It looks like we’ve solved the nation’s housing crisis – now for Joe Biden’s messy garage

You can learn a lot by looking in someone’s garage, but President Joe Biden might be better to keep his closed in case some security documents are sitting under the paint tin, writes David Fagan

Feb 13, 2024, updated Feb 13, 2024
President Joe Biden's garage at his home in Delaware, subject of a FBI raid which revealed secret documents. (Image supplied)

President Joe Biden's garage at his home in Delaware, subject of a FBI raid which revealed secret documents. (Image supplied)

It’s unlikely Joe Biden needed anywhere to park his cars between executive gigs in DC so it’s completely forgivable that his Delaware garage was a mess.

Thanks to the pictures accompanying the special counsel’s report on missing documents released last week, we now know Mr President is as much a hoarder as the rest of us.

If there’s order in the Biden garage, then good luck finding it among the pictures broadcast to the world last week.

Congratulations to the investigators who found the documents Biden took with him from office. How I wish they’d come my way to help find a few missing photo albums, drill bits and diaries kept for good reason but now lost to posterity.

The garage, like the top drawer of a bedside table, is the disorderly streak of most of our personalities. Its feigned order is usually overtaken by the urgency of getting life’s surplus belongings quickly out of the way.

We all know the story: half-used paint cans, rarely used tools, appliances past their best, kids’ toys kept for posterity, business and financial records, memos to the President stored just-in-case. Oh, and cars.

I notice, even as alarm over crime grows in the city, that garages are being used even less for cars and their accompanying boats and caravans. They’re just too full of life’s refuse to meet their intended purpose.

But unlike even an out-of-office Joe Biden, most of us don’t have the luxury of a car and driver to pick us up and drop us home. So the cars and what they tow stay on the streets and the garages become just storage sheds.

Do we really need all this stuff and is it time, given news that garden sheds are being rented illegitimately for hundreds of dollars a week, to think more creatively about our garages?

If we’re happy to park on the street, then should we be thinking about how our garages can be part of the solution to the homeless crisis which is also of increasing alarm. Modest conversions can turn a suburban garage into a modest home for two, quickly adding to available housing stock while the machinery of state gets its act together to start building whatever number by whatever deadline it proposes this week.

Of course there are obstacles. A converted garage needs to be properly sealed and plumbed, have its own access and there needs to be a legal mechanism to either lease or offer title over what is part of a traditional home.

The latter, in fact, may take longer than the construction of a thousand homes, given the range of authorities involved – water, energy and internet providers, town planning and building codes and neighbours who justifiably have a view about the home beside them suddenly becoming two homes.

And then there are the tax issues. The family home remains free of capital gains tax but that changes if part of it is converted to an income-producing asset.
All of this a barrier too high to trying to rethink the role of the garage.

Which is really a metaphor for trying to unscramble the whole housing crisis.

We don’t have enough homes but we have far too many under-occupied homes (and their occupants don’t feel obliged or encouraged to change that).

Part of the reason for the crisis is the post-Covid acceleration of immigration numbers which has driven up demand and prices to the detriment of first home buyers.
Part of the solution is to build more homes but we lack the skilled workforce. If we import more skilled tradespeople, then we lack accommodation for them.
Does the song There’s a hole in the bucket have a familiar ring here?

So government finds itself filling the gap. This is its necessary role. But we should ask, before getting too congratulatory of its efforts, how it is that no one detected the risk or noticed this was happening?

Governments want us to see their orderly parts – the consultation processes, the short lived strategy plans, the glossy brochures that accompany their urgent actions to overcome a crisis.

But before it’s a crisis, it’s a problem shoved like Joe Biden’s documents, my paint tins and hundreds of vinyl albums, Lego and photo collections in the garage, out of sight, out of mind and hopefully never found.

It never works. Just ask Joe Biden.

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