Christchurch… not enough houses, but a glut of office-space (albeit without any parking)

An article on the Christchurch Press newspaper/Stuff website, by Marta Steeman on 24 January 2015 said this…

“…Anyone who’s driven along Durham Street North, which flows into Cambridge Terrace, recently can’t help but be struck by the boom in commercial construction along the strip on the western edge of the Avon River.

The buildings jostling for space and attention sit just outside the CBD, a much smaller area than it used to be after being redefined by the Government’s blueprint for the rebuild of the city. And that’s important because the area is free of the Government prescriptions imposed on the blueprint development, developers say…” (Quote ends)

(A link to the full article appears at the bottom of this article, but here is just one of the comments that was posted below it)

ChrisW1970 7 days ago (as of 31/01/15)

I for one am glad that the private sector have been able to get some traction on rebuild projects. If you look at government and CCDU precincts, progress is minimal, compared to across the river west of Durham St. By exerting such a high level of control, CCDU and government/local authority have only served to add unnecessary delays and costs to anchor projects – frankly I think the best thing to do now would be to disband the bureaucratic stinking colostomy bag that is the government run CCDU, and open up ALL the anchor projects to private tender – that way you might actually see some anchor projects completed this decade, and for less money than will be if CCDU and government are allowed to continue to operate in the bumbling and useless manner they have been… of course the CCDU website claims things are going swimmingly on their projects…nonsense! The lack of visible construction works tells a different and more truthful story… (Quote ends)

When I first heard about the much vaunted CCDU Blueprint, in mid 2012, I immediately had major misgivings.

As I saw it, it was a government land-grab, for upto 60% of the CBD area, and as the land was to be seized under special CERA laws, property owners had even less rights than if it was taken under longstanding PUBLIC WORKS act rules.

I thought “Yeah mate, Wellington’s just gonna steal the land, then sell parcels of it off, probably back to its mates, at whatever price it chooses.”

And it seems as if I was 100% correct, going by the following article by Georgina Stylianou from the Stuff website on 31/01/15.

“… The Press understands Fletcher Building, which will wind up its work with the Earthquake Commission this year, is the front-runner among the shortlisted firms being considered by the Government to develop the east frame…

…Last year, CCDU planning general manager Don Miskell said residential land was cheaper than commercial land so the Crown may not recoup the money it had spent buying land in the east frame… (quote ends)

Commenting on the other article, about the Government’s mate, Fletchers, being the front-runner for getting handed over a bunch of, previously other people’s properties, for less than, even the bargain basement price that CCDU gave as “compensation” for stealing people’s freehold land off them.

The prices the government pays for land are secret, however some landowners have said that “negotiations” started with them being offered 10% of the land’s original RV (Ratings Valuation) and eventually the government would creep upto a figure of about 90% of RV. (If you don’t accept the 90% offer, then under the CERA/CCDU blueprint law, the government simply takes your land and gives you nothing).

The problem comes when the old owner seeks to buy new land, similarly zoned, close in to the city, and finds they have only a half to a third of the price of replacement land (it’s not rocket science… remove 60% of the supply of any product and the price will go through the roof, doubling or tripling, what would you expect !).

Some owners or organisations have been right royally screwed over by the government land seizures. The Deaf Society should have been laughing all the way to the bank, as insurance paid for a full rebuild, no expense spared, of the CBD headquarters, but with the government seizing their land, they are only entitled to a far lesser “indemnity value” payout. So these people have effectively been dis-enfranchised from, and lost the benefit of, having a “full replacement, regardless of cost” insurance property.

And don’t even get me started on the debacle over the historic MAJESTIC HOUSE building. This multi-storey building on Manchester Street was repairable for about $15 million (a full re-build would have cost an estimated $60 million), however the owners “Majestic Church” had to take whatever CCDU was prepared to offer in “compensation” for the land, and a lesser indemnity value insurance payout on the building. Since shortly after the February 2011 earthquake, they have been meeting in a refurbished car-sales showroom on Moorhouse Avenue, but the site has almost no parking and they are forced by council rules to pay for parking some distance away. Insurance has been covering some costs, but the church, wanting to settle into a permanent and more appropriate environment, purchased land elsewhere in the Western CBD (part of the 40% remaining that the government didn’t steal) and was intending to re-build its church there, however Christchurch City Council have denied it the necessary planning permission on the basis that “it’s a residential area” (and obviously churches cannot be in residential areas, can they ?).

Here below is the link to the article about the East Frame and Fletchers likely involvement.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/the-rebuild/65628376/Fletchers-front-runner-for-Christchurchs-east-frame

Here is a link to the full article on the STUFF website about the expected glut of high-priced office space …

http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/the-rebuild/65372186/Christchurch-faces-glut-of-office-space

General Election 2014, result is a bad omen for Kiwis on the bottom half of society. OPINION

OPINION… Right that’s it, New Zealand really is a basket-case. That John Key and his mates in the National Party have won another 3 years in power. That’s another 3 years of misery and lack of affordable housing (or any housing at all) for many Christchurch people. Even my local electorate went to the sitting National candidate with a much increased majority of more than 2,000 votes (the electorate boundaries had changed quite substantially, however pundits had said that would make a swing back to Labour, even more likely).

Well at $14.25 per hour minimum wage…that’s what most hardworking Kiwis can earn under this Gestapo-like regime… it’s time to start clearing out my junk, don’t buy anything else, sell the stuff I’ve got, and prepare to head back to Aussie.

There is simply NO HOPE for the future. Unless you’re qualified in the building and construction trades… where there is a few years more work avalable in Christchurch (3 and a half years on from the Earthquakes, some 60% of insurance claims have been finalised… however finalised in many cases means “paid out in cash” and people still living in garages waiting for houses to be re-built (because in order to make the numbers look good, they prioritised minor repairs like paint and wallpaper first and major repairs and rebuilds, have been pushed to the back of the queue. There are concerns that, although the govt has REDUCED the building codes several times already, to allow previous non-legal fixes to be done to houses (it’s saved the insurance companies squillions) that Some of the major repairs undertaken have been dodgy and set up a future disaster of failing houses, just waiting to happen.

Under National’s regime they previously used, never before used powers, to un-seat our elected commissioners at Environment Canterbury (our local regional council which is responsible for everything from ensuring our heavily polluted rivers get cleaned up, to running bus services). The govt installed their own mates in control, and then billed us for their huge wages. They promised they’d allow us to have democratic elections for our local representatives again in 3 years. 2 years later, they said they really liked having the direct control over the entire Canterbury region and said they’d be delaying our regional elections for another 3 years at least… all the while the prime minister’s new mates keep handing out water use consents to farmers and irrigators and they haven’t even cleaned up the existing pollution to waterways, aquifers and wetlands. The Labour party had said, that if elected, Canterbury people would get regional council elections re-instated immediately.

Oh, a glossy brochure came in the mail the other day, another “Recovery Update” (Sept 2014, pp 6&7). Because Christchurch Shitty Council prior to the earthquakes had employed some North Island dude (because he was such an amazing manager, he was worth the more than $ 500,000 annual salary), well he presided over the council under-insuring it’s assets by more than half. (not surprisingly really, he was double-dipping as he was collecting a fat juicy wage as being head of the board of the insurance company too), Well Christchurch city ratepayers had already been having rates rises of 3 or 4 times the rate of inflation yearly, even before the EQs, The brochure says if we want to avoid year-on-year rates rises of 25% to 30%, and keep the annual rates rises down to ‘just’ 10%, the council will need to cut services and flog off their few remaining assets to meet an $ 800 million shortfall. Spendthrifts, I can see $ 400 million in savings just by cutting 2 items. They want to build a new covered sports stadium…something we never had before and will be used (if we’re lucky) about twice a year for rock concerts, there’s over $250 million (note the old football stadium is available to be fully repaired under insurance, but they have since built a new “temporary” stadium anyway (that has a 20 plus year lifespan). Plus they want to build a new “metro sports facility”, and that’s another $ 150 million. Oh both of those new “anchor” projects are to be on someone else’s freehold land that the govt have either recently stolen, or soon intend to steal, from their pre-earthquake owners.

Except for a handful of rich people at the top of society…There simply is NO HOPE for the future. New Zealand is rooted.

To all of the Kiwis out there who are not one of the privileged few, there is one message and one message only from this election… renew your passport and zip off overseas as fast as you can go !

Rolf Harris convicted of historic sex offences in UK court

A court in UK has recently found Australian born entertainer Rolf Harris, guilty of a string of sex offences that the court was told occurred between 1968 and 1986. Mr Harris is now in his 80’s and is liable to a prison sentence of many years.

I am always worried when I hear about cases where there is no actual corroborating evidence, simply a conflicting testimony of “he said, she said” about events that allegedly occurred some 20 or more years ago.

Maybe I’ve seen too many episodes of “C.S.I.” on TV, but I want to see DNA tests, surveillance video, still photos of injuries or other evidence and doctors examination reports.

If the person, in this case Rolf Harris, was accused of possessing a stolen TV back in the 1980’s, a far more minor crime, it would never have gotten into court, and certainly never have won in court, because of “lack of evidence”.

I am concerned that someone can be sentenced to 15 years in jail for rape or other sexual offences, on a charge where there isn’t enough evidence to send them to jail for 3 months (if they were being accused of just having possessed a stolen telly, 20 years ago).

Up until just a few years ago, almost all western nations had a “statue of limitations” which for offences other than murder, generally ran for about 7 to 10 years. This limitation had been brought in many decades (or a century or more ?) earlier in part at least, because of the recognition that it is far harder for an accused person to mount a satisfactory defence after such a long period of time.

Governments the world over, have entire departments dedicated to do nothing but store records (things like police files and other documents, receipts and diaries etc). Most average citizens have nothing more flash than a shoebox full of receipts in the hall cupboard. When moving houses things often get lost. People that own their own home live an average of 7 years at each address, people who rent are often forced to move VERY much more often.

What chance does a person have to prove “No Your Honour, I was 700 kms away on that day, at a concert, here is my ticket stub from May 13th 1963”. The statute of limitations existed for a good reason. If you want to claim that someone has done you wrong, it is my opinion that you should have only 10 years to lodge a legal complaint. Just how long does it take someone to get down to their local cop-shop ! (Or to put it in wedding-like words “If anyone knows of any lawful impediment, let them speak now, or forever hold their peace”).

It’s simply too easy for someone to come up with a story about something that supposedly happened 20 or 50 years ago, and ruin someone’s life (even if the accused person is later exonerated in court).

I remember many years back, seeing the State Premier of South Australia, strutting on TV news like a rooster, saying he was proud that they were taking cases to court that were 50 years old, on the basis of “he said, she said” and where there was no corroborating evidence.

To deliver justice to all accused persons, legal systems need to be arranged so that those accused, have a fair chance to mount a proper legal defence.

Perhaps governments should provide a free archiving safe storage service, so we can all take our cartons of receipts, diaries, calendars and ticket-stubs etc in, and have the government look after them at their expense ?

UPDATED… Rolf Harris is 84 years old (and as frail as you would expect a man of that age) and the court sentenced him to 5 years and 9 months in jail (although an appeal has already been lodged claiming that is too lenient a sentence). The current sentence might allow him to be released in 3 years under a form of probation known in the UK as “licence”.

Rising Islamic militancy, a worry for us all

Firstly, I don’t want people to think I’m just here to “knock the muslims”. I have worked with many Muslim people helping them to learn English. To them their faith was as genuine and valid as any practicing Christian’s.

Recently there has been another armed attack in Kenya, where Islamic militants went door to door killing men who identified themselves as Christian or who could not display enough knowledge of the Koran or speak in a language dialect that the gunmen considered acceptable.

Don’t get me wrong, supposedly “Christian” militant groups have performed terrible atrocities, and I’m NOT talking about the inquisition and witch burnings of hundreds of years ago.

In Rwanda in 1994, many of those involved in the genocidal attacks and deliberate maimings and rapes were, up until they got involved in the violence, “good Christian” people

East Africa’s LRA (“Lord’s Resistance Army”) is a militant group also dedicated to murder and maimings, rape and child slavery, yet it is an ostensibly a “Christian” organisation.

Even in the United States of American, in past years, fundamentalist Christian extremists have bombed health clinics that were performing abortions and deliberately gunned down doctors and nurses who work there (one doctor actually got shot dead inside his church).

However Islamic militancy seems to be storming across the an ever increasing portion of the globe, and nothing seems to be being done to stop it.

Since 1978 the Paris to Dakar rally, held annual events as cars, motorcycles and 4 wheeldrive trucks raced through France, Spain and all of Northern Africa. Indeed in 1992 it raced down the entire Western strip finally finishing in CapeTown in South Africa.

I’m sure that locals benefitted from the rally going through their area, as a substantial contingent of support crew accompanies every rally. Fees and government licencing charges would have brought a welcome boost to struggling local economies.

However the rise of militant Islamists meant the 2008 rally was cancelled at short notice. Northwest Africa had simply become ‘too unsafe’. It was effectively a ‘no-go’ zone for Europeans, other Westerners and anyone who identifies as Christian or non-Muslim.

I am told that the Koran does not actually require all people to convert to the Islamic faith or be killed. I have been told there is a specific place in the faith for Christian people to be accommodated. (Keep in mind that Muslims believe in the same God and the same Old Testament prophets as Christians and Jews. They even believe in Jesus Christ, but consider him to be a lesser prophet than Muhammed).

The rally has been run in South America since 2009. So now it neither starts nor finishes in Paris or Dakar.

But what of the rest of the world and the way things are heading ? Southern France has a substantial population of North African immigrants many of whom are practicing Muslims. Are there those among them being radicalised who will later go on to perform bombings or other atrocities against the Christian European majority of the population ? Does France’s future face bombings in Paris or gangs of Muslim youths performing rape attacks on women wearing short skirts and other western style clothing ? (In Kenya they’re going door to door with machine guns… it’s not such a large step).

Without impinging on the rights of peace loving, Muslim people to go about their lives freely, practicing their faith and soliciting for converts (just like Christian groups do), I really do think the whole world needs to sit up and take notice of increasing Islamic militancy and violence and nip this ever increasing problem, in the bud. Despite untold TRILLIONS of dollars being poured into weapons manufacturers and dealers, and the vastly increased military presence of the USA and other countries, the world is a very much LESS safe place than it was on September 11, 2001. (At least back then you could run a blimmin’ car rally through the African bush, and not worry about being kidnapped and beheaded).

Here’s a link to the latest acts of violence in Kenya, from the Fairfax/Stuff newspaper website.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/africa/10166304/Kenyas-door-to-door-slaughter

Housing crisis… ‘tiny houses’ miss the point entirely

Many cities in Australia and New Zealand are currently experiencing a housing crisis. There is both a lack of supply and what is available is very expensive (when wages and taxes are considered).

From my experience, in the last 25 years, the price of “starter” houses, the very cheapest you could find to buy, in the Christchurch metro area has increased about 15-fold. Gross wages have about trebled (but are now taxed more highly anyway).

This has made things very much harder for people to get “onto the property ladder” (ooh I just HATE that term), especially for one income households, including single people, as well as lower income earners

The main problem, throughout both Australian and New Zealand’s major cities (and even some major country towns) has been the shortage of land.

New Zealand for example has about same land area as the United Kingdom but with only one 15th of the population of the United Kingdom, yet we are suffering a “land shortage”. Yes, Australia and NZ do have a lot more land tied up in National Parks and other wild places, which is why tourists from all around the world flock to see our countries’ natural beauty. There are also vast tracts of land set aside under various “native title” and Aboriginal land reserves.

But among at least some other commentators, I am left with the conclusion that it is the deliberate strangulation and limitation of the supply of new land for housing developments, which is a major cause of the crisis we find ourselves in today. In 1986 land for a housing section (block or plot) on Perth’s outer edge, could be purchased for less than $10,000. Buy 2007 that price had increased to $170,000. Now ‘supply and demand’ effects and often controls the price of, well almost everything. From new toothbrushes to cocaine. Yes the population has increased a bit. But certainly NOT 17-fold.

Restrictions seem to happen at every level, but local councils have perhaps the biggest part to play. Trying to maintain a pleasant GREEN BELT of hobby-farms and lifestyle-blocks on the edge of cities (“with room for a pony” as Hyacinth Bouquet, the Bucket woman, would say) is a laudable idea. Except that we live in a society where as well as immigration, we have a growing population.

Society needs to sit down and have a serious talk. If People are allowed to have more than 2 children in their lifetime, then those children need places to live and work when they grow up.Perhaps if we are to allow unfettered reproduction, we need to allow unfettered development of new “greenfields” lands and new housing ?

There have been some articles lately on television and I was moved to make these comments in relation to a newspaper item.

People seem to think that making tiny houses is the answer. Often to comply with local zoning laws, these tiny houses are fitted with wheels, although they are not intended as road-going caravans. They are NOT licenced to travel on the roads and cannot be towed along or moved unless they have a special transport permit, and often extra wheels fitted.

Now don’t get me wrong, us Western Worlders need to start living more lightly on the planet, and having smaller homes is a part of that equation.

But spending the same amount of a house deposit and months of labour, constructing what amounts to a wooden caravan, is not the answer.

Where are you going to park the blimming thing ?

What few caravan and holiday parks exist are already full of people living in caravans because there aren’t enough houses for people to live in. And more and more, because of the government’s strangulation of new land supply, the caravan and holiday parks that exist are being sold off for other developments and the tenants there thrown out onto the street.

Another factor affecting the price of new housing is entirely unnecessary red tape from local councils.

Now I support building codes. One reason for the minimal casualties that occurred in residential houses during Christchurch’s devastating earthquakes of 2011, is because our houses, especially those of 2 or more stories, must be earthquake resistant.

Soon after arriving back here, I visited a building company and described a housing style I had seen in Australia, but not New Zealand. The guy showed me some catalogues and yes they had similar things available here. A one or two-storey house could indeed be constructed in less than 6 weeks instead of the usual 8 months, and the cost per square metre of floor area was less than 2/3 the normal price (in Australia it’s less than half). “Oh, but you’d never get a building consent to build one in Christchurch” he said “someone at the council doesn’t like the look of them.”

Well “I” don’t like the look of rose bushes in people’s front gardens, should I be allowed to ban them city-wide ?

Keep in mind these houses would comply with all required building, health and safety, fire safety and earthquake resistance codes. Someone at the local council just “doesn’t like the look” of certain housing styles, so EVERYONE has to pay 33% or 50% more for their new houses and has less choice of style !

For many decades now, throughout most major Australian and New Zealand cities, there has been very little new housing built “at the cheaper end of the spectrum”. Some new land subdivisions even have covenants on the title which actively forbid cheaper homes from being constructed.

In due course, and with only expensive houses and land coming on to the market, even years later, what few older and cheaper houses that do exist, get snapped up (often by “developers”, in the case of Auckland, land supply is so tight that even fully refurbished homes which have just had $100,000 in renovations, are often being bought just to be bulldozed, so the land can be used for a new, and even more expensive house build. So there are even LESS older cheaper homes, what used to be the “starter” home for a “first home” buyer.

Here’s a link to the article and following on are my two main comments relating to it. (This was originally published elsewhere and has been edited and extended for publication here).

http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/10135430/Snug-living-space-part-of-global-trend

(1) Sorry it is still dearer than a large caravan and double the price of a 54m2 “4 car garage” that could also be converted and used for housing. The $50,000 price is indeed DEARER than a house deposit for some cheaper Chch houses and you still need a section to park the tiny house or caravan on ! If you have $ 50 k, buy the cheapest house you can and you have room to park 10 caravans or tiny wheeled houses…. and charge all the residents therein $150 a week each in ground-rent. Unfortunately this guy has got a lot wrong. I wonder if it is because he is coming from a background of wealth and privilege and I think he has largely “missed the point”. Note…in principle I am a huge supporter of folks living in tiny houses, caravans and other alternative structures. This guy still needs a section with an un-condemned house on it, to be allowed to park it there and to stay in the wooden-caravan he’s made legally.

(2) Here’s a place that before the earthquakes of 2011 would have sold for about $375,000. It suffered some damage in the earthquakes but is still a completely livable home. The owners have accepted a cash payout from their insurers but chosen NOT to repair the damage. As such the house is being sold “as is, where is, uninsured and uninsurable” for little more than land value only. Repairs can easily run to $100,000 if new earthquake resistant foundations need to be installed underneath an existing house. (URL below, sorry but it no longer works) A beautiful 3 bedroom house in Papanui. It has a “land value” of $151,000 and the entirely livable house will probably sell at auction tomorrow for about $170,000k. That would require about $50,000 deposit. The section land size is under 600m2 so only enough room to park 7 caravans or tiny houses. Still that’s $1050 a week rental income and the mortgage repayments would be $182 a week. So that’s $800 a week in profit or pay off your house freehold in two and a half years ! Thanks Catherine you’ve saved the day yet again. Why are you the lone voice crying in the wilderness and no-one listening to you ! (ok so I cheated slightly, I didn’t consider income tax obligations, but that’s what family trusts are there to avoid eh !)

Note the auction was held on 12 June 2014, I do not know what price it reached at auction. Often in NZ, even at mortgagee auctions, houses get “passed in” and the mortgage holder simply refuses to accept the highest bid, as they are seeking a higher price still.

Here is a link to the advertisement but the way NZ’s Trademe auction website works, is that the advertisement will no longer display.

http://www.trademe.co.nz/Browse/Listing.aspx?id=733349432

Land grab continues, people tricked into selling $350,000 home to Govt for $81,500

I reckon these people are IDIOTS. Can you believe they sold their house, on a full sized section of land, to the GOVT for just $81,000 ! Surely they could have sold it for WAY more than that on the private market ! Even Earthquake damaged “insurance write-off” houses and land sell for double, and more, of that amount.

They had inadvertantly allowed their insurance policy to lapse. After the less damaging, September 2010 Earthquake, insurance companies put a freeze on new policies in Christchurch. Then came the devastating February 2011 EQ. As “uninsured” the Government’s ‘voluntery’ offer to buy their “Red Zone” house was half the land value. Before the EQs the place was probably worth a total of $350,000 (house and land together).

They have accepted the government offer and sold the land to the government (note “Red Zone” is a purely abitrary government invention. With a stroke of the government’s pen, the land could be un-red zoned tomorrow, and the government can then sell it for 4 times the price they bought it for !

They say they had to move out because the place was draughty and leaking. I say that $10,000 of repairs can fix up an awful lot of draughts and leaks ! Anyway they chose to buy a complete, another house, (curiously also an EQ write-off, but they chose one in Bexley, in an area subject to flooding, even before the earthquakes, and doubly subject to flooding now).

Sorry but I have little sympathy for these people, for considerably less than the cost of buying another entire EQ write-off house and land, they could simply have done essential repairs to their existing house (and continued to live in an area with less danger of flooding, every time we get a decent dump of rain).

Note the auction below is NOT for the land, which they have already sold to the governemnt, it’s just for a brick and tile house (so very little value in salvagable materials there, but you could get the door and windows and internal fittings from the bathroom and kitchen etc). Going by the only picture that accompanies the article, it looks like quite a new house. (UPDATED, see bottom of this article)

It’s worth noting that many of the “Red Zone” houses that were sold to the government, were entirely undamaged or had only minor cosmetic damage.

Something around 5,000 houses across several neighbouring NE Christchurch suburbs, have been sold to the GOVT and demolished, leaving the land as open parkland, with scattered trees and shrubs. Less than 140 homes have been retained by their owners. Arguably, those few houses left, in private ownership, in the “residential Red Zone”, could well be worth (to some people) a lot MORE than they were previously. With all the city services of sealed road, water, electricity and telecommunications (which agencies are not allowed to just withdraw) and yet 97% of houses having been removed, means that people with only a residential sized lot to garden and care for around their house, have access to what has become a huge surrounding parkland. The Govt are required to maintain this land at their expense.

I believe that people accepting Red Zone offers by the Govt of half of land value, have been cheated out of their land. They have been absolute suckers. Golly even in the old days, people would get some beads and blankets and Bibles for their land ! I am very sure that history will look back on this sort of thing as just utter land-grab-thefts by the government.

Here is a link to the Christchurch Press newspaper’s website.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/10151597/1-reserve-for-red-zone-house-auction

UPDATED 26 June 2014… The house (well the right to strip it for salvage) ultimately sold at auction for $10,500. Plus extra money was donated to the elderly couple. Here’s a link to the NZHerald’s article.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11282433

House of Squalor or Student Flat ?

How clean is your house ? People who know me know that I’m not the most fastidious housekeeper, but my place is many orders of magnitude above the standard of a “student flat”. (Figure of speech, No offence is intended to those students that keep a tidy house).

Late last year year a friend from Australia stayed for awhile while he was visiting NZ. My previous flatmate had moved out some weeks prior and I had already done some considerable extra cleaning (as he often left food in his room and for the first time ever in this flat, we got mice). When my friend arrived he instituted even stricter cleaning measures, and I didn’t mind. He was prepared to put in the effort himself and do at least 50% of the extra effort, and with his encouragement, I lifted my housekeeping game a little higher than it normally is.

Yesterday I had cause to visit a friends house. Well what an absolute disgrace. I cannot understand how teenage and twenty-something-year-old students live in squalor and mess.. perhaps because their brains are so addled by alcohol and other drugs… and I cannot even fathom how a mature age woman could live like this.

I noticed half a loaf of bread sitting out on the bench as flies buzzed around. The top of the bag hadn’t even been folded over. Certainly the bread could have been put away in the fridge. I checked, the fridge was almost empty, just a few yoghurt pottles. However opening the fridge door, it was clear from the smell that it needed cleaning. Golly even just a decent wipe out with a warm soapy dish-cloth and wiping the interior, and removing some scraps of detritus, would have taken less than 5 minutes and the job would be done.

On the kitchen floor, amongst all the other mess that’s permanently there, is the tangled mess of a long electrical extension cord that has sat there since last week. There was a bottle of cool drink. Still new and sealed, some kind of sugary half-poison, or perhaps artificially sweetened even more poison kind of lolly-water. Well for fruck sake alive why not just put the frucking thing away in the big empty fridge !

To be fair, the cool drink bottle may have originally been left amongst all the other clutter of the bench-top, but been knocked down by the cats. Yes the place has enough cats to open your own branch of the RSPCA and they’re breeding like rabbits. The cats seem to be fed mostly on tinned soft meats and the smell of that goes right through the place. There was possibly some cat’s whoopsies on the carpet too, I dunno, I never saw or stepped in any. But the place certainly had plenty of L’Odour de Pussy.

Look it’s not rocket science… take the clean and dry dishes already sitting in the draining rack and put them away inside cupboards or drawers. Don’t just put dirty dishes in the sink and leave them there…Use the sink to wash all the dirty dishes, which also get dried and put away. I shouldn’t need to tell a mature adult how to do dishes. Don’t leave food out on the benches. Put all plates and cooking pots etc away so cats aren’t climbing all over them. If cupboard space is short, use some storage boxes or put pots inside the oven when not in use.

Not sure whether the basket of laundry sitting cluttering up the floor in the already small kitchen was clean or dirty, but why is it there at all ? A convenient play area for the kittens sure. And what are new packets of sewing pins doing inside the rice cooker ? (I think that by that factor alone, this house beats all so far in the “student flat” category).

Now don’t get me wrong, I know the homeowner works hard and for very much more than 40 hours a week, but goodness me, how can you live in such conditions ?

One reason for making this post is because I care about my friend, I don’t want them to die of some rampaging tummy-bug. I have deliberately NOT named them and suggest it may be better if they DO NOT post a response under this thread. Look I’ll happily come over and help in some way with a clean-up, but yesterday I was wearing white, so tried not to touch anything or sit anywhere (otherwise I would have ripped into it and in half an hour, I would have had that kitchen throughly cleaned and the fridge all clean and fresh smelling). I did exactly that when visiting a friend in Australia once. I arrived while she was away and her house-sitters had let the place go “student flat” style. I only had good clothes in my suitcase, so stripped off to underwear and a sarong as I cleaned the kitchen and fridge (the trays and shelves needed to soak in water to get the crud off).

To my friend I say… Arrange a working bee and I will come and help you clean up. But you’ll need to corral the kittens to stop them getting accidentally squished under our feet as we work.

Get in a mini-skip, ensure it arrives one morning when you’ll be home and is removed that afternoon, (otherwise the neighbourhood will simply use your place as a dumping ground for their rubbish).

Oh and I haven’t even mentioned the main entry / living room and the bathroom. I didn’t make any attempt to look in any of the bedrooms or the large lounge. The remains of the once beautiful front verandah, covered in absolute rubbish, makes the place look like a crack-house from the street.