Regeneration

I took an opportunity the other day to wander through the Otakaro Avon River Corridor (residential red zone). I wanted to get a sense of it – where it’s up to and how its looking. Before I note my impressions, here’s the back story.

Stephen and I recently joined the Dallington Residents Association. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages, but just haven’t had the time. With Stephen less involved in hockey, and me travelling and working less, now seemed a good time. So I answered a call for a new DRA secretary. It’s a great little group with some good ideas, but maybe lacking direction and a bit out of touch with the resident population. Dallington has changed massively since the earthquakes. We lost approximately half our residents, and I suspect that a lot of those were older people. Demographically, Dallington is now a young suburb, with almost half of the residents being under 30. That’s in stark contrast to the DRA, where the average age is probably around 60. While the DRA has some great ideas about community events and beautification, I think it has been slow to react to the changes that the earthquakes have caused.

This month Regenerate Christchurch released a discussion document for the various land use options its considering in the area. At our last DRA meeting, I suggested that we could hold a workshop for residents on the options, with the objective of producing a submission from the DRA on our view of the options. The committee agreed, and that workshop is scheduled for 31 October.

So this is why I found myself wandering along the new Otakaro bike trail thinking about regeneration.

And what was my sense? It’s a beautiful place. The river looks as though its well on the way to regeneration all on its own, taking parts of the neighbourhood with it. And that feels right. Maybe for this area, regeneration means letting the river find its place again. Maybe it’s about giving the land a chance to settle, and then we can figure out what bits to give over to the river, and what bits we can use again.

I stopped along my walk to look at the plants and trees that now delineate the house boundaries.

In my logical brain, I look at the land and understand that its an valuable asset. We can’t realise that asset unless we use it for something. But in my heart, I feel sad for the people who had to leave. I know some of them went willingly – they took their money and found more stable ground to rebuild on. But a lot of people left only because they had to. If that was my former home and I was faced with the prospect of it being sold on to new homesteaders, I’d be upset, and maybe angry. It seems too soon. Leave it alone for a while. Give people a decent chance to grieve.

How long does that take? It feels like seven years isn’t enough. It might take 20 years. Or fifty. Can we afford to wait that long? I think we can, out of respect for the people who were moved out.

Time flies!

I’ve been really busy lately! Work has been full-on busy the past couple of weeks. I’m really loving the challenge of managing a couple of fairly big projects. Both involve creating and producing training materials (a combo of print, web, and eLearning content). It’s really interesting work, with great responsive clients and a hard working team. Whoop!

On the home front, we are slowly making changes to our little nana house – it certainly needs some serious modernisation. The big job was getting the carpet down – I still enjoy the feeling of landing my feet on the floor in the morning.

We’ve also chosen new lighting for the conservatory and living area (yet to be installed) and we purchased a new dish-drawer and a gorgeous leather lounge suite (sofa and two chairs). We got some great deals, so I’m feeling pretty pleased with us right now.

And being the good project manager that I am, our home wouldn’t have been complete without our new whiteboard-corkboard combo. They hang in the walkway between the living room and kitchen, a constant reminder of the things we need to do, buy, remember. It’s also a great place to pin our achievements – like the school notice announcing that Bronwen made it into the school zones for cross country running. I am so very proud of her!

So we have a long list of improvements to make, and it’s going to take us years to get through them all. But I’m having a great time sifting through all the possibilities together, shaping what our dream home will look like. It helps to distract me from all that is gone, and gives me something good to focus on. This home is our future, our hope.

We have carpet!

After two weeks of camping in our house with concrete floors and minimal furniture, we have carpet, vinyl and all our stuff out of storage.

It’s amazing how much difference it makes to have carpet. Our house is starting to feel like our home. It’s cosy.

It was quite good to have partially moved in already, since the big jobs – unpacking the kitchen and setting up the bedrooms – were already done. We’ve put most of the other stuff in the garage and will unpack in earnest next weekend. It’s a long weekend so we can take our time about it. Of course the downside of taking our time moving is that we’ve been in moving mode for almost three weeks now, and I think we are all a bit over it.

Our sumptuous living room

The one where we move in

It’s been a long road, but here we are, finally in our lovely little nana house. We wanted this house as soon as we saw it. It has so much potential. It’s been well cared for, but needs an update – paint, carpets, light fittings, drapes, gardens. We have so many plans for the place I can hardly contain my excitement. I want to do everything right now, but I also want to take our time and savour the transformation at the same time.

The house isn’t without issues. There are cracks in the exterior brickwork that will require fairly major repair. The en suite bathroom has a broken waste-water pipe, making it unusable. There is a large crack in the concrete floor running the width of the house across the two main bedrooms. There are numerous hairline cracks in the concrete floor all over the house. There is no carpet, due to flooding from the broken waste pipe. And let’s not even talk about the fact that we found out today that our sewer system is not working, so we can’t flush. We’ve been given a chemical toilet, and there are portaloos in the street.

But these are all solvable problems, given enough time and energy and money – things we have in abundance. I feel very lucky to have my own little nest to share with my beloved Frompsons.

20110402-110301.jpg

The house

We were due to confirm the purchase of our new house yesterday. The inspections had all been completed and all that remained was to meet with our bank manager and work out the details. All that’s changed now.

The house has been reinspected and revalued. Structurally, it’s still sound. There is some damage to the back of the house where an addition was built some years ago, and it has slumped a little. But it’s fixable and covered by an EQC claim.

More problematic is the valuation of the property. The valuer no longer believes the house is worth what we offered for it, because of the liquefaction on the property and surrounding streets and suburbs. He has revalued the place significantly lower than our original offer. So now we are in a difficult position of not being able to get finance for the amount we offered to pay for the house.

Luckily we are not bound to our offer – it was subject to valuation and the value has changed. We can offer the vendor a lower price, and we probably will. Whether they accept this lower offer is beyond our control.

If the sale falls through, we are homeless at the end of the month. We are just so very lucky that we can rely on the kindness and support of family to house us until we can figure out what to do next.

Keep your fingers crossed for us. We fell in love with our cute nana house and we really want to start our married life together in it. But what will be, will be.

Reports

The house passed muster – it was inspected by a structural engineer today. He reports that, other than minor mortar cracking in the brickwork in one spot, the house is sturdy and sound. Once the report is passed on to the bank and the insurers, we should be good to go.

We’re one step closer to sealing the deal 🙂

The one where we become home-owners

Last weekend we started looking for a house to buy. It’s a really slim market at the moment – not many people are selling. Understandable, since most home-owners are going through the EQC claim process and are reluctant to sell under those circumstances.

But on Saturday we took a look at a couple of possibilities. The first one was a 1955s weatherboard bungalow. It has been completely redecorated inside, but still needed a lot of work on the outside.  It ticked a lot of boxes and we left feeling really positive.

And then we went to the second place. This ticked a lot more boxes. It’s summerhill stone – not popular, but low maintenance perfection for us. The place was built in 1972 and has been a family home since then (one careful lady owner). It looks like your grandma’s place, but we can see the potential. Yep, this was the one for us.

Since then, things have moved fast. We thought about it all day Saturday, contacted the agent on Sunday, presented an offer on Monday, and signed the contract on Tuesday. Now it’s Wednesday and we are on to engineering reports and lawyers and whatnot. And, all going well, we will own our home on the 17th of March.

What a great way to start our married life together 🙂

Front yard
Back yard

In with the new!

Just because our lives weren’t quite busy enough (the wedding is in TWO weeks), Stephen and I recently kicked off the process of buying a house. So last week the bank gave us a pre-approved home loan. We have a licence to hunt.

It’s a difficult time to be buying a house – there is uncertainty about the structural integrity of a lot of homes in Christchurch right now, and nowhere more so than the area we are hunting (Avonside/Dallington).

It is sad to drive around the area, seeing the busted-up streets and houses. But now we have new things to consider. Do we want to live in this street? Will it need complete repaving? Is there underlying liquefaction? Do we want to take all that on?

Luckily we are in no danger of inadvertently buying a house with structural damage that gives us problems later. All homes purchased in Canterbury require a structural engineering report. If there is damage, we can’t buy it. Pretty straightforward (for us anyway).

You might wonder why we are choosing to jump into the market right now, rather than wait until things settle. There are still a lot of unknowns about where the housing market is going in Canterbury, but the sector is forecast to boom once rebuilding gets underway in 2012-2013. We are hoping to jump on the home-ownership train before this happens. So exciting times for us!