Flip the Script on Housing
Week Eleven: Flip the Script on Housing
“Let your home be your mast and not your anchor.” – Kahlil Gibran
As I begin to write about flipping the script on housing, several ideas are bubbling:
- Emotional and physical stability that a house can provide.
- Alternative housing ideas with shared resources that support connection.
- A changing world that makes affordable housing a challenge.
In the conversation this week, I intend to explore co-housing, gentrification, community, ancestry – nomadic lifestyles – and more.
I grew up moving from house to house as part of my father’s work promotions. As far as housing in the 60’s and 70’s, buying, and selling houses was profitable. Prices were increasing and if you moved every year or two, you could make a profit and roll that over to buy a larger, more expensive home. My parents were able to leverage their income by moving from a starter home to larger homes in wealthier neighborhoods. My father had a middle-class salary so we were what you would call, “house rich.” In America, this meant access to better schools even though we wore basic clothes that my mother sewed or bought at Sears. Nothing fancy and not in alignment with current fashions.
When I was in middle school, we lived on a lake in a suburb of Minneapolis and in high school we lived on Valley Forge Mountain in Pennsylvania and had an in-ground swimming pool. My parents also owned a home in the Poconos for skiing and rented it part-time to other skiers.
In my first marriage, we bought a fixer-upper for $37,000 in 1984. After our divorce, I bought a large Victorian style home that had been divided into four apartments. I lived in one and rented the other three. During my second marriage, I sold that house and we moved into my husband’s home. We sold another home he owned and invested the money in a property for his business. We bought a dilapidated old house and fixed it up while living in it. At one point we owned three homes and a farm on the Eastern shore of Maryland.
Other circumstances in our lives. I stopped working to take care of our son who had numerous surgeries. We were lucky to be able to afford expensive insurance coverage but even with that, the hospital bills cost us over $10,000/year and my husband was just starting a business.
We decided to homeschool our kids because my husband made enough to pay the bills and the plan was for me to go back to work around 2008 – 2010 depending on what I was going to do and if I needed to update my skills with college courses. This income would build a retirement fund.
Then, he died in 2005 when I was 48 years old and I had to figure it out on my own.
In the community we lived and homeschooled in, our circumstances were just like everyone else. We had average incomes, owned homes, had financial struggles because of medical costs and we chose to educate our kids in a community-based learning and share resources.
Selling my home in 2009 only gave me enough money to pay off some debt and relocate to California. It was after a year in California that I experienced living on the edge of eviction for almost two years. It was stressful and eye-opening. I learned about a world that I had never seen or experienced.
I began to notice how many other people were living on the edge of eviction when I recognized the eviction notices taped on the doors of other apartment dwellers. I began to see furniture and boxes outside the building for people who couldn’t pay rent. I went to the courthouse to learn about my rights. I experienced the additional $500+ that was added to the rent and experienced what it was like to work to pay the back rent and the extra fees. I grew compassion for the struggle that so many experience when a life experience interrupts your flow of money and how the system adds even more burdens while you try to catch up and pay the bills.
Some of the facts mentioned in the documentary Working: What We Do All Day:
(United States facts)
A house used to cost twice your annual income. Now it costs six times the amount.
The cost of college has almost tripled since 1980.
Childcare has gone up 200%
Real wages have barely budged in decades.
Alternatives to housing are necessary to navigate a changing world.
I’ve lived with wealth, and I’ve lived in poverty. I’ve lived in communities that were connected and I’ve lived in communities that are disconnected. This is an idea I have pondered regularly.
A few other things come into play with housing:
Identity: Housing is connected to identity, security, and safety. The home you live in, or don’t live in, and the location, adds to your identity. It also adds to your stress level.
Change: Even when you live in more than one place by choice, with more than one house, your identity changes with each location. There can be grief when you relocate for a season. Even when you choose to move and you are excited about the move, there can be grief around what you are letting go.
Struggle: Shame is connected to different living situations, needing help, foreclosure, bankruptcy, homelessness.
This is where we begin the conversation of Flip the Script on Housing.
Day 71 Prompts:
- Reflect on different places you have lived.
- Explore the idea around identity and housing. What have been some of your experiences?
- Write a list of all the places you have lived and the circumstances at each location.
- Have you ever received an eviction notice? Write about that experience or the feelings that rise even thinking about eviction.
To read all 100 days of Flip the Script, go to Medium: https://andreahylen.medium.com/