ‘big smoke’ in my late teens – and an experience that extended at least 7 different houses and 7 years that I wouldn’t change.

Share housing taught me a lot about life. It introduced me to a swag of new friends and it also meant I had somewhere safe to lay my head in an otherwise overly inflated city market.

Now, a bit over 20 years, 3 kids and home ownership down the track I’m stepping back in to the share housing market, albeit as the landlady this time.

My decision was born of two very simple facts.

  1. My children are leaving home and one person does not need five bedrooms and
  2. The additional rent will really help out as interest rates hike

Last year I was one of a team who put together a great little film called ‘our spaces‘. The film showcased the benefits of sharing domestic space. As we conducted the interviews I realised that flatmates were certainly in my destiny.

But I learned something else. Once we launched the film people started contacting me with a bunch of reasons about why they can’t possibly share their space.

The surface level responses sounded like:

“My elderly mum is going to move into my spare room”

“The kids stay there when they come home”

“That’s where I do my craft”

But a little further probing brought forward some deeper reasons:

“What if they murder me in my sleep”

“What if they try to steal my home”

“What if they ruin my things”

And yes, while stranger things have happened none of these are the norm.

The people we interviewed, and people I’ve spoken with since have actually told me about their lives being enriched by flatmates. I’ve heard wonderful stories of inter-generational comradery swapping a room for chores and company through to child and pet minding and of course balm for otherwise lonely lives.

I also heard many stories about ‘borders’ or ‘lodgers’ shared by older people reminiscing about the interesting people that used to come and live in their family home way back when.

The 2021 Census identified over 13 million spare rooms across Australia and a lot of these owned by older people.

Are we dumb? Isn’t flatting or share-housing just boarding rebadged? Maybe it’s time for a branding change? Roll out the nostalgia.

There are other reasons why people aren’t sharing their home and this is where government needs to really step in.

  1. Income – soon as rental income is on the table a swag of repercussions happen for the unsuspecting home owner resulting in the end of the day with more money to pay the Tax Department.
  2. Pension – Income = knock on impacts on pensions and other income support. This is something that truly needs to be adjusted. A different tax rate? Not letting rental income impact pension earning thresholds?
  3. Capital gains – As my accountant spat at me through the phone just last week. I politely told him that we are doing this and need to work it out.

And on top of this having a flatmate could actually make your home insurance null and void.

So, why bother? Well. Other than the abovementioned reasons it’s actually the right thing to do. With labour market AND housing shortages across Australia right now we cannot wait for government to solve these issues.

It’s time for us to put our spare rooms where our mouths are and do something.

My listing is up and the flatmate search is on… Keep you posted.


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