“5 Reasons That Hispanic Homeownership Will Define Housing’s Future”

Where will the housing market turn in the near future? A new report suggests a move toward Latinos:

1. Hispanic Homeownership – Since 2000, the number of Hispanic owner households has increased from 4.242 million to 6.810 million, a rise of 60.54 percent; in just the last four years, in fact, Hispanic owner households have risen 614,000.

2. Hispanic Households – When we extend our parameters to overall households, the numbers are even more stunning. In 2014, the number of Hispanic households grew by 320,000, or 40 percent of total U.S. household growth.

3. The Hispanic Population – Since 1970, the Hispanic population has increased by 592 percent. No, that is not a typo! Even more, the Hispanic population is expected to reach 120 million by 2050, more than double what it is today.

4. Hispanics in the Labor Force – Thus far in the new millennium, Hispanics have accounted for 65 percent of the growth in the U.S. labor force, and every year, one million U.S.-born Latinos enter adulthood; with numbers like that, it’s no surprise that Hispanic purchasing power is $1.5 trillion, and is projected to grow to $2.0 trillion by 2020 (that’s an increase of $500 billion!).

5. Hispanics in Housing – Sixty-five percent of top agents NAHREP surveyed expected 2015 to be a “breakout year” for Hispanic homeownership, but NAHREP’s report pulled no punches on the considerable barriers that remain for homebuyers, among them a lack of affordable housing, competition from cash investors and tight lending standards – problems will have to be overcome before homeownership can truly take off.

Reasons #2-4 involve demographics: an increasing population leading to more households and workers. Reasons #1 and 5 address more Hispanics getting involved in the housing market: an increasing number of owners, optimism from realtors, and factors limiting even more Hispanics from owning homes.

The demographics are suggestive but the evidence in reasons #1 and 5 is limited. Census figures from the last quarter of 2014 suggest there is still a long ways to go: the homeownership rate for non-Hispanic white alones was 72.3% but only 44.5% for Hispanic (of any race) and 42.1% for Black alone. A growing population and jobs alone are not enough; homeownership often involves consistently good jobs and wealth as well as access to capital and housing at cheaper levels of the housing market where homeowners can get a start.

Percent of American teenagers at its lowest point ever

The development of the age category teenager has been influential in American society but recent data suggests the percent of Americans who are teenagers has never been lower:

Here’s the total number of 13-to-19 year olds over the past 50 years. (The most recent data from the Census Bureau is an estimate from 2013.)

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in different social spheres including:

1. Education. Does this mean the closing of schools/colleges and fewer jobs for educators?

2. Marketing. Teenagers wanted to utilize their disposable income and brands wanted to hook them as consumers for life. But, with fewer teenagers, brands will really have to make sure they reach enough teenagers.

3. Suburbs. These areas have been devoted to children for decades while also not knowing what to do with teenagers who often wanted to escape the relatively dull, often private settings.

4. All sorts of occupations. Are there certain industries that won’t attract enough teenagers?

I could go on. But, I would also note that there may be even fewer teenagers if it hadn’t been for higher birth rates among the tens of millions of immigrants who have made their way to the United States in recent decades.

Not quite a McMansion but “bigger than they should be for the lots” and “faintly ridiculous”

I applaud this effort to not label every home you dislike a McMansion but this discussion of zoning in New Jersey suggests there is not a readily accessible term for disliked homes smaller than McMansions:

An association does run the new neighborhood, but the houses are not small. While they may not qualify as actual McMansions, they are bigger than they should be for the lots they are on and look faintly ridiculous. The project isn’t finished. Let’s see how well landscaping mitigates the problem…

Much of the objection is aesthetic. The Park Avenue and Whippany Road intersection is the gateway to Hanover Township coming west from Morristown and visitors should not be presented with an eyesore as their first impression of the township, residents say.

While McMansions are assumed to be larger than normal, what are the negative terms for smaller than normal homes? For homes with less square footage, the terms tend to refer to specific kinds of homes but without necessarily carrying the same connotations as McMansions. Condos. Townhomes. Starter homes. Split levels. Tiny houses. Perhaps the closest one is “double-wide” or “trailer home” but these are less common in many areas and/or are restricted to specific clusters or more rural areas.

At the same time, the small size of a new home or set of smaller units doesn’t necessarily mean that the size and design escapes scrutiny. The homes here are considered an “eyesore.” Elsewhere, others argue that multi-family units or smaller homes compared to everyone else may just actually lower property values through offering cheaper housing units or destroying the community’s character.

What is the goal of Naperville’s first housing expo?

Naperville will host its first housing expo this Saturday:

The new event is an effort to provide answers for people with all types of housing needs, said city spokeswoman Linda LaCloche. Help for buyers, renters and seniors usually is spread out among several agencies…

The DuPage Homeownership Center, BMO Harris Bank, Naperville Bank & Trust and the Main Street Organization of Realtors are the city’s main partners in the event, which will present resources from 19 agencies or businesses including banks, real estate agents, lawyers, home remodelers, title companies and insurance agents…

The 9:15 a.m. session will cover the money side of buying a house including topics such as financing, credit, grants, incentives, homebuyer assistance, budgeting and avoiding foreclosure…

A panel at 10:15 a.m. will cover home maintenance and tips for seniors to stay in their homes. How to choose a contractor, how to avoid scams, how to use programs that help pay maintenance costs and which types of repairs require city permits all will be discussed.

A final session at 11:15 a.m. will discuss the rental responsibilities of landlords and tenants. Members of the city’s housing commission, who helped plan the new event, will lead the session and share information about Naperville’s crime-free housing program. The city council could extend the voluntary program or make it mandatory.

It is not immediately clear the purposes of this event. The city suggests this is about providing information regarding housing needs. But, only certain groups are targeted – those who want to buy homes, seniors, renters and landlords – as I don’t see much information about affordable housing or dealing with teardowns or having good interactions with neighbors (as possible examples). If I had to guess, this sounds like more of an event promoting homeownership. This makes sense in a community like Naperville that is relatively wealthy but it doesn’t exactly promote a full range of housing issues.

Patterns in “All Transit – Guess the City”

A new online quiz moves you through four levels of difficulty as you try to identify the American city by only the traces of mass transit routes. Four quick patterns I observed playing through the levels:

1. The easier ones to identify are usually (1) big cities with (2) identifiable bodies of water.

2. One thing I found helpful on the map was the difference shown between bus and train lines. If there were fewer train lines with more bus routes along straight roads, I guessed Sunbelt cities. With their more recent histories based on automobile travel, they would be more likely to implement buses on the existing roads. But, some of the cities with more bus than train lines ended up being mid-sized cities in the Midwest and Northeast that probably couldn’t financially support large train lines.

3. There are a lot of mid-sized American cities and unlike #1 above, they are (1) not as well-known and (2) often away from large bodies of water.

4. Level 4 was pretty insane. For example, could you easily spot the difference between Davie, FL, Bryan, TX, Richardson, TX, and Poway, CA via their bus stops?

Wealthier LA neighborhoods use on average three times as much water

As California faces a major water shortage, a new analysis shows wealthier Los Angeles neighborhoods use much more water:

Residents in communities such as La Canada Flintridge, Newport Beach, Malibu and Palos Verdes all used more than 150 gallons of water per capita per day in January. By contrast, Santa Ana used just 38 gallons and communities in Southeast L.A. County used less than 45.

Water usage in Los Angeles was 70 gallons per capita. But within the city, a recent UCLA study examining a decade of Department of Water and Power data showed that on average, wealthier neighborhoods consume three times more water than less-affluent ones.

With Gov. Jerry Brown’s order requiring a 25% cut in water consumption, upscale communities are scrambling to develop stricter laws that will work where years of voluntary standards have not. Many believe it’s going to take a change in culture as well as city rules to hit the goal…

High water use by upscale cities is about more than lifestyle. These communities tend to have fewer apartments and less dense housing. The dwellings tend to be larger and include sprawling grounds in need of water. The UCLA study found that owners of single-family homes often over-water when restrictions are not in place.

One suggestion I’ve seen in multiple places is that municipal water in the United States is much too cheap so rates should be raised to help customers think twice. Yet, this cost wouldn’t be as much of a hindrance to wealthier residents as the wealthy can move more easily or purchase water from elsewhere. Additionally, using more water may just be seen as a necessary part of life, particularly if they see water usage as part of the good or high status life with amenities like fountains and pools or it is tied to property values. Does this mean we need regressive water rates that can be adjusted for different income levels so that the prices can properly prompt second thoughts?

More broadly, this hints at one of the less-discussed benefits of being wealthy: paying less attention to basic needs for resources like electricity, water, and gas or natural gas. Plus, they may have opportunities to profit off these resources – such as through investing in energy companies or influencing local design-making – in ways that lower or middle class residents cannot.

Converting street parking in neighborhoods into social spaces

As a resident of a neighborhood with frequent street parking, I was intrigued to see ideas about transforming the parking spots in front of their house into social spaces:

Given that people do have this relationship with the parking spot in front of their house, what if we enabled them to do something other than park there? Some compact neighborhoods have taken to putting bike corrals or patios in parking spots, provided a reasonable percentage of the neighbors agree…

The transformation of street parking in single family neighborhoods could make even more sense since there is more often room to spare in those parking lanes. Not to mention that if you have zero, or even one car per household, you’re not really allowed to do anything else with that space, so you’re losing out relative to your multi-car neighbors, which isn’t really fair.

What if cities allowed residential blocks to apply to convert those parking lanes to whatever they wanted to, including cottages, bike lanes, extra garden space, public p-patches or dedicated car-share parking? Even better, what if our cash-strapped cities started monetizing the value in those two lanes and allowing neighborhoods to do whatever they wanted (including parking there) as long as they rented out the space, and generally agreed on a plan? The drive lanes in the middle of the street would be conserved, we might find ourselves with more neighborhood parks, or perhaps more little cottages permeating the urban fabric. We might even find new neighborhood amenities in these spaces that we hadn’t even thought of.

Some interesting ideas for spaces that may have value elsewhere. Americans tend to lack public spaces but we do tend to provide lots of space to driving.

Two other quick thoughts:

1. Another added bonus might be that taking away free or cheap parking (though street parking is taxpayer funded) can lead to fewer cars when potential owners have to consider the added price of parking their vehicles.

2. Might this simply be done at the block or neighborhood level by applying some sort of ratio based on nearby housing units? If this were done on the broader level, it gets away from needing to individually monetize spaces and this may discourage driving for a larger number of people.

23-acre city for autonomous cars and “mechatronic pedestrians”

A new University of Michigan facility is ready to test autonomous cars in urban settings:

Welcome to M City, a soon-to-open 23-acre mini-metropolis at the University of Michigan, where automakers can test autonomous cars to prepare for the driverless future expected within a decade. Seeking to replicate a modern city’s chaos—traffic jams, unpredictable pedestrians, weaving cyclists—M City starts running on July 20 and has carmakers and tech companies queuing up to conduct research on its roads…

M City sits amid towering pines in the Detroit suburb of Ann Arbor, a short hop from the technology labs of multiple carmakers. Once completed this summer, the $6.5 million facility will be outfitted with 40 building facades, angled intersections, a traffic circle, a bridge, a tunnel, gravel roads, and plenty of obstructed views. There’s even a four-lane highway with entrance and exit ramps to test how cars without a driver would merge.

“Mechatronic pedestrians” who occasionally pop out into traffic will provide a critical—and bloodless—measure of whether sensors and automatic brakes can react in time to avoid running down a real person. As in a Hollywood backlot, building facades can be rearranged to add to the chaos confronting the chip-controlled vehicles…

Eventually, hundreds of robot cars will ply M City’s urban byways in all seasons and weather conditions. “We would never do any dangerous or risky tests on the open road, so this will be a good place to test some of the next technology,” says Hideki Hada, general manager for electronic systems at Toyota’s Technical Center in Ann Arbor. “A big challenge is intersections in the city, because there are vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycles together with complex backgrounds with buildings and connections to infrastructure. That’s why this is really important.”

I wonder if the results will get released. Just how random will those “mechatronic pedestrians” act in order to replicate the unpredictable nature of human beings? Will the landscape eventually involve real humans (given the use of undergraduate students in psychology experiments, there is a large potential pool of participants nearby)? How real will the fake city look, particularly if this becomes an area for photo opportunities?

For some reason, it sounds like the sort of facility that could easily become the setting for a horror/sci-fi film where automated cars and people come to life and wreak havoc on the urban landscape…

All the world’s people could fit in NYC

The world’s population may be at record levels but everyone could fit in New York City if they all stood really close together:

Urban’s core assumption is that 10 humans can fit in a square meter. If you watch this video of nine journalists squeezing themselves into a square meter, you can see that while this would be cozy, it’s definitely possible. This especially true given that about a quarter of the world’s population is under 15.

At 10 people per square meter, that means we can fit 1,000 people in a 10-by-10-meter square. 54,000 people can fit in an American football field, and 26 million people – about the population of Scandinavia – can fit into one square mile, Urban writes. Central Park, which is 1.3 square miles or 3.4 square kilometers, could hold the population of Australia or Saudi Arabia. All 320 million Americans could huddle together into a square that is 3.5 miles or 5.7 kilometers on each side.

And what if we found a piece of land for everyone on Earth – all 7.3 billion of the world’s people? Urban calculates that we would need a square that is 27 km, or 16.8 miles, on each side – an area smaller than Bahrain and, yes, New York City.

Urban calculates that we could fit 590 million people in Manhattan — that takes care of North America. We could fit 1.38 billion people in Brooklyn, equivalent to the population of Africa, South America and Oceania. Queens could hold 2.83 billion — roughly the equivalent of India + China + Japan. 1.09 billion could fit in the Bronx, taking care of Europe, while 1.51 billion could fit Staten Island, making room for the rest of Asia ex-China, Japan and India.

Of course, this isn’t a long-term possibility. But, it does lead me to a few thoughts:

1. This suggests there is a lot of land where few people live. Some of this land is simply uninhabitable. But, there still must be more land where population densities are really low.

2. This reminds me of the sorts of calculations done by those who observe rallies and protests. Calculations of crowds on the National Mall utilize estimates of how close people can stand together for such events.

3. A more abstract question is what is the highest level of population density that can still support decent lives? If technology allowed people to live closer together in the future, would people choose this?

Sociologists hosts campus radio show to help students review

I like sociology and I like radio but I never have thought of hosting a radio show that offers opportunities for students to review class material:

Social Sounds airs every Thursday from 7-8 p.m. on the campus radio station, KXUA 88.3 FM. Students are invited to send text messages with questions regarding class material to a Google Voice number and he calls out to students. This allows Adams to have a record of messages and to keep track of participation rates. He has also tracked student listeners through mentioning a secret word on air. During an exam, he had students write the secret word on the back of their scantron and found that 30 percent, or about 110 students, were listening to his show.

“I started the show at the end of the fall 2014 semester when students wanted a review session for the final exam,” Adams said. “Now that it’s on weekly, we cover one chapter per week and stay ahead of what other professors are teaching in their sociology classes. This way students in other general sociology classes can also follow along with the show.”

All of the content is student generated and gives students in Adams’ class the opportunity to earn extra credit for the course. Adams plans to continue Social Sounds as long as it’s successful. While he has encouraged other professors to be involved with the show, none have so far.

Students like having innovative ways to learn and review the material though it is a bit humorous that this innovative way involves a medium with nearly a century of mass use. (Listening for a secret word? Can’t that word be shared on social media with those who don’t listen?) I would want to know how much this improves learning – outside of the extra credit, does the radio review work as well as other review methods?