I hate being all in this thing together. Or let’s just say, I hate being all in this thing together with the home-construction industry. Right now, a McMansion the size of the Louvre is going up directly across the street from my house. Nine other monstrosities are also being deployed in what was once a beautiful, empty meadow. The field has been filled with backhoes and earth movers and building materials on and off for at least two years.
The projects, once begun, take forever to finish. The crew starts work on a house, then gets dispatched to finish another project in a different town, and then comes back. So it takes months to get the micro-chateaux built. It’s like watching someone set fire to your neighborhood, then douse it, then come back and start the fire again six weeks later. You’d rather they just ruined things once and for all and got it over with. If you’re going to sack Rome, sack it. Drilling, digging, dust and leveled trees have been our reality since 2011. It makes it very, very hard to root for the home builders.
I am constantly reading that young people are not buying houses at the pace needed to get the economy percolating. Well, maybe someone should tell the developers to stop building lurid, vile houses that no one can afford. Or to stop building lurid, vile, prefab, ticky-tacky houses even if people can afford them.
When the economy cratered in 2008 and my 401(k) got massacred, I wasn’t as upset as I should have been because it meant that the McMansions scheduled to be erected across the street wouldn’t get built until the recession was over. Four happy years ensued, without bogus cathedral windows and four-car garages and faux-Belgian cobblestones and Philistines for neighbors. This situation put me in the uncomfortable position of having to root against my own country. As long as the housing industry was flat on its back, life was good.
I really wish that the economy were not so dependent upon the health of home builders. I would love to root for these guys. I really would. But they build trash. They tear down adorable bungalows and build McMansions in Princeton, N.J. In Chicago, in Boston, in Los Angeles and even in little old Easton, Pa., they are bulldozing whatever stands in their way and throwing up their eyesores. Throwing up being the operative term.
What does he really think? I wonder if this is closely tied to what he suggests is a personal experience with nearby houses. It is one thing to dislike McMansions on the whole and argue they are bad for society – like Thomas Frank suggested a few months ago – but then not live by them. In fact, a lot of social problems are like this: we know there are bad things happening in our county, state, country, and around the world but it is different when they are removed and abstract. There is some of that argument here: such homes are ugly, he doesn’t want to have to rely on the housing industry so much, etc.
It is another thing if a new McMansion under construction greets you every morning when you walk out your front door. Or if construction projects take a really long time. Are these concerns the result of teardowns where a historic neighborhood is threatened?