Mon Barton is caught between a couch and a soft place. In her spotless, airy home in Auckland’s Grey Lynn, she’s unsure of quite how long it can continue. But her options -- to move in with her partner or stay in the house she adores -- aren’t tragic at all, though it is the price of good housing in Auckland that holds her back from taking the next step into exclusive cohabitation.
With the average cost of a one bedroom apartment in central Auckland falling at a little over $1500 a month, and the addition of two extra bedrooms costing less than double, it makes financial sense for a couple to live with others. But Barton knows the time to make the leap into her own home is coming, though she wishes that finances would allow her to simply stay in the home she loves, with two spare bedrooms.
“That thing of having strangers move in is bizarre” she says, and calls the search for new flatmates “flat auditions.” Though the decision to move in with a partner is treated as grave and almost irreversible, moving in with strangers (after half-an-hour of circling the halls with an air of faux-relaxation, trying to portray evidence of Handy-Andy competency while being totally laissez faire about the mushrooms blooming in the shower tray) comes naturally to those experienced in the way of the flat.
Despite wanting more autonomy in her home life, Barton says that when she comes home and there’s no one else present she feels ‘a bit sad, which I think is indicative of our age… we’re not totally sure what we want.”
For now, however, she seems to be embracing the happy contrast of gardening and vomiting in her big back yard, through days in the sun and nights capitalising on the deck’s capacity for entertaining. And she’s happy to pay a little more than she can manage for a lifestyle she loves.
“For me,” she says, “the trade-offs are worth it.”
Story produced by Kirsti Whalen with help from Rose Archer. Video shot and edited by Connor Strati.
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