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[personal profile] tyellas
I had been thinking that my ambivalence and stresses about owning my own abode were a classic “first world problem.” Poor me! So spoiled! Have to decide whether to paint the guest room cream or sage all on my own! And then I saw this piece:

Women own 1% of world’s property.

Which made me go "Huh." Because, in the US, for at least the past 5 years, approximately 20% of homes are bought by single women. Even when the single women are making about $10,000 less than single men purchasing a home (noted in article sidebar here.)

What kind of property are women owning? How do partnered or family-trust women get tallied in this? (It's got to have a vast impact in NZ.) If we're seeing the first 2 or 3 generations of women in the West starting to own their own property, and only 1% of the world's land is owned by women, then a whole lot of my gender is in the equivalent of minimal first homes. We do not, in fact, have huge tracts of land.

As a gender, we could have increased our percentage of Planet Earth ownership by buying different property. But for so many of us, simply getting in the door, simply having the door, was important. (Really: I did a large freelance job to literally get a new front door for my house.)

Still, standing back and taking a deep breath, the stresses I feel about my house don't seem particularly gendered. These stresses are:
* Not enough time/inclination to garden/maintain landscape.
* Longer-term maintenance expenses (in second half of 2011 I was hit with $2000 in essential structural repairs).
* Geographically isolated/distant from events, volunteering, socializing = travel/vehicle expenses and high carbon footprint.

My resources as a financially independent non-corporate individual, who is doing OK regardless of gender, are maxed out owning and caring for 440 square meters of Planet Earth. I know several women who dream of farming and owning more land, and I believe the planet would be better for it if they could. But, again - resources.

Aside from the land issue, in discussing issues of women and space and doors with people, I'm disturbed to note that Virginia Woolfe’s classic essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” seems to be slipping out of the public consciousness. Unfortunately, the essay's beginning is seriously tangled, which doesn't help in our aliterate era. It's the home of the classic quote, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”. More delicious quotes are here. The essay focuses on female voice and authorship, but its points about privilege and space and time resonate on the topic of women and property.

Date: 2011-12-12 09:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fenriss.livejournal.com
This is a great post, and I wish I had more time to think about and comment on it. It got me thinking about how many single women I know who own their own homes, and I realized the answer was "two." Wow.

I have loved "A Room of One's Own" and yet I've also kind of been irritated with it because, yeah, money and a home are great, but they are also available only to a very slim minority of women. Are women of little means *really* unable to write anything meaningful, Ms. Woolf? I don't know. I'm sure she means that all women *should* have access to these things. I prefer to assume that is her point.

Anyway, very thought-provoking post, dear.
(PS- I really need a writing related icon)

Date: 2011-12-14 12:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tyellas.livejournal.com
Why did my reply to you vanish? Oh well...a quick tally on my fingers shows 9 women I know who acquired their own abodes in NZ without a partner. Of these 9 women, 4 are in my neighborhood (i.e., The Cheap Area) and one, who was in Christchurch, has had to deal with her home getting 86ed after the quake.

Date: 2011-12-12 10:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] perelleth.livejournal.com
Maintaining a household on one single personal income is a difficult task, no matter the gender. ANd of course, if there are almost five hundred square metres of garden included, that makes it even harder. I do feel your pain.

Date: 2011-12-13 11:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tyellas.livejournal.com
To make the garden worse, right now I have very bad pollen allergies, so I can't touch plants in the garden. I repeat: I can't touch plants! This will definitely get me going to some apartment open homes.

500sqm

Date: 2011-12-14 08:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] edm.livejournal.com
The plants are fighting back!

I have trouble keeping up with my garden too, and I have very mild pollen allergies (they basically don't get in my way providing I keep all my other allergies under control...).

To echo what [livejournal.com profile] perelleth said: particularly in NZ, maintaining a household -- and especially affording a house and property of one's own, on a single income -- is tricky. When I bought my house my income was more than double the national average, I bought pretty modestly, and the first few years will still pretty tight. To have done so, by oneself, without even all those advantages shows real determination.

Ewen

Date: 2011-12-14 05:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] entspinster.livejournal.com
Virginia Woolfe was writing from her own experience as a psychologically fragile person who held off mental breakdowns by a very controlled lifestyle. It must have touched a chord, or it would never have attracted so much attention.

Jane Austen, by way of contrast, shared a bed with her sister all her life, and wrote in the middle of a room full of family members. Perhaps it helped that there were other female family members who could deal with demands for attention.

Date: 2011-12-14 10:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tyellas.livejournal.com
And Woolfe did commit suicide, in the end!

Date: 2011-12-15 02:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] teaforme.livejournal.com
Our issues with home ownership are essentially the same. Feeling isolated, being cut off from the walkability of living in the city, and the expense of keeping a house in salable condition. That last part is really getting to me--it's been a difficult few years, and I'm not sure I have the financial or emotional resources to keep the house in good repair over time.

I do struggle with the idea of losing my investment. After all, isn't a house an investment? If I get rid of my house, how will I make up for the loss of said investment?

Seriously though, part of me thinks I'd be so much happier in an apartment in my old in-city neighborhood. Walk to everything I love, close to single friends, no maintenance required!

Date: 2011-12-15 06:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tyellas.livejournal.com
Well, an apartment is also an investment. And a residence that you can a) pay off in full by retirement and b) continue living in after retirement, instead of having to sell/move is A Roof Over Your Head And Nothing To Be Sneezed At. This piece here notes that there's not much advantage to owning now, but concludes, "I want to anyway." (http://www.theatlanticcities.com/housing/2011/11/forever-renter/484/)

I have a friend who, after living in a suburban house, sold it for an entry-level apartment. Finding it cramped, she sold up for a closer-to-the-city house, but...after living in town...she didn't like it. So, SIX MONTHS after moving in, she sold it and bought another apartment. Now she's downtown and a lot happier. I think she's a role model...She also did well on all these real estate deals.

Date: 2011-12-16 02:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] teaforme.livejournal.com
Thanks for the perspective on this! For some reason I can't seem to let go of the "house is a better investment" idea, even though that is definitely changing. And isn't my personal happiness worth considering?

And YES to being able to age in place! My mom is alone now in a huge house, in a somewhat isolated suburban cul-de-sac. I watch her and say to myself, "Nope, not for me!"

I kind of wish I'd done what your friend did, and busted outta this place way earlier. Live and learn!

Date: 2011-12-21 05:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ithilwen.livejournal.com
I'm not surprised by that statistic, sadly. We take for granted how far women's rights have advanced in the First World, and forget just how recent that change is, how much ground even First World women have to make up, and how large a percentage of the world's population lives in places where women's equality is still a distant fantasy.

As for the house, just remember: You own it. It's not supposed to own you! It's a nice house, but if owning it is bringing more stress into your life than pleasure, then perhaps it's time to swap it for a nice apartment.

Date: 2011-12-21 09:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tyellas.livejournal.com
Ah, and there's the rub: the "nice apartment"! Based on my research, I can afford to swap my nice house for an acceptable apartment in Wellington, but not one that's as nice as the house. First world problem par excellence.

Date: 2011-12-21 09:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ithilwen.livejournal.com
First World problem, indeed! I guess it comes down to which combination you feel will give you more happiness: a nice living space with limited free time, or an acceptable-but-not-wonderful living space and more free time. Not an easy choice!

Date: 2011-12-22 06:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tyellas.livejournal.com
I would like some cheese with my whine, please!

Date: 2011-12-22 03:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ithilwen.livejournal.com
Certainly! How about a nice blue?

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