Sydney is a city obsessed with views – harbour views, beach views, skyline views and district views. Anybody would think we spend most of our time starring out the window admiring the landscape or waterscape beyond. Rent some shoebox apartment and if there’s the slightest glimpse of the harbour or some far distant beach out of the kitchen window you can add multiple dollars onto the weekly rent.
Take the much discussed Sirius Building in the Rocks which has recently hit the market for $120 million. If the same building existed in Waterloo or Mount Druitt, chances are the public housing tenants who once occupied it would still be there. Yet the building has now been described as “Australia’s most valuable freehold land”, suggesting that its most likely fate is demolition – only to be replaced by another ‘toaster’ style building overlooking Circular Quay. No doubt when the multi-million dollar apartments are flogged off the plan one of the selling points will be the wonderful opportunity to view the NYE fireworks from your very own balcony. Add at least $100,000 onto the purchase price for that once a year privilege.
Remember the madness that existed back in NYE, 1999 with the change of millennium. The cashing in on harbour views of the much vaunted fireworks display reached new heights of opportunistic greed. Private harbourside apartments were being rented for thousands of dollars – for just a single night. Likewise hotels were charging outrageous prices for any room within cooee of the midnight crackers.
If the State Government ever wanted to raise some extra capital it might well consider an ‘iconic view’ tax, a levy placed on any house or apartment with those postcard views of the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Harbour. After all if you want to film commercially around the Opera House or similar Government owned sites there is often a fee – why not charge home owners if they enjoy that vista all the year round? Residents in prime harbour real estate such as Point Piper and Rose Bay would be slugged the most, contributing millions annually to the public coffers.
Similarly those unlucky homeowners or renters who look out on a brick wall, a railway line or a bleak industrial panorama could apply for ‘lack of outlook’ compensation, funded partly by the tax on the rich bastards above. In extreme cases, like basement apartments with absolutely no view, additional compensation could be granted to install a faux plasma screen window with simulated views of Bondi Beach, Middle Harbour and the Barangaroo skyline.
There is a certain irony today with the premium placed on real estate views. After all we now spend far more time starring at computer screens, tablets, mobile phones and flatscreen TVs than we do gazing out of the window at some glorious scenery. Maybe E.M. Foster had it right when he wrote in A Room With A View:
“My father says that there is only one perfect view — the view of the sky straight over our heads, and that all these views on earth are but bungled copies of it.”
Then again E.M. died in 1970, long before modern day computers and those glorious screen savers with views of the Rocky Mountains, the English countryside and the Serengeti plains. If only he knew what he was missing!