Why older people make good flatties

By Paul Charman

Older people could make good flatmates.Photo / YouTube
Older people could make good flatmates.Photo / YouTube

The Westpac Flatties TV ad, a warning to all bad savers, has been a hit. It's been voted people's choice on blogs and has also won an advertising industry effectiveness award.

The ad makes its point in a highly entertaining way. Elderly but also apparently broke, the Flatties seem doomed to share a home with milk-stealing slobs. Now they must pay for previous spendthrift ways, as horrid flatmates leave washing in the machine, play drums loudly in their bedrooms and - we can safely assume - do other annoying stuff.

Watch the ad below:

Video

Despite the Auckland housing shortage and tough new deposit rules, the only hope for these greying cash-strapped individuals is given as applying for a bank mortgage to purchase their own place. It's all great entertainment but, in its basic premise, quite wrong.

Most oldies of the type shown, say aged from late 50s through to late 60s, have excellent people skills. In my view they're the one group likely to carry off with a bit of style the kind of flatting depicted. Most in this age group have learned the benefits of taking responsibility for their own belongings and caring for those of others.

So let's look at the Westpac Flatties as a potential prototype.

They don't seem to be in relationships, which is often the case in this age group because of previous relationship splits or bereavement. So why should they not enjoy the benefits of living with others in a communal setting? It would presumably provide them with company, security, and - since they don't seem to have enough for places of their own - financial benefits.

Most Kiwi homes are not set-up for what I envisage - but a few are.

Several years ago in Tauranga I encountered a building company which specialises in homes for groups just like this.

The homes I saw had several wings converging onto a communal kitchen and sitting room. Each occupant had a suite to themselves (with second bedroom/office, bathroom and outdoor living space). They could withdraw into their own space, even to entertain there, or be sociable out in the shared areas. And obviously it is far easier to finance a third, or quarter share in a million dollar property, than to stump up for the whole thing your self.

This idea has potential difficulties and challenges, such as needing to locate like-minded compatible shareholders.

The plans for such a home would have to convince regulators that the house was indeed a legal single-dwelling, rather than three dwellings, in order to avoid costly additional consenting fees.

There'd also be a need to build in suitable exit and re-sale clauses to protect everyone's equity.

Perhaps any party in the arrangement could force the house to be sold at any time, so nobody need feel trapped. The only catch would be that before the house is put on the market, the party moving out has to give remaining partners opportunity to buy out their quarter or third share. (Same if one of the flatties dies - the surviving flatmates have to either sell-up, or pay out the estate of their dead comrade).

All such challenges can be remedied by good design, good legal advice and - far more to the point - good will.

And some of the oldies I know would have sufficient experience, integrity and settledness to make this kind of arrangement work quite well.

In a city as hard pressed by a housing crisis as Auckland is, perhaps a sane version of the Westpac Flatties concept is worthy of consideration.

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