Celebrating property owners who hold on to their land even as development surrounds them

The movie Up starts with a portrayal based on a true story: property owners continue to live in their home even as it becomes surrounded by new buildings. Their home is now isolated amidst change.

Here is a similar recent story from Australia:


Their large five bedroom property with a sprawling 200 metre-long drive is located in The Ponds area in west Sydney, where hundreds of new homes have popped up in recent years…

The home looks bizarrely out-of-place wedged between identical chock-a-block newbuilds, where its 1.99 hectare garden could fit over 50 of the matching new homes inside.

However, when their neighbours upped and left – choosing to sell to the developers – the Zammits made a last hold out.

They refused to sell, despite being offered millions, and prevented the developers snatching up the last plot of land.

“The fact that most people sold out years and years ago, these guys have held on. All credit to them,” local agent Taylor Bredin told 7News

In short, the land could be worth over £25million, especially after ten years of their private rebellion.

The valiant resident holds on to their land despite possible riches; all they have to do is move. Such a story fits the image of the sacrosanct property owner. A home is their castle. No one can tell them what to do. If they want to stay, they can stay. The government or private actors should not be able to move them.

At the same time, we believe growth is good. If even just a few property owners hold out, they can interrupt larger plans for new buildings and activity. Imagine an important highway project or mass transi line or new tall building that need several properties to make it better for others but those owners will not sell. Are there limits to whether a property owner can hold on?

In the Seattle story referenced by Up and in this Australian suburban story, developers could not force the issue but they could build right around them. Edith Macefield’s Seattle home was boxed in on three sides. The suburban property above is surrounded on all four sides by dense single-family homes. The property owner has stayed but the surrounding area has been radically transformed.

For now, the single-family home owner reigns supreme. That there are relatively few similar cases also tells us something. It is nice to hold on to a property but it is also nice to profit tremendously from selling it. Some may not like teardowns but the initial homeowner can make a lot of money. Housing and land is an investment. Few can hold out against the available money and resulting changes.

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