Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Page 2 of 3 FirstFirst 1 2 3 LastLast
Results 26 to 50 of 52

Thread: How did middle class/lower class people afford to build houses?

  1. #26
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
    Registered
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Dixie
    Posts
    5,918
    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    And a form of development that is illegal in nearly all of the USA now due to local zoning laws.


    From my figuring, $6,250 in 1938 money is likely closer to $300-400K or so in today's money. IMHO, 'official' inflation tables are waaaaay low in actual buying power comparisons since 1933 (end of the gold standard).

    Before the feds started meddling in the residential real estate market with this and that subsidy during the New Deal™ and to ever-increasing scales since then, owning a house was indeed the 'American Dream™' that many aspired to - not the 'American Right' that one was entitled to. You rented a cheap flat (and there was zero stigma in that!), saved up for a down payment (20% was the norm) and worked to have sufficient cash flow to cover the payments on a 10-20 year maximum-term mortgage loan. Back then, in major part due to the cash-only nature of nearly all of the day-to-day economy, we also did not give in to the temptations of instant gratification and the 'credit card' mentality to anywhere near the scale that we do now. We would simply forgo things that we did not have cash in the pocket for, so personal debt loads were far lower, if there were any at all - and thus we were more able to save up and cover those payments.

    What we are seeing now is the manifestation of all of that misguidedness of the mid to late 20th century.

    Mike
    I agree. We should automatically reverse everything back to the late 1800, complete with robber barons, little government. child labor, polluted streams. Back when men were men and women, well.........
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  2. #27
    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    And a form of development that is illegal in nearly all of the USA now due to local zoning laws.
    <snip>
    You don't know what you are talking about, mgk920. My urban zoning district permits single-family at 12du/acre, almost identical to the posted 14du/a. This density was adopted in ... 1971 ... and has remained unchanged ever since. Through PUDs, we've permitted even greater density for detached single-family. I have one coming early next year for a proposed density of15.5du/ac.

    By right, or through PUD. Not 'illegal in nearly all of the USA'.
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  3. #28
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
    Registered
    May 2005
    Location
    New Town
    Posts
    3,844
    Quote Originally posted by Whose Yur Planner View post
    I agree. We should automatically reverse everything back to the late 1800, complete with robber barons, little government. child labor, polluted streams. Back when men were men and women, well.........
    Indeed. Pre-WWII housing was not as romantic as some would believe. I found this quote in an article titled "Origins of the Indebted American Homeowner"

    Not long after the economic crisis began, the president's landmark Conference on Homeownership reported that "down payments of 10 percent, 5 percent, and even nothing down" had become common practice in the home-mortgage market. Reliance on second mortgages and novel financing terms, the report noted, were also widespread.
    We all remember that, right? Oh, wait, we probably don't, because these statements were made at a conference in 1931. Between 1911 and 1933, the debt-to-purchase-price on homes purchased with mortgages rose from 55% to 80%. The issues we face with homeownership today are not new and not uniquely post-WWII or even post-New Deal. It is true, though, that the New Deal reforms such as extending and institutionalizing credit practices in federal policy to restimulate the borrowing that had become an essential element of economic growth only created a scenario where we continue to chase our tail.

    So, I would agree with Mike that given the wage gap in our country, the rates of homeownership we currently see are probably not sustainable or realistic. Currently we are at something like 67% homeownership rate according to the census, but if you subtract homes that are underwater, that number drops significantly. One view of homeownership says that because of the negative equity in underwater homes, they are not really "homeowners," they are essentially renters since they have no equity.

    If you remove homes with 25 percent or more of negative equity, the homeownership rate drops from 67% to 62.4% - the lowest rate in 50 years. If you remove ALL homes with negative equity, that figure drops to 57%. That would put us 21st on the list of homeownership rates worldwide. Currently we are at 14. For reference, 62% is what the the US saw in 1960.

    I think there are two schools of thought here regarding how we move forward (well, maybe there are more...) On the one hand, we can pursue strategies to try and close the wage gap and make homes more affordable (the community land trust model and other shared equity strategies like coops, deed restricted properties, etc. do just this by restricting resale values to keep them within an affordable range). Or, we can increase the stringency in lending practices resulting in a lower rate of ownership because credit would be out of reach of more people and property values will continue to increase at a rate much higher than wages. Regardless, the practice of ensuring more and more Americans can become entangled in mortgages, regardless of their long-term solvency is not going to work.

    Personally, I think that there is great value in homeownership in terms of how it stabilizes neighborhoods, families and individual lives. Its not for everyone, of course, but I have seen first hand how it really can change lives. And I think we need to find a way to stabilize housing prices in the long run, because people are not going to be making higher wages anytime soon.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  4. #29
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Wishing I were in Asia somewhere!
    Posts
    9,752
    Blog entries
    5
    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    You don't know what you are talking about, mgk920. My urban zoning district permits single-family at 12du/acre, almost identical to the posted 14du/a. This density was adopted in ... 1971 ... and has remained unchanged ever since. Through PUDs, we've permitted even greater density for detached single-family. I have one coming early next year for a proposed density of15.5du/ac.

    By right, or through PUD. Not 'illegal in nearly all of the USA'.
    Co-sign. I build NEW housing like this. Of the housing stock in Newark, only about 15-20% of it is of the single family detached variety. Bulk of the housing stock is 2-3 family homes, both old and new.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  5. #30
    I just did a back of the envelope calculation of how many single family homes on a quarter acre lots you could pack into an area within ten miles of the center of a city. Some assumptions: only half of the land would be residential. 3 people per household. 314 square miles total.

    This gives you about 400,000 single family homes and a population of about 1.2 million. Any metro are grows bigger than this either density must go up or housing prices have to rise. Or both

  6. #31
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Appleton, Wisconsin
    Posts
    4,167
    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    You don't know what you are talking about, mgk920. My urban zoning district permits single-family at 12du/acre, almost identical to the posted 14du/a. This density was adopted in ... 1971 ... and has remained unchanged ever since. Through PUDs, we've permitted even greater density for detached single-family. I have one coming early next year for a proposed density of15.5du/ac.

    By right, or through PUD. Not 'illegal in nearly all of the USA'.
    I probably should have used the words 'much' or 'many parts' instead of 'nearly all', as there are places where land prices and availability make big-lot SF development economically impossible, including infill and redevelopment in existing urbanized areas. But you get away from those dense urban areas and into the suburbs, exurbs and rural communities and you find many munis, including suburban townships here in the Appleton area, that will laugh in your face if you propose detached SFs at that density unless they are aimed at the 55+ crowd and/or are organized as PUDs/condominiums, not regular, run of the mill greenfield subdivision plats. Otherwise, it will be some sort of more traditional multi-unit rental and condominium building complexes - and there have been some big ones developed around here in recent years - while detached SF has become very stagnant.

    IMHO, another factor in the decline in house sales and ownership are new rules (ie, Dodd-Frank) that are making mortgage lending much more difficult, even for those with good credit and who are otherwise worthy of borrowing.

    Mike

  7. #32
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Wishing I were in Asia somewhere!
    Posts
    9,752
    Blog entries
    5
    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    I probably should have used the words 'much' or 'many parts' instead of 'nearly all', as there are places where land prices and availability make big-lot SF development economically impossible, including infill and redevelopment in existing urbanized areas. But you get away from those dense urban areas and into the suburbs, exurbs and rural communities and you find many munis, including suburban townships here in the Appleton area, that will laugh in your face if you propose detached SFs at that density unless they are aimed at the 55+ crowd and/or are organized as PUDs/condominiums, not regular, run of the mill greenfield subdivision plats. Otherwise, it will be some sort of more traditional multi-unit rental and condominium building complexes - and there have been some big ones developed around here in recent years - while detached SF has become very stagnant.

    IMHO, another factor in the decline in house sales and ownership are new rules (ie, Dodd-Frank) that are making mortgage lending much more difficult, even for those with good credit and who are otherwise worthy of borrowing.

    Mike
    I think it really depends on where you are. I've lived in 3 very different regions with vastly different housing characteristics. South Carolina easily had the most plentiful and least expensive land of the three places I've lived. One thing similar is that the downtown core and inner ring suburbs definitely are more dense. Portland Metro has the urban growth boundary which somewhat inflates the value of land in the tri-county area. NJ is just expensive all around no matter where you are-a typical lot I build on is 2500 square feet and we build a two-family home on it.Many developers build three-family homes on the same size lot

    Decline in house sales and ownership is more complex than the new banking rules. I know you don't care for that much market interference, but being on the back end of foreclosure counseling and thousands of hours in grad school amassing a robust data set tracking foreclosure for 6 years in NJ, it's welcome. Banks are in fact lending, but there's no more underwriting for buyers without skin in the game. I haven't had issues with qualified buyers getting loans at competitive rates.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  8. #33
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
    Registered
    May 2005
    Location
    New Town
    Posts
    3,844
    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    I probably should have used the words 'much' or 'many parts' instead of 'nearly all', as there are places where land prices and availability make big-lot SF development economically impossible, including infill and redevelopment in existing urbanized areas. But you get away from those dense urban areas and into the suburbs, exurbs and rural communities and you find many munis, including suburban townships here in the Appleton area, that will laugh in your face if you propose detached SFs at that density unless they are aimed at the 55+ crowd and/or are organized as PUDs/condominiums, not regular, run of the mill greenfield subdivision plats. Otherwise, it will be some sort of more traditional multi-unit rental and condominium building complexes - and there have been some big ones developed around here in recent years - while detached SF has become very stagnant.

    IMHO, another factor in the decline in house sales and ownership are new rules (ie, Dodd-Frank) that are making mortgage lending much more difficult, even for those with good credit and who are otherwise worthy of borrowing.

    Mike
    So, are you saying this density of development is illegal or not economically feasible? Those are two very different things. Even with the same zoning in place, the economics of housing is and will continue to change such that the only way to build an affordable home for even middle to upper middle income people will be smaller lot development at the fringe. This is already the case in many suburban areas.

    Kjel's point about regional differences is a good one. A typical suburban development on the west side of my city is a 50'X50' lot (which would be, what, 17 du/acre?). This is on a "regular, run of the mill greenfield subdivision plat." You have to consider that we have one of the lowest per capita incomes in the nation (AMI is $44,594 for a family of 4), so if developers want to build something affordable for our area's middle class, this is what you get.

    I would disagree that Dodd-Frank makes it difficult for "good borrowers" to get access to loans. What it does is make loans that may have been accessible to higher risk borrowers no longer available. Have you looked at the interest rates of late?! We help people earning 80% of AMI and below get home loans on a regular basis. Its not the cakewalk it once was, and a good number get turned down, but its a very favorable environment. And we underwrite them to a higher standard than the banks before agreeing to sell a home. Those who get turned down, by and large, really are people who, because of their financial picture, should not be taking on this kind of debt.

    I recently attended my region's Federal Reserve Economic Forum and the issue mainly is consumer confidence and the general sense of security potential buyers feel. With so much economic uncertainty and a lack of confidence in job security, people are reticent to buy. And younger generations are not interested much at all (and that was the case prior to 2008). Because people may need to up and move for a job or have queasy feelings about whether the housing market is really in rebound or if we are heading into a double dipper, voluntarily taking on that kind of debt is not attractive, even if you could get the loan. This is why in many parts of the nation you see people who could buy are renting instead. In my fair city, rental prices are way up with the average 3br apartment (so, not including rental SF homes) is $1200. For that kind of money, that same household could easily afford a home with a much lower monthly mortgage payment. So, why are they not buying? Uncertainty about the future, both personally in terms of jobs and in the bigger picture in terms of homes holding value.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  9. #34
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
    Registered
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Dixie
    Posts
    5,918
    It really depends on where you are at and the demographics of your area. My community is going and blowing.in reference to residential. If your area is skewed toward people with children, them there is going to be a higher demand of SFR. If you are skewed older, then you have a higher demand for higher density. Some of it depends on the history of the area, the amount of available land, etc. Another angle on new housing is jobs. Building translates into jobs. By encouraging growth, you employ more people in your area.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  10. #35
    My neighborhood in Boston had an increase in kids <18 in every race/ethnicity group between 2000 and 2010. About 1500 more condos and apartments are planned. So some people can live in density.

  11. #36
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Wishing I were in Asia somewhere!
    Posts
    9,752
    Blog entries
    5
    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    So, are you saying this density of development is illegal or not economically feasible? Those are two very different things. Even with the same zoning in place, the economics of housing is and will continue to change such that the only way to build an affordable home for even middle to upper middle income people will be smaller lot development at the fringe. This is already the case in many suburban areas.

    Kjel's point about regional differences is a good one. A typical suburban development on the west side of my city is a 50'X50' lot (which would be, what, 17 du/acre?). This is on a "regular, run of the mill greenfield subdivision plat." You have to consider that we have one of the lowest per capita incomes in the nation (AMI is $44,594 for a family of 4), so if developers want to build something affordable for our area's middle class, this is what you get.

    I would disagree that Dodd-Frank makes it difficult for "good borrowers" to get access to loans. What it does is make loans that may have been accessible to higher risk borrowers no longer available. Have you looked at the interest rates of late?! We help people earning 80% of AMI and below get home loans on a regular basis. Its not the cakewalk it once was, and a good number get turned down, but its a very favorable environment. And we underwrite them to a higher standard than the banks before agreeing to sell a home. Those who get turned down, by and large, really are people who, because of their financial picture, should not be taking on this kind of debt.

    I recently attended my region's Federal Reserve Economic Forum and the issue mainly is consumer confidence and the general sense of security potential buyers feel. With so much economic uncertainty and a lack of confidence in job security, people are reticent to buy. And younger generations are not interested much at all (and that was the case prior to 2008). Because people may need to up and move for a job or have queasy feelings about whether the housing market is really in rebound or if we are heading into a double dipper, voluntarily taking on that kind of debt is not attractive, even if you could get the loan. This is why in many parts of the nation you see people who could buy are renting instead. In my fair city, rental prices are way up with the average 3br apartment (so, not including rental SF homes) is $1200. For that kind of money, that same household could easily afford a home with a much lower monthly mortgage payment. So, why are they not buying? Uncertainty about the future, both personally in terms of jobs and in the bigger picture in terms of homes holding value.
    We play in the same universe in different regions. I sell to the 50-80% AMI population as well, that equates to $45,350-$65,000 for a family of 4 here. Our typical buyer is in their late 30s and early 40s, young people are simply not buying for a myriad of reasons even though they could. I think the shifting shape of how long people live in their homes plays a role as well and is tied to job longevity as well. Long gone are the days of working 10, 20, 30 years for the same company and living in the same house.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  12. #37
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Appleton, Wisconsin
    Posts
    4,167
    Quote Originally posted by kjel View post
    Long gone are the days of working 10, 20, 30 years for the same company and living in the same house.
    That's another big factor at work here, IMHO - the mobile nature of the younger crowd, their reduced job loyalty and long-term employment expectations means that many more will not want to get tied down with ownership and will thus prefer to rent. That lower ownership demand then has a depressing effect on the SF real estate market. Yes, I believe that that is one of the things that is driving the heavy development of rental multi-family complexes both here and elsewhere in the USA.

    I also agree that large lots are not anywhere near as important to them as they were to their ancestors and that they are much more comfortable with higher unit density and more convenient close-in locations.

    Mike

  13. #38
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 1996
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    14,565
    Blog entries
    3
    A coworker and I were talking about the factors of housing costs a little while ago. I noticed that where I worked in Texas, new houses with a solid brick exterior were selling for about $80 per square foot, including the lot. Meanwhile, builders in the upstate NY community where I work tell us that residential building costs in the area are about $150 per square foot, not including land. That $150/square foot gets you an exterior of solid builder grade .035″ vinyl; not even a faux brick facade or wainscot. The area's many green builders will put you into a politically correct "natural" house with FSC certified lumber, no offgassing materials, and the like for $175-$200 per square foot, not including land.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  14. #39
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Jamestown, New York
    Posts
    1,684
    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    A coworker and I were talking about the factors of housing costs a little while ago. I noticed that where I worked in Texas, new houses with a solid brick exterior were selling for about $80 per square foot, including the lot. Meanwhile, builders in the upstate NY community where I work tell us that residential building costs in the area are about $150 per square foot, not including land. That $150/square foot gets you an exterior of solid builder grade .035″ vinyl; not even a faux brick facade or wainscot. The area's many green builders will put you into a politically correct "natural" house with FSC certified lumber, no offgassing materials, and the like for $175-$200 per square foot, not including land.
    I'm NOT surprised at all. I think one thing that enters into the cost differential is that most homes in Upstate are built with full basements while in many areas of the country, basements aren't as popular. An unfinished basement can add tens of thousands to the cost of home, and taller basements that can easily be finished cost even more.

    I've looked into building a modular home in WNY on land that I already own. For a 1,000 foot, standard builder grade home from stock plans, they could do it for about $130 sf on a crawl space including well and septic but no porches (small entry, larger covered one off the back) and no attached garage. A larger home, 1800-2000 sf, I could probably get it for $100 sf. Some costs for mods are somewhat independent of the size of the home, like transportation and the crane unless you're looking to build a really big one.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  15. #40
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Wishing I were in Asia somewhere!
    Posts
    9,752
    Blog entries
    5
    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    A coworker and I were talking about the factors of housing costs a little while ago. I noticed that where I worked in Texas, new houses with a solid brick exterior were selling for about $80 per square foot, including the lot. Meanwhile, builders in the upstate NY community where I work tell us that residential building costs in the area are about $150 per square foot, not including land. That $150/square foot gets you an exterior of solid builder grade .035″ vinyl; not even a faux brick facade or wainscot. The area's many green builders will put you into a politically correct "natural" house with FSC certified lumber, no offgassing materials, and the like for $175-$200 per square foot, not including land.
    My new builds run about $100/square foot not including the land. If I purchase through the city, I can get land for between $5K-$10K per lot ranging 25x100 to 35x100, if I buy on the open market it's about $25K for a 25x100 lot. The problem with lots in the urban core is that there is a 90% chance something else was on it, depending on how it was demolished may mean that I have to excavate 4-6 feet and backfill/compact to get a solid base to pour a slab. Why not build a basement you say? The city has off street parking requirements of 1 space per unit (2 family house=2 spaces) and with a minimum 3' side setbacks from the lot lines or 0' lot line-party wall construction requirements...not all lots can take party wall construction depending on what the neighboring structure is. Also there are no double wide driveways or garages allowed with the new design regulations. I'm forced to build up and with the new building codes if it's 3 stories I have to put in a fire sprinkler system which adds $15K in cost.

    '
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  16. #41
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Oklahoma City
    Posts
    28

    How mobile are people?

    Dan has well made the point about how different prices are based on your region. I think it speaks to how high housing costs actually play a smaller than expected role in where peple locate. I mean hear in OKC you can buy a new 150,000 square home or an older 200,000 square foot home for about $135,000, 15 minutes from downown in an area with good schools. Yet even combined with a 5% unemployment rate and a lot of employers relocating to our area we still can't manage to meet national population growth rates.

    I think this all speaks to how immobile a lot of workers really. It also says somethng about the cultural appeal of a lot of older cities.

  17. #42
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Jamestown, New York
    Posts
    1,684
    Quote Originally posted by jhenry View post
    Dan has well made the point about how different prices are based on your region. I think it speaks to how high housing costs actually play a smaller than expected role in where peple locate. I mean hear in OKC you can buy a new 150,000 square home or an older 200,000 square foot home for about $135,000, 15 minutes from downown in an area with good schools. Yet even combined with a 5% unemployment rate and a lot of employers relocating to our area we still can't manage to meet national population growth rates.

    I think this all speaks to how immobile a lot of workers really. It also says somethng about the cultural appeal of a lot of older cities.
    I think a big problem with many metros is that too many people are unwilling to move to "unfashionable" ones and are willing to pay more to live in popular ones. That would include the Midwest outside of Chicago, and in Texas, that problably includes all of it except Dallas, Houston, and Austin. If somebody says, "I'm moving to KC or OKC", people pity them. If somebody says, "I'm moving to Denver or Chicago", people congratulate them.

    My second cousin got a big raise to relocate to Philly, but she's no better off, financially, than when she was working for less and living in suburban Buffalo since the housing costs (she rents) are so much more. OTOH, the GEICO employees who transferred from Long Island to suburban Buffalo when GEICO built its processing center in WNY made out like bandits (they kept their NYC metro pay rates), but many of their co-workers refused to move.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  18. #43
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2008
    Location
    the delta
    Posts
    1,201
    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    I think a big problem with many metros is that too many people are unwilling to move to "unfashionable" ones and are willing to pay more to live in popular ones. That would include the Midwest outside of Chicago, and in Texas, that problably includes all of it except Dallas, Houston, and Austin. If somebody says, "I'm moving to KC or OKC", people pity them. If somebody says, "I'm moving to Denver or Chicago", people congratulate them.
    That's crazy because I think the exact opposite. If someone said they were moving to KC I would say "Awesome now you can hang out near Country Club Plaza all the time" and if they said they were moving to Houston I would think "Why move down there to live in tract housing in a bland suburb?"

    My thought is that if the actual real city (not annexed suburban parts) has good neighborhoods with inexpensive housing it is a great move. If you have to pay an arm and a leg to live in the city or else you're stuck 25 minutes out it's not worth it. Is living in Aurora really the same as Chicago? Is Round Rock really the same as Austin?
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  19. #44
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Oct 2011
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    25
    I totally agree with Linda: housing is less affordable today because contemporary new construction for even the poorest of the poor is gold-plated by pre-1970s standards. Even the most bare-bones public housing or lower income garden apartment complex in your run-of-the-mill sunbelt city has things like AC, dishwashers, multiple bathrooms and bedrooms (fewer kids have to share rooms), multiple electric outlets per room (contrarily, the decrepit 1840s house I grew up in had mostly one outlet per room), etc. Even the average mobile home is more lavish than the shotgun shack of yore.

    I dunno what the figures are for the last couple of years, but average house size has also been steadily growing since the 1970s or so (partly by a delusional sense of credit-fueled wealth in the last couple of decades, partly by codes mandating minimum square footages/lot sizes and the like). So not only do you have to pay for the additional space, but you also have to pay more for all the ancillary stuff: more heating, more cooling, more crap to stuff into the empty spaces, more surface area to clean/maintain, and so on. The average working class contemporary house or apartment is incredibly luxurious even by 1970s standards, let alone by pre-WWII standards.

    Another big thing that was only lightly touched: the ballooning of transportation costs! Linda mentioned how one-car households were common up to the early 70s or so (almost a quarter of US households still had no vehicle in the 1960s). Today I'm amazed how so many households - and hardly just the wealthy ones! - seem to have more square footage of car than house! Multiple-car garages are increasingly common for upper middle class houses, but old driveways crammed with three, four, or five beaters have become increasingly common for poorer people too as they chase increasingly transient and distant jobs. Imagine all the expense: maintenance, insurance, fees, GAS!

    However, on the idea of "fashion" driving the (un)affordability of housing in certain metros: Sorry to be blunt, but if I was that second cousin, I'd make the exact same decision to move to Philly from suburban Buffalo. You get a lot more intangibles for the more expensive housing in the Philly area: better transit (potentially allowing you to reduce personal transportation costs), access to more social venues and networking/career opportunities, and easy access to other nearby giant metros that offer exponentially more of the same. Yes, in Buffalo you can have cheap housing, and maybe some other necessities are also cheaper (fuel, food, utilities)... but what else does the metro offer to an ambitious youngster for all that "affordability?" To use an extreme example: Unfashionable Detroit has lots of "affordable" housing for a reason! The demand in the "fashionable" metros wouldn't be there if the young folks flocking to them felt they weren't getting at least a little more opportunity than they would get back in their backwater hometown.

    As an aside, I also agree somewhat with Dan's comment on the weird popular notion that all prewar housing is supposedly sturdy and built for the ages. (I think this is still truer of some older buildings, though, like some prewar commercial and public buildings that were overbuilt with heavy masonry with at least some semblance of civic pride. Contrast the many sturdy, solid extant examples of Beaux Arts architecture with the crappy postwar stuff - the Brutalist and Modernist slabs - that are exfoliating, decrepitating, crumbling, and facing demolition in cities across the country). But the spec housing of yesteryear could indeed be just as shoddy as that of today: for example, one reason why so many of Baltimore's working-class rowhouses were slathered over with formstone was because their brick was too soft and porous.

    On the potential inferiority of modern housing materials (as distinct from superior contemporary construction practices and standards): I do wonder how well today's purportedly "maintenance free" building materials will age. In addition to their health hazards, OSB, wood laminates, wood composites, and other such materials introduced en masse in the late 80s and 90s may not hold up as well as solid wood (mold loves them, as the people demolishing foreclosed, ruined five-year-old houses in Florida have discovered). Contrarily, the older spec frame housing built in the midwest was built largely by "mining" vast supplies of healthy, mature white pines, with little consequent reliance on experimental composites that might not perform as expected after many decades. (Today it's hard finding a 2x4 in the average Home Depot that isn't clotted with knots and other deformities.)
    Last edited by marcszar; 20 Nov 2012 at 8:38 PM.

  20. #45
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Oct 2011
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    25
    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    ...their reduced job loyalty and long-term employment expectations means that many more will not want to get tied down with ownership and will thus prefer to rent.
    Hey, I'd LOVE to be loyal to one or two lifetime careers if that opportunity was still there! But this isn't the 1960s anymore: can I settle down in Schenectady and expect to work for GE my whole adult life? Can I settle down in Poughkeepsie and expect to work for IBM my whole life? Those days are gone.

    It's not young people showing less loyalty to jobs, it's employers showing less loyalty to young workers (or indeed to workers of any age): you almost get the impression that they'd love it if we could be "unpaid interns" forever. We're more quickly than ever leaving behind the anomalous stability of the 50s-70s and returning to the turbulent employment conditions that predated the postwar boom: lower wages, fewer benefits, lots of turnover, less stability overall, with a new problem thrown in: education inflation (fancier and pricier mandatory degrees for even the most trivial and mundane of jobs). And the stress in the housing market (the first cracks started appearing in the 70s just as the stable employment situation began stumbling) is a symptom of this regression. Yeah, renting is indeed more attractive in this uncertain climate.

  21. #46
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    Posts
    401
    One wonders why the wage gap between salaries and home prices are rising. It does mean that despite the doom and gloom about the declining buying power of the middle classes there are still a lot of people who can afford to buy expensive houses. An interesting phenomena is the upgrading of a neighborhood up the income scale, particularly in California and places like DC or New York, where houses once occupied by the basic middle class are now being bought by upper middle class households, or upper middle class houses being bought by the genuinely rich.

    Anyway, I am from Baltimore and many of you know Baltimore was a rowhouse city. The majority of the city rowhouses were privately owned, including the endless miles of working class rowhouses. There are two given reasons for the affordability of housing for working class Baltimoreans back in the day: 1) the houses were small. As already mentioned on this thread, we're talking about houses that were 800-1200 square feet, two stories with a basement, small, narrow rooms. Windowless bedrooms in the middle, with only a skylight. One bathroom. Small, basic kitchen. Heat, but no air conditioning. These houses were solidly built which is why so many have survived despite decades of neglect in areas that have gone to ruins.

    The second reason given for cheap affordability of houses is the concept of ground rent. You never actually bought the land your house sat on. You bought the house and you paid a minimal "rent" every year to the person who owned the land. Today the typical ground rent is between 100-200 dollars, which is probably lower in real value than it was "back in the day" but it did reduce the overall cost of buying a house.



    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    There is no doubt (and I have charts that illustrate it somewhere around here) that the wage gap between salaries and home prices is continuing to widen.

  22. #47
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
    Registered
    May 2005
    Location
    New Town
    Posts
    3,844
    Quote Originally posted by marcszar View post
    Hey, I'd LOVE to be loyal to one or two lifetime careers if that opportunity was still there! But this isn't the 1960s anymore: can I settle down in Schenectady and expect to work for GE my whole adult life? Can I settle down in Poughkeepsie and expect to work for IBM my whole life? Those days are gone.

    It's not young people showing less loyalty to jobs, it's employers showing less loyalty to young workers (or indeed to workers of any age): you almost get the impression that they'd love it if we could be "unpaid interns" forever. We're more quickly than ever leaving behind the anomalous stability of the 50s-70s and returning to the turbulent employment conditions that predated the postwar boom: lower wages, fewer benefits, lots of turnover, less stability overall, with a new problem thrown in: education inflation (fancier and pricier mandatory degrees for even the most trivial and mundane of jobs). And the stress in the housing market (the first cracks started appearing in the 70s just as the stable employment situation began stumbling) is a symptom of this regression. Yeah, renting is indeed more attractive in this uncertain climate.
    I think this is a good point and IMHO, it swings both ways. Employers over time have indeed become less loyal and committed to their employees. The 1980's seem to have been a big turning point for this where many corporations downsized and you saw senior staff getting axed shortly before retirement. It was all part of the corporate raiding/takeover mania of the time. Today, I don't think anyone is under the impression that their employer will take care of them in the long term.

    OTOH, employees have also become more independent and have job skills that are more mobile. And as time goes on, younger employees are exercising this leverage by maintaining that mobility. They are less tied to place. Or, seen another way, in this digital age, "place" is not a static thing, but a virtual space accessible from many other places and linking them together. Richard Florida, love him or hate him, identified that one attractive feature for young workers now is an urban center that affords a lot of "lateral" job movement. That is, moving from one company to another with equivalent pay just because the work seems more interesting, or the job culture is more attractive, an exciting project has come up, etc. A lot more tech-oriented workers are also project-oriented and may work for a place intensively on the development of a project and then move on to another project that taps similar skills, regardless of the employer.

    The bottom line is the nature work itself is changing and this impacts housing because home ownership in particular roots one in a physical place. Especially for people not planning to have children, this may not be an entanglement they find attractive. Kids tends to make you desire more physical consistency and place stability, but even that is in flux. There are many families that are also quite mobile.

    It will be interesting to see what the future brings. I have read interesting articles suggesting that cities like KC and Houston with decent wages and affordable housing markets will become the new engines for generating the middle class (this relies on the concept that owning a home will build equity and wealth in the long run which may or may not be true). Other analyses suggest homeownership will remain difficult for most and that younger generations are trending away from ownership at all, even for the long run. It will be interesting to see how all of this unfolds...
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  23. #48
    Member
    Registered
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Jefferson Parish, LA.
    Posts
    6
    Great anlysis by both Dan and Linda D.

    However we would be follish not to aknowledge that incomes are more polarized in this county since anytime (perhaps excluding the Robber Baron era). Please see the Congressional Budget Office chart of income inequality. It is a truly scarry image for a democracy.

    here is a link tiot the chart and great anlysis by a commenter named Beartooth:
    http://www.economist.com/blogs/daily...uality-america
    the simple take away is that poor americans did not used to be so poor.

    Economists divide the American population into five groups (each of 20%) when comparing per-capita income or wealth. As a (very) simple rule of thumb, the first quintile is the poorest 20%, the second is the working class, the third is the middle class, the fourth is the upper middle class, and the fifth is the wealthy class.

    As of 2007
    the lowest 40% (the poor and the working class) have 0.2% of the national wealth.
    The next 20% (middle quintile or middle class) have 4.0%
    The next 20% (upper middle class) have 10.9%
    And, the top 20% (the rich) have 85.1%
    Even the top 20% can be broken down into a similarly unequal distribution:

    (81 - 90% of the whole) have 12%
    (91 - 95) have 11.2%
    (96 - 99% have 27.3%
    The richest 1% have 34.6% of the nation's wealth.

    poor american were not always as poor as they are now.

  24. #49
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    Posts
    401
    Quote Originally posted by Shark Man View post

    poor american were not always as poor as they are now.
    Your statistics are based on relative wealth, that is the share of the wealth relative to the share of wealth owned by other groups. While it can be telling it often doesn't show the entire picture.

    Poor Americans in the past were much poorer than they are now, especially when you consider the quality of life along with share of national wealth. You should spend some time looking at photographs of the NYC tenements in 1900 or rural south in the 1930s. That was genuine, starvation level poverty, which for all practical purposes does not exist in the US anymore except in extreme situations (a redneck hillbilly in West Virginia mountains who refuses government assistance). The modern concern is the relative decline of the financial well-being of the working class/lower middle classes compared to the equivalent group in the 1950s, but even then I still consider it to be a regional, not national, phenomena and largely due to the increasing disparity in housing costs between various metro areas. I really don't care how much money the top 1% has or their share of the national wealth as long as the working classes aren't being priced out of the more expensive parts of the country, which unfortunately seems to be the case.

  25. #50
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Jamestown, New York
    Posts
    1,684
    Quote Originally posted by PennPlanner View post
    Your statistics are based on relative wealth, that is the share of the wealth relative to the share of wealth owned by other groups. While it can be telling it often doesn't show the entire picture.

    Poor Americans in the past were much poorer than they are now, especially when you consider the quality of life along with share of national wealth. You should spend some time looking at photographs of the NYC tenements in 1900 or rural south in the 1930s. That was genuine, starvation level poverty, which for all practical purposes does not exist in the US anymore except in extreme situations (a redneck hillbilly in West Virginia mountains who refuses government assistance). The modern concern is the relative decline of the financial well-being of the working class/lower middle classes compared to the equivalent group in the 1950s, but even then I still consider it to be a regional, not national, phenomena and largely due to the increasing disparity in housing costs between various metro areas. I really don't care how much money the top 1% has or their share of the national wealth as long as the working classes aren't being priced out of the more expensive parts of the country, which unfortunately seems to be the case.
    Well said. I started to write a response to this earlier, and couldn't find the right words, but you have described it well. Working class people didn't own homes back in the "good old days", either, but the poor and working class have a lot more amenities today than poor and working class people had back in 1913. In fact, they have somewhat more security than many lower middle class people had in 1913 where the death of the family bread-winner or a business failure could plunge a solid middle class woman and her children into abject poverty, particularly if she didn't have relatives to take her and her family in. Much of rural America had no paved roads, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no central heating until at least the late 1930s, and in parts of the South, primitive conditions lingered into the 1950s and 1960s.

    It is also more possible for poor and working class children to climb up the economic/social ladder today than it was in 1913 because they have much more access to free public education through high school and low-cost higher education. This simply wasn't true of a coal miner's son growing up in a company town in Appalachia in 1914 or for a poor farmer's children growing up in the 1930s in New York because high schools were only found in the towns and cities. Even when there were high schools and public colleges available, the lack of a minimum wage, a maximum hours limit, and limitations on child labor meant that few lower and working class kids could afford to take advantage of the opportunities to get education. There are also no jobs that are legally off-limits to people because of race, ethnicity or gender today,

    The "good old days" weren't necessarily quite so good.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

+ Reply to thread
Page 2 of 3 FirstFirst 1 2 3 LastLast

More at Cyburbia

  1. Lower class business signs
    Design, Space, and Place
    Replies: 2
    Last post: 13 Nov 2012, 6:01 PM
  2. Middle Class
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 15
    Last post: 30 Sep 2008, 10:26 PM
  3. Replies: 18
    Last post: 31 Dec 2005, 2:54 PM
  4. Replies: 3
    Last post: 21 Jul 2002, 12:34 AM
  5. Middle class neighborhoods
    Make No Small Plans
    Replies: 2
    Last post: 09 Aug 2001, 9:01 AM