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.
“The places that boast the country’s largest average homes tend to be clustered in higher-priced communities either near bigger economic centers or in outdoors destinations,” says George Ratiu, senior economist and manager of economic research for Realtor.com. “On the flip side of the coin, cities [with] average home sizes [that] skew toward the smaller end are located in geographically constrained locations, where natural boundaries meet high-density development.”
But that’s not all that goes into the equation. Many older communities, such as in the Northeast, that were developed for blue-collar workers tend to be filled with smaller homes. Meanwhile, newer developments geared toward white-collar commuters often offer abodes with more square footage and amenities like open kitchens, which were not popular in the 1950s. You’re more likely to find McMansions in these areas.
In other words, larger homes are in wealthier and more sprawling communities.
I imagine zoning might also play a part in this; what kind of single-family homes are possible and/or encouraged? This is tied to historical patterns and policy decisions.
How do land and housing prices factor into this? Most of the communities listed above are not in the most expensive housing markets.
Hagen sees a persistent “undertow of people wanting contrast, a dark roof with light siding”—the prevailing fashion. I suspect we can blame anxiety over property values; call it Zillow syndrome. With inflated home prices composing larger shares of owners’ net worth, who wants to take a chance? This is the sort of thinking that has supported water-sucking green lawns in places like Arizona, not to mention racist exclusionary covenants across the country.
The roofing industry itself encourages it. The website of Apple Roofing, which has offices from Florida to South Dakota, credited dark shades with “significantly improving curb appeal.” (Sometime after I spoke with an executive there, this reference was removed.) Its blog argues that the choice between dark and light shingles “should really be about your color preference and curb-appeal over cooling costs … You can rest easy knowing proper ventilation and insulation will ensure the color has no effect on heating costs!” For roofers and manufacturers, such reassurances represent the path of least resistance—or, less graciously, pandering to consumers. And, because light shingles generally cost more to produce (the rock granules embedded in the asphalt base need an extra kiln-fired coating), dark shingles let companies charge higher margins or offer customers lower prices.
But, this prevailing fashion comes with downsides:
All this despite the fact that light shingles tend to last longer than dark ones; they stretch, contract, and crack less in the heat. Factor in energy costs and they’re a bargain: A study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that white roofs cost considerably less over their lifetime than both black and sustainability-flaunting grassy “green roofs,” which have other environmental benefits but cost more to install and, contrary to popular belief, don’t do much to counter global warming. Researchers at Australia’s University of New South Wales, another hotbed of cool-roof research, determined that such roofs reduced indoor temperatures by up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit.
This can save lives as well as pocketbooks: Researchers found that living on the top floor under a black roof was “a major risk factor in mortality” in Chicago’s July 1995 heat wave. Cooler roofs and whiter walls may explain why fewer people die in heat waves in Greece and North Africa than in France, Russia, and other countries to the north; all that whitewash isn’t just for scenic effect.
Where are the home roofing influencers who can tilt roofing fashion in a different direction? I say this partly in jest, but the piece goes on to briefly discuss the limited involvement of governments in regulating cool roofs for residences.
The fashion for roofs will probably change at some point; home styles come and go based on a variety of factors. If it can be tilted in a direction that helps limit energy bills, limits indoor overheating, and generally is positive for the environment, this could be helpful.
The trick here might be to link cooling roofing to property values. Homeowners are very interested in increasing their property values. Having the correct style helps but style is not everything. Do cooler roofing options provide a better return on investment in the long-run? Wouldn’t not replacing a roof as often be a good thing? When do green options for homes become a very important factor in deciding property values?
The largest district in the state, the Metropolitan Water District serving 19 million people in Southern California, is paying $2 per square foot of grass pulled out. Water district customer cities and agencies can add more…
The Metropolitan Water District told CNN the number of requests for grass removal rebates jumped four times in July, to 1,172 applications…
The horrific drought led Larry Romanoff to combat climate change by ripping out his grass and replacing it with cactuses and decorative stones. Romanoff will collect $10,500, a whopping $6 per square foot of lawn removed from his desert home…
The Coachella Valley Water District and its customer, the city of Rancho Mirage, are each paying Romanoff $3 per square foot of lawn torn out…
The Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center estimated for CNN nearly 50% of the 409 water agencies in California are offering some sort of turf removal rebate, both residential and commercial.
Paying property owners now will presumably pay off in the long run as it reduces water use.
Given the water shortages facing California and other Western states, how much money will be allocated to such programs and how many homeowners will go for this? Getting rid of the grass lawn may lead to fewer maintenance needs. But, the grass lawn is such a key part of both the image and the mystique of the single-family home. It might be harder for many to envision a property of rocks and cacti or more native and drought-resistance plants.
But not simply any new floors and counters will create the desired effect. The feeling of newness is largely relative, and the only real key to creating it is banishing the things that people expect to see in a dwelling built decades ago—“landlord beige” walls, all-white appliances, dingy carpet, laminate counters, wood so warm-toned it’s practically orange. Gray floors and all of their comorbid design phenomena are cool and crisp and modern by comparison, even if they’re also crushingly boring and totally character-free and really limit a space’s potential capacity to feel warm and alive and like a home.
And the purpose of these changes is to sell properties:
In theory, the things that make up the interior of your home should be either beautiful or useful; if you’re lucky, they’ll be both. And surely some people do lose their mind for gray laminate or subway tile or barn doors, and not just because there’s no accounting for taste. Once a particular design element becomes a shorthand for newness and freshness and successful domesticity, people come around to it precisely because they want their home to reflect those qualities. But that’s a different phenomenon than appreciation for the thing itself—for how nice it is to look at, or how much more functional it makes a space. In the hands of flippers and landlords, these choices are generally made not by people who want to fill the world with the best, safest, most comfortable homes possible but by those looking for a return on the bets they’ve made on the place where you’ll start your family or play with your future grandkids. They’ve chosen these things just as much for what they aren’t as for what they are—inoffensive, inexpensive, innocuous. These houses aren’t necessarily designed to be lived in. They’re designed to go into contract.
A related argument: homeowners and sellers exhibit their investment, emotional and economically, in a property by updating it to more recent trends. They show that they care about the home fitting in a new era rather than being left behind. It can suit a new family just as well as it did its original occupants.
Would it be possible to signal newness in different ways? A particular smell? How the occupants use the space? Altered infrastructure (ranging from new furnaces or electrical systems to greener options)? Integrating the Internet, screens, and sounds?