Saturday, December 18, 2010

The big squeeze

Being on a bus allows a different view and one of the things that becomes more evident is the rise of gang tags in this area. Oh they are not serious gangs, more groups of bored teenagers with nothing else to do... and unless you like playing squash there is absolutely nothing to do round here except drink and hang out at the beach. In some ways though, it probably signifies the realisation of those teenagers that tagging is the only way they will ever own anything around here. It is a sad fact that what was once a sleepy little village by the sea, has escalated out of all proportion to the amenities available.

First a well known business man moved in and built two outrageous houses on the waterfront. Vastly different in style there is one each for himself and his then wife. They are massive houses that take up several blocks each. Houses that are complete with waterfalls, hand carved door knobs shaped like sharks teeth (in one case) and security cameras atop their thick walls. Their differing architectural tastes and styles turned out to be a metaphor for their relationship, but the damage was done.

First the mean price of the houses in the area skyrocketed and the average price of a home just shot up literally overnight. Of course rates then escalated in hot pursuit and before you knew it the elderly homeowners, who until then had lived modestly in their beach cottages and 60’s bungalows, were forced by rising costs to move out. Then the developers moved in with their big plans, smart townhouses and towers of luxury units.

All of this came to a screeching halt due to the sudden absence of buyers. The recession did hit that end of the market badly. So they sit those glass monuments to avaricious dreams with stark, empty fingers stretched out in mute appeal to the gods of greed. It hasn’t stopped the building... well it has in one or two cases and there are vast cleared blocks facing seaward in mute reproach. Large fences surround them, plastered with optimistic pictures of what the building will look like, if only enough people will place their money and faith in the builder.

Sitting on the bus one was privy to a conversation between two of the original locals... you can always spot them; scruffy, singleted and barefoot with permanent tans.... where one of them turned to the other and said they reckon this area will become too expensive for us to live in. To which his friend replied nah we will always be here. While one admires their sentiment, one suspects those buildings will encroach upon their lives until they have been pushed further from the sea.

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