Two years ago I converted my garage into habitable space. I removed a roller door and in its place put in windows and a door, lined the walls and ceiling, installed a bathroom and a sort of kitchen (no stove), added lighting, heat, and a smoke alarm and I furnished it with a comfortable double bed, chest of draws, table and stools, a comfy fold out couch, an arm chair a TV and shelves with lots of books. I equipped the sort of kitchen with cooking utensils cutlery, crockery and glasses, a fridge, microwave and a frypan, hot plate, kettle and toaster. Now I rent the space out on Airbnb and, for a while, it was my only income.

 

A neighbor has complained to the council and now I have an order that I have to show cause why I should keep the studio as it is and not reinstate it to its original use. I failed to say that I did not get a building permit to do the original work; although I did try. The council made this process so expensive and so complex that I had no idea how to go about it. I remember sitting with the information the head of the planning department gave me and thinking, “this is nuts. I am on the home run of writing my PhD but I don’t understand what is required here”. In the end I took a risk and just went ahead with my simple conversion.

 

The council did not “close me down” and I continue to have Airbnb guests stay while the situation is being resolved. (If that is possible.)

 

But here’s the thing.

 

On Sunday night I came across a woman, about my age, living in the park that abuts the Botanical Gardens. It rained heavily on Saturday and it was freezing cold. She had a light piece of plastic strung between two branches of a low tree and her wet clothes and a blanket were draped over the branches in an attempt to dry them out. When I came across her it was getting dark and cold. I went home and got a sleeping bag, a yoga mat and two strong heavy duty tarps, and a down jacket for her.

 

How can the council make a big fuss about my space when there are people living under plastic in the park as winter approaches? Maybe I should issue the planning department with a “please explain”.

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