In WEEK SEVEN I had the pleasure of chatting with Letisha and Lindsey, who represent the Chateau Crew- a flat of friends on a mission to redesign the way in which New Zealanders flat, rent, and live. They plan to realise their dream with RATE MY FLAT- an online tool that assists both tenants and landlords in a shared goal to make safe and healthy housing available to all.
Tell us a bit about your project- how did you guys start?
Letisha: We originally got going with a project on our own house- what we called The Chateau, the worst flat in Dunedin.
Lindsey: Our house was literally so cold during winter that Letisha’s legs would go dead under the weight of all her blankets.
Letisha: We wanted to live better, and struck up a deal with our property managers. We agreed to do work around the house to improve the grounds- and they would match what we contributed in labour to pay for upgrades within the flat.
And how did this develop into Rate my Flat?
Lindsey: Our house isn’t rare- the housing situation in New Zealand is shocking. We wanted to do something about it it. But we realised pretty early on that our project wasn’t scaleable or an option for every flat. Last year we fixed one house, this year we want to fix a thousand. So we are developing Rate my Flat- a website tool that that will create an online database built by tenants. We want to give current tenants a voice and give prospective tenants an informed choice.
Letisha: There is heaps already going on in this space, so we are trying to find where we fit. But there is a gap, a space where tenancy advocacy is really missing. We want to be a voice there. But not just raise the issue, but also the solution. This is a problem we can do something about, can help landlords to address.
Ten weeks is a pretty big commitment. What is driving you to do take this time to be at Live the Dream?
Letisha: Once we realised the potential of what we were actually doing, that we could improve housing in NZ, make some headway in the housing sector for climate change- then I thought, of course I’m going to be here! We were just willing to do anything, really, that would get this vision to crank.
Lindsey: I always like to flip a situation on its head and and think, what if I didn’t do this? And the answer I’d probably just be bumming around home.
Has it lived up to your expectations? What impact has being at Live the Dream had on you and your project?
Lindsey: I honestly feel like I’ve learned more in past 7 weeks than in the past 3 years at university.
Letisha: I can’t possibly imagine not being here.
Lindsey: I am very people focused, and I was always frustrated at university at the lack of access to people doing what we are being trained to do. Traditional education systems are very year group focused- you only really have access to your peers, not people who are, say five years older, a stage ahead of us. Live the Dream gives us the opportunity to talk to those people, and is really good at fostering relationships. We have learned from some amazing people.
What is your biggest take away from this week?
Letisha: We are really developing as a team. I am realising how much fun we have together, and we work so well. We live together and work together and hang out together- and we have never had a big fight. Even if people have two incredibly different points of view, we have processes for disagreements, and even value that contrast. It’s like we almost seek out fights so that we can talk things out.
Lindsey: We are also learning to plan in celebrations, and budget for morale boosts- so, pretty much a beer fund.
What is your biggest challenge right now?
Letisha: Time. And also a bit of anxiety, or maybe apprehension, about how big this could be. We need to get structures in place to prepare for that.
Lindsey: And there’s no coffee at the moment, so that’s hard.
What is your vision for this world?
Lindsday: Shared responsibility.
Letisha: So really, thinking about future generations. And the potential for our country. What if New Zealand had the opportunity to be the best version of itself?
Lindsey: A lot of the things that made NZ great- going nuclear free, gaining the vote- were before our generation. So, what are we going to do to make NZ proud? It’s like, living up to the family name- we want to add to New Zealand’s portfolio of greatness.
What is an inspiring phrase or thought that has captured you this week?
Letisha: There are so many! One thing Helen Baxter said to us was really good- prepare to be prolific. We realised we have got to do work now and put structures in place that we don’t yet need, but in preparation for expansion.
Lindsey: We also asked Ants what we should be thinking about on our upcoming holiday, and immediately he replied, don’t think about anything. With distance comes perspective.
Letisha: Another one was the idea that nothing interesting should be boring. Insulation- that’s a typically pretty unimaginative subject. But we need to make it fun!
Lindsey: It always makes you want to pick boring projects just as a challenge to make it awesome.
Letisha: Oh and one more is what Chris Jupp spoke about- “Why time”- spending time thinking about why you are doing what you are doing. When you know why you are doing, to the core of who you are, everything falls into place.
Lindsey: He challenged us to consider what we would say if we had the opportunity to speak to a large group of people. Martin Luther King Jr. knew exactly why he was doing what he was doing when he gave his I Have a Dream speech, he knew what he wanted to happen in this world. What do we want, what would we have said?
Who are some of your heroes?
Letisha: My heroes… I actually think it is our team. I think everyone is so great, I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else.
Lindsey: Do you want some cracker with that cheese? No we also really like Jinty MacTavish, one of our City Councillors. She is the youngest councillor, and really walks the talk, always has time for you. Council isn’t a fulltime job but she gives it her all. She talked at Festival for the Future about carving the future and the power of young people.
What are you listening to right now?
Letisha: Blackmill, Skippin’ ‘n’ Trippin’- makes emailing fun!
What do you want to tell the world?
Lindsey: Be brave.
Letisha: And make sure your house has insulation.