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Thread: Where should people be living?

  1. #1
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    Where should people be living?

    I know many will argue for people to live in apartments in downtown areas, but I don't think that's practical for a family of five which needs space.

    I think smaller homes with smaller backyards and building near downtowns is the way to go. I would not mind living near a downtown, but I would want to be in a house that is nice.

  2. #2
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    I think people should live in a variety of circumstances/environments suitable to their employment, family size, or other personal needs. They should live in historic farm houses on large rural properties, 150 year old inner city brownstone row houses, downtown skyrise apartments, palatial oceanside estates, bigfoot houses wedged into narrow lakefront lots, 1100 sq ft single family dwellings in second ring suburbs, and 600 sq ft shotgun shacks in remote areas off the grid.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    People should live in whichever built environment or location that socially-, economically-, and environmentally-consciously meets their needs and desires.

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    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    People should live where ever they want. I don't think there is any place people shouldn't live... except maybe in water, but that is only because they would drown. Unless those people have gills... then they can live in water.

    Honestly, I feel like a lot of the time I am Jack Handey when I answer some of these questions....

    Seriously though, a diverse collection of housing types is necessary because although maybe apartment living isn't for a family of 5, it might be for a family of 3 or a OINK or DINK family. The bajillionaires can have their rowhouses, and the lower income their 5 floor walkups. The suburbs are for those who want more space. The boonies are for those who want A LOT more space. If you can afford to live in any of those places, more power to you. Personally there is no answer to the question. Which is why I am going with my original comment.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  5. #5
    I am pro choice in this matter. People should have lots of options to choose from.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by urban19 View post
    I know many will argue for people to live in apartments in downtown areas, but I don't think that's practical for a family of five which needs space.

    I think smaller homes with smaller backyards and building near downtowns is the way to go. I would not mind living near a downtown, but I would want to be in a house that is nice.
    The people who "argue for people to live in apartments in downtown areas" are people who assume that what suits them suits everyone. Plain and simple, they're ignorant.
    • Mid and high-rise apartment living is generally not suitable for families with multiple children who are older than toddlers unless there's a competent, full-time nanny to take them to the local park to play because there's no securable outdoor play space in apartment buildings -- and how many families can afford that????
    • Living near downtown is fine if your job is downtown, but what if it's in the suburbs like so many jobs are nowadays (I believe that in recent years the number of jobs in suburbs have exceeded the number of jobs in cities)? Or what if your job is in the city but NOT downtown?
    • What if you're a Target/Walmart/Kohl's person rather than a boutique and "shoppe" person?
    • What if you prefer to prepare your own meals rather than dine out every night? What if you don't drink alcohol so that being within walking distance of bars holds absolutely no interest for you?
    • What if you like to garden? It's kind of hard to raise tomatoes on a 4 x 8 north facing balcony.

    I could go on, but I won't. The fact is that our society and economy are diverse, and housing options need to be diverse as well. One size never fits all.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    Housing types will always reflect the many different values, facets, demographics, and economic strata of society. No matter what the housing type, as long as people are willing to buy it, developers will continue to build it.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    People should live wherever there socio-economics allow them to live. If they choose to live in a cramped house downtown because they like the lifestyle, let them as long as the unit is habitable, has a working toilet and running water...

    Although this guy might think otherwise...

    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

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    Well what type of housing is best for the environment? Probably the one that reduces the people to use less car trips?

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by urban19 View post
    Well what type of housing is best for the environment? Probably the one that reduces the people to use less car trips?
    Car trips aren't the only environmental factor. People living in existing homes that have been retro-fitted to improve energy efficiency greatly benefits the environment, starting with not using up new land. Making mass transit fit modern commuting patterns (ie, more suburb to suburb rather than edge of city to downtown) would likely encourage more mass transit use.

    I find it disingenuous when advocates of dense urban housing in downtown sectors bring up sustainability because their favorite life style doesn't seem very "sustainable" to me.
    • What is sustainable about having to rely on air conditioning most of the year except when you put on the heat? That's life in a high rise building. Moreover, dense high rise buildings with asphalt and cement between them create "heat islands" that raise temperatures several degrees when it's sunny and hot.
    • What is sustainable about having to pump water to the roof of a midrise/highrise to insure adequate water pressure?
    • What is sustainable about using an elevator regularly?
    • How is living in dense housing in downtown cores that limit opportunities to grow your own produce (not to mention the infamous "urban chickens") sustainable.? There aren't even suitable empty lots in the downtown cores to create community gardens. As for relying on farmers' markets, I've been to many in various cities, and I know for a fact that much of the allegedly "local produce" sold there is no more "locally grown" than what's available in my local Tops and Wegmans' supermarkets, and maybe less so because the supermarkets label what local farms they actually buy from.

  11. #11
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by urban19 View post
    Well what type of housing is best for the environment? Probably the one that reduces the people to use less car trips?
    It depends.

    There are seldom single cause problems or single point solutions to problems when it comes to the built environment. The world is more....complicated and nuanced than that. For example, cars trips for commuters represent one set of factors which would be considered generally undesireable from a purely environmental standpoint. Yes, more fuel gets burned and more CO2 gets emitted when folks drive automobiles more miles. There are many other considerations at work, though that might affect the environment.

    Unless one happens to live in a country with USSR style top-down central planning (an edict is hereby passed requiring everyone in Uzbekistan to abandon their farms and move into the following urban centers...), housing is generally constructed by developers who wish to make money. People purchase/rent housing for legions of personal reasons, and while some folks might base this decision in part over some concern for the environment, the vast majority will more probably base this type of decision on largely economic reasons...can I experience what I consider 'quality living' and still be close enough to my job to make it worthwhile? Developers understand this and try to acquire the most desireable land for the lowest price, and improve it at the lowest cost to them (depending on the target market) in order attract buyers/renters who will in turn make the developer a profit. In very broad strokes this is how the housing market works.

    As long as we have lots of people living in many different circumstances, with different personal histories and desires, and with varying levels of financial resources, there will continue to be markets for many different types of housing. If/when the price of gas jumps to $10 a gallon (and presupposing no alternate power/fuel sources have stepped in) I'm sure this will tilt the markets accordingly and automobile fuel consumption will assume a much larger part of people's decision making process when it comes to choosing an 'affordable' place to live.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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  13. #13
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by urban19 View post
    Well what type of housing is best for the environment? Probably the one that reduces the people to use less car trips?
    Adobe houses on the plains. Check out the Aztec Ruins, now THAT is environmentally sensitive. No cars. No water for that matter...

    Again, there is no simple answer to this question. I wish you would frame your question in terms of possibilities, not certainties. Instead of What is the best housing... why not go with, What housing types serve to advance the environmental goals of lowering greenhouse gases and automobile dependency?

    Much more informed question, and it will elicit a much more informed answer. Until then, I am going with Adobe houses.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  14. #14
    Quote Originally posted by Hink_Planner View post
    Adobe houses on the plains. Check out the Aztec Ruins, now THAT is environmentally sensitive. No cars. No water for that matter...

    Again, there is no simple answer to this question. I wish you would frame your question in terms of possibilities, not certainties. Instead of What is the best housing... why not go with, What housing types serve to advance the environmental goals of lowering greenhouse gases and automobile dependency?

    Much more informed question, and it will elicit a much more informed answer. Until then, I am going with Adobe houses.

    Do you mean houses built out of adobo or adobe?

  15. #15
    Cyburbian cng's avatar
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    Yeah, I would refrain from asking this question in absolute terms... Different cities have different land use visions. Some will prioritize the preservation of open space... others will be more pro-growth, and be more economically driven. Frankly, for some cities, proper land use is not even a priority, but an after-thought.

    In the planning profession, I would never try to impose what I think is best for other people. If anything, it's the other way around. Planners perform outreach to the community to gauge what their vision and objectives are, then put together recommendations. Of course, this is in spite of political demands and pressures.

  16. #16
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    Do you mean houses built out of adobo or adobe?
    *drool*.... I can only dream....
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  17. #17
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Honestly, when I see an thread titled like this I feel embarrassed to be a Cyburbian.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    Which environments, from urban to rural, produce the most economic output?

    Which environments and housing types are in demand, and how can jurisdictions, in coordination with the private sector, meet that demand?

    How can housing types be improved in order to better meet the demand of consumers and to perform better for society and the natural environment?

    Do problematic housing typologies that are inherently and necessarily inferior exist, and should they be discouraged and/or outlawed?

  19. #19
    Probably all residential decisions involve trade offs. If the original poster meant where should people live in terms of sustainability and lower environmental impacts, then they should live in as dense a situation as possible (sorry LindaD but for 99% of the population city living results in total lower energy use - unless you a vegetarian who grows their own grains, never leaves home, and doesn't buy anything that has to be delivered). If they desire low cost, good schools for their kids, then a suburban area might make sense. If they want an area where they can be distant from everyone, then a rural place might be best.

  20. #20
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    The better question may be how do we get people to live in places they can actually afford, without depending on Federal handouts from a bankrupt GSE mortgage system. Figuring out the future form of American housing is, to my mind, synonymous with figuring out how to pay for it. The simplest way to put this problem is to figure out what you can buy for a maximum 10 year mortgage, with 10-30% down, and for about 400 bps wider than the 4% you pay for GSE money these days. That's where you should be living and what cities should be building. If zoning doesn't allow for whatever that affordable product looks like, then zoning needs to change.

    The first priority has to be to encourage people to live within their means.. and to provide housing stock that people can actually afford, instead of just pretend they can afford because of government welfare handouts. The GSE system is dead - with a multi-trillion dollar value gap and emergency Congressional injections just to cover P&I payments to the Saudis, Chinese and Japanese government entities who hold vast amounts of that quasi-sovereign debt. With the death of the GSEs, most homeowner mortgages have gone as well. With no mortgages available, existing housing prices are STILL plummeting.. worse than expected, losing another 2.5% nationally in February, and that miserable level of activity is under 94% GSE cover, still. Simply put, we can no longer afford to subsidize our luxurious ability to choose to live in the housing typology of our choice by issuing vast quantities national debt through Fannie, Freddie and FHA. When you fail as badly as some American homebuyers have failed (in respect of responsible behavior), you diminish the element of choice for everybody. That's what will happen to housing form.

    Put another way. The average household income is about $45,000. In a post-GSE environment, that household can put in $20,000 in equity and support a monthly mortgage payment of $940 (26% of pre-tax income). That means roughly $80,000 at 7.5% a year. This means that the average house should cost around $100,000. That's the house we should be building. Average home prices in the US fell from $220,000 in 2007 to $152,000 today. That $52,000 is the extra house.. space, yard, whatever, that we can't afford. If that average house costs $77 /sq ft to build/procure land-for and the developer/builder expects a modest 8-10% profit for his efforts, that's a 1,200 sq ft house! Of course, this formula would vary by market. Rancho Santa Fe (the wealthiest neighborhood in America) can afford 4x the house, given its average household income, as the national average.. of course, the average house in Rancho Santa Fe won't cost $77/sq ft to build either. More likely twice or three times that, after the land residual is taken into account. Which means instead of 7,000 sq ft monster home, it's people can probably only afford a 2,000-2,400 sq ft home. Everyone needs to get downsized, across the board.

    Housing product needs to adjust to reflect this reality. If that means no more new single family home construction, so be it. I'm not sure it does, but it certainly will mean a lot less of 'em. I suspect that all this means that once we start facing reality, the average new American home is going to be walk-up apartment in a perimeter block.. or maybe a small modern Dutch-style row/townhouse, roughly half the size of the 2,400 square feet peak size of new housing units in 2007. That extra 1,200 square feet wasn't yours to begin with. It belongs to Uncle Sam and he plans to take it back.

    The party's over. Now it's time for the hangover. ;-O
    Last edited by Cismontane; 22 Mar 2011 at 12:58 PM.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    This issue was raised in another thread. How do we achieve a mix of incomes, if so much of the new construction needs to be inexpensive in order to balance-out the stuff that was built during the most recent boom?

    I think the best hope may be to encourage affluent households to seek new construction, different housing typologies, and different environments. That process will create demand for high-end new construction, but said process will place further downward pressure on the prices of many existing homes.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    This issue was raised in another thread. How do we achieve a mix of incomes, if so much of the new construction needs to be inexpensive in order to balance-out the stuff that was built during the most recent boom?
    yes.. which is why I see a lot of low-rise p-blocks and garden apartments in our future. If the most aggressive, best credit product a private mortgage market can offer the average US household is a $115,000 15 year mortgage at 7.0% and the typical product is a $80,000 10 year mortgage at 7.5%, and the average household can afford $20,000 down in equity, there you have your range in how much house prices have yet to fall (from $152,000 today to a range from $100,000-$135,000 before things truly stabilize). You're probably pretty unlikely to build this lowrise, basic stuff, on a national average basis, at under $75 to $80 a square feet including whatever is left of the land-residual, which means that developers will be hardpressed to provide unit sizes half the size of what they were offering before the collapse, in most markets. We need to come up with cheap-to-build technologies.

    The other issue is property taxes. With the new post-GSE reality, munis will have limited scope to raise residential property taxes despite being under fiscal stress. A typical household can't afford to pay more than $2,000 to $4,000 a year and still be able to qualify for mortgages and service other debt they might have.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    We need to come up with cheap-to-build [and cheap to operate] technologies.
    .
    Slight correction appended. Much better insulation is required.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    When I first saw the title I thought we were talking geographically but I see we're talking micro scale.

    Type of unit, size and style are debatable however what I don't think is debatable is the fact that we should be living where existing infrastructure is underutilized and has capacity to absorb new population, as opposed to building new infrastructure and extending our power grid, water/sewer capacity and road system.

  25. #25
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tide View post
    ...we should be living where existing infrastructure is underutilized and has capacity to absorb new population, as opposed to building new infrastructure and extending our power grid, water/sewer capacity and road system.
    I think the housing correction of 2008 to the present shows this. You cannot build large scale developments with huge infrastructure costs in this economy. You couldn't do it in the economy of 2007. But many did.

    I would doubt that there are many cities that saw growth in housing permits year over year from 2008 to today. We built too many houses in locations that didn't have the adequate infrastructure to support it. The correction will be that these homes lay vacant for a long time until we self correct with additional home ownership. Since home ownership is much more difficult these days, it is going to take a long time.

    IMO we should only be building custom single family homes for those who can finance it. Otherwise the housing stock is pretty ripe for anyone in the $50k-$700k range in most of the States. Housing prices will continue to fall until they stabilize at what the market and the banks with millions of homes in foreclosure accept.

    I think it will happen on August 8, 2014.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

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