I recently saw a house near me that was for sale. Checking the online property history, I found that the home is now worth roughly 5 times more than what it sold for in the early 1980s. By just being there for the last four decades, the home has quintupled in value.
This is not a phenomena restricted to our suburban area. Recently following an Internet rabbit trail, I was looking up property values in Levittowns on the East Coast. I remember seeing that their values had at least tripled or quadrupled over a similar span. What were once cheap and simple suburban homes became homes with values significantly above the median value for owner-occupied homes.
When I set out to study McMansions, I found regular reference to McMansions alongside SUVs. In the time period I examined, the New York Times put these two phenomena together 33 times. Both the homes and vehicles emerged in a similar time period, the end of the twentieth century, and embodied a consumption economy with a bigger is better mentality.
Looking from the vantage point of 2023, SUVs far exceeded McMansions. Even accounting for the differences in price and resources needed, can we declare the SUV the more successful cousin? This particular statistic helped me come to this conclusion:
The best counter-argument I can imagine would go like this: do bigger vehicles and more driving enable McMansions or does a love of single-family homes fuel driving SUVs? Americans like big houses and this encouraged more big vehicles to travel to and from these hours.
However, the sheer number of SUVs is hard to overcome. Millions upon millions. How many McMansions are there? Plenty, but they are clustered in particular places. The SUVs are everywhere and not fading anytime soon.
Neighbors have long bickered over fences, hedges and property borders. But lawyers involved in such tangles say the pandemic, which kept many people and their neighbors at home—and on one another’s nerves—far more, turned suburban sparring especially toxic. The rancor, they say, hasn’t eased up. Allegations of late have touched on topics including flying dirt, flowerpot placement and stray balls bouncing into a yard…
The leading reasons for flaps between neighbors are trees, fences, parking and noise, “probably in that order,” said Emily Doskow, a lawyer and mediator who edited the book “Neighbor Law.” “Everyone knows that having problems with your neighbors is one of the worst quality-of-life killers ever.”
The New York Peace Institute, a nonprofit that helps people resolve conflicts, got more calls during the pandemic about neighbor disputes, said Jessica Lopez, a program manager who coordinates mediations. Two years later, the caseload hasn’t slowed, she said, adding, “It’s a new normal.”
At the same time, as a sociologist, there are multiple questions I ask after reading this:
Is there a way to get data on this? Are the number of neighbor disputes up in the courts or in lawsuits? Not all disputes go to court; would qualitative data in communities also reveal this?
What exactly was the role of COVID-19 in this? One answer could be that more people spent time at home. Another could be that COVID-19 racheted up tension and disrupted regular social interactions. A third could be that rising property values and demand for property in some places pushed people to see their property differently.
How many communities have alternative options for mediating disputes like these rather than going to court? Are there implementable models that suburbs could offer?
Is it possible to live a certain kind of life in any kind of house? Maybe, maybe not:
The simplify movement that’s been on a low simmer in the United States for years often shows up as a reason for downsizing one’s house. The simple life, after all, can’t take place in a McMansion. Or can it? It depends on what you mean by “simple” and what ultimately makes you happy. After all, homes don’t just have costs. You pay a price for utility, and you must not neglect that side of the equation.
The article provides a number of pros and cons for downsizing one’s residence. The argument here is that the answer is not to simply avoid McMansions and all the square footage they offer; the issue is right-sizing:
Ultimately, whether downsizing is a good idea for any of us is the wrong question. The issue isn’t necessarily moving down in size, but in moving toward the right fit for our values and preferences: right-sizing. It’s possible that a house of the same size, situated elsewhere, is what you need. Or even, conceivably, a larger home.
An emphasis on right-sizing allows individual homeowners to determine what is best for them and allows that some could find that a McMansion is a good choice.
Americans have been through a tough few years, but I am optimistic about our country’s economic prospects. Americans’ resilience has helped us recover from the economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic, families are finally getting more breathing room, and my economic plan is making the United States a powerhouse for innovation and manufacturing once again.
In the list of economic accomplishments, I could find no mention of housing. None. Zero. There could be a few reasons for this:
There is little good news on the housing front.
The new about housing is less good or clear than the areas Biden cites.
Housing is not viewed as a winning political topic.
What could political leaders do to help deliver a Christmas housing present for Americans? How can they talk about jobs, incomes, taxes, and opportunities without mentioning one of the most basic pieces of the good life in the United States: a pleasant home or residence in a decent location?
I keep thinking about the car commercials that have run for years featuring people getting new cars, SUVs, or trucks as Christmas gifts (sometimes with a bow). This might be the ultimate in Christmas consumption: a true big ticket purchase on the biggest consumer day. At the same time, Americans like cars and driving and are willing to shell out for it. Americans also like single-family homes; could someone develop a Christmas housing share gift program? Or, “give a mortgage”?
At the core of American housing policy is a secret hiding in plain sight: Homeownership works for some because it cannot work for all. If we want to make housing affordable for everyone, then it needs to be cheap and widely available. And if we want that housing to act as a wealth-building vehicle, home values have to increase significantly over time. How do we ensure that housing is both appreciating in value for homeowners but cheap enough for all would-be homeowners to buy in? We can’t…
Fundamentally, the U.S. needs to shift away from understanding housing as an investment and toward treating it as consumption. No one expects their TV or their car to be a store of value, let alone to appreciate. Instead, Americans recognize that expensive purchases should reflect their particular desires and that the cost should be worth the use they get out of them…
If we are interested in helping low- and middle-income people live well, we need to fix renting. Some potential policies include increasing oversight of the rental market, providing tenants with a right to counsel in eviction court to reduce predatory filings, advancing rent-stabilization policies, public investment in rental-housing quality, and, most important, building tons of new housing so that power shifts in the rental market from landlords to tenants. Even if nothing changes and America’s love affair with homeownership continues, tens of millions of people will continue renting for the duration of their lives, and almost everyone will rent for at least part of their life. Financial security, reliable and reasonable housing payments, and freedom from exploitation should not be the domain of homeowners.
There is a lot to think about here. A few thoughts:
Is the entire goal of the American system to generate money through property and ownership? Owning land and property has been very important from the beginning not only for what land could be used for and the money that could be generated but also because of status and rights attached to owning land and homes.
Who is homeownership for? Consistently in American life, it is more available and profitable for wealthier white residents. Policies and ideals have promoted and perpetuated this.
Given #1 and #2, renting is not just a difference in how one pays for their dwelling. It is a difference in how a person is regarded and what is viewed as ideal. The current system may have vast disparities in homeownership and the wealth generated by it but renting or renters is disagreeable to a good portion of Americans.
Even if the goal remains to help adults in the United States attain homeownership, more could be done to address renting or obtaining a first property or addressing racial disparities in housing values. Ignoring renting means that it could limit people in the future from owning a home. Or, not having entry-level housing means people cannot easily move up. Or, help limit the disparities in housing values based on existing patterns. Promoting only homeownership is short-sighted.
3D printing offers potential solutions to major challenges for the U.S. housing market: reducing the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change and rising housing prices contributing to surging homelessness. Some experts expect the American industry to boom in the next two to three years…
But 3D-printed houses are already 5%-10% cheaper than a regular build in the United States, according to Zach Mannheimer, CEO of Alquist 3D, which aims to build affordable 3D-printed homes to serve lower-income communities, and experts predict costs will go down as the industry expands. A 2018 study in the academic research publication IOP Science: Materials Science and Engineerings, based in the U.K., argues that 3D printing can cut costs by at least 35%…
If scaled up, 3D-printed buildings are significantly better for the environment than those that are built from scratch on-site. The building process cuts waste by 60%because it only manufactures the materials required. There’s no need to trim or subtract excess materials so they aren’t sending unused wood, concrete or glass for window panes to the landfill, according to academic research. And 3D printers work better with nontraditional cement alternatives such as “hempcrete” — a mixture of hemp, sand and other materials — than they do with regular concrete. That could encourage the concrete industry to pursue more sustainable alternatives to concrete, which creates significant greenhouse gas emissions in its production…
HUD seems optimistic about 3D-printed houses as a climate change solution. “3D printing is one of the promising advances in construction which the HUD team sees as having the potential to lower housing costs and increase energy efficiency and resilience,” a HUD spokesperson told Yahoo News in an email.
While there are still multiple barriers to overcome, the advantages listed above sound intriguing. If costs are consistently lower, building speed is quicker, and there are sizable environmental payoffs, this could interest many in the housing industry ranging from those looking to make money to people searching for cheaper housing.
All those advantages noted above lead me to wonder about barriers to entry in this field. Can conventional builders pivot or would they rather continue with their approaches? Are there companies more in the tech or manufacturing fields who would get into housing? Can we envision a point where individual property owners could use 3D-printing to do their own thing?
With one person in the article estimating only 10 such homes were built in the United States last year, even a small increase in numbers next year could lead to a sizable percentage increase.
Interra Realty, a Chicago-based commercial real estate investment services firm, announced this week it brokered the transaction — equating to $242,500 per unit — for the property at 1 N. Chestnut Ave. The firm represented both the seller, the Chestnut Street Condominium Association, and the confidential buyer, according to the announcement…
“As long as there remains potent rental demand in desirable communities like Arlington Heights, I expect to see continued deconversion opportunities in select Chicago suburbs,” Interra Managing Partner Patrick Kennelly said in the company announcement. “This submarket, in particular, has become more of an investment target following headlines related to Arlington Park.”
If this continues to spread – and I saw numerous stories in the last few years about single-family homes turned into rentals as well – I would imagine there will be some concern and attempted regulations.
I regularly drive by a single-family home that is located on a busy four lane road. Decades ago, this was a two lane road and traffic was lighter. Now, it is a road with a 50 MPH speed limit and many cars zooming daily between suburbs. In the morning, the school bus stops on the busy road to pick up kids from one house. Most of the housing in this area is located on streets that branch off this main road; this is common in suburban areas as residential neighborhood traffic is routed to arterial roads.
When looking for housing years ago, I remember seeing homes located on such roads. What might be the advantages and disadvantages of such properties?
-Quick access to a major road. Suburban subdivisions can be big and the roads winding. It can take minutes just to leave the neighborhood.
-A reduced price. If the road is busy and noisy, this may mean the property is cheaper than comparable houses and lots.
-A location along a known road.
-Noise. The sound of cars and trucks is constant.
-Safety. Many suburbanites might wonder whether kids can safely play.
-Lower property values in comparison to similar properties.
-Less parking. If you have lots of people over, is the driveway big enough for everyone?
I would guess many suburbanites would choose not to live on or even near such a major road if they can help it. At the same time, plenty of suburbs have houses located along busy and fast roads.
First, engineers must assess if the house is structurally sound to move. Once that’s determined, Mr. Davis said, “then physically we come in and typically excavate around the house and clean the perimeter of the house.”
Following the excavation, the next step is to “jackhammer or cut holes in the foundation and slip a grid of steel under the house,” he added. “I have to design the length and weight of the steel to hold the structure without failure. I need to work out weight of structure before I start to position the jacking and lifting points and give my best estimation of what’s necessary to hold the house safely when it’s under my control.”
If the home isn’t undergoing renovations, it can be lifted or moved with household goods, including furniture in place, because that weight is a small fraction of the total weight, which can be many tons. (The furniture does not have to be secured, Mr. Davis said, but he does suggest taking pictures and mirrors down, along with other fragile items.)…
The home must also be disconnected from utilities before the relocation has begun; gas and sewer lines must be cut and capped as well. Once it’s in its new position, they are reconnected.
I have wondered how many houses have been moved in such a way as it would be very difficult to tell after the fact if a home had been moved to the spot.
Many people who have moved might love to hear that this method does not require moving household goods. You can just move your house instead! But, I imagine the cost plus the process – needing to find land, obtaining permits, etc. – make this an unrealistic way to avoid packing.
If the cost of house moving could be reduced, it would be interesting to consider mixing more houses in different locations. In the United States, many residential neighborhoods contain homes roughly constructed at the same time. But, if houses could be more easily moved, there could be more styles and sizes interspersed through residential areas.