If “Houses of Boom” had a subtitle, it would be “Drive2 Qualify”. Booomers will remember that phrase was the mantra of real-estate agents. Larger, more affordable properties were located further away, and that spurred longer commutes.
The Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicavo has now quanitified what “Drive2qualify” means in financial terms. Using their map tool you can see how nearly 180,000 neighborhoods are affected when you add the cost of transportation to their cost of housing.
There are more dimension to this, waiting to be mapped: the physical time it takes to travel (google maps), the use of energy and dependence on fossil fuels for transportation, and the use of energy, and human investment in these longer commutes.
Donald Shoup of UCLA has made planners everywhere aware of the hidden costs and consequences of vehicle parking. The extensions to housing and real-esate are obvious. When we build homes and carports, we reduce the need for on-street parking. However, the cost of building increases, and for suburban tract homes, 20 to 25% of the overall square footage may be relegated for vehicles. The design and physical layout of a home are also impacted by the garage. While no one wants to give up their parking space, think of design in a future city where ShareCars are the norm, and taxi services like Uber or Lyft are more common. Meanwhile, in the chart, you can see that the Northeast is the least likely area of the country to have garages and carports, and the West is the most likely. One is older and one is new…but neither are contemporary.
- no entry-no exit
Driving in America will be a problem as the population ages. “Houses of Boom” recognizes the problem.
But, the issue is finding an alternative. These are sobering statistics from “www. smartgrowth america”:
- Almost 40 percent of Americans over the age of 50 say their neighborhoods lack adequate sidewalks.
- 55 percent report inadequate bike lanes or paths.
- 48 percent have no comfortable place to wait for the bus (addendum: this assumes there is as bus!)
How will Boomers get from here to there- enjoyable and safely? In older suburban neighborhoods, even Levittown, sidewalks were part of the infrastructure. And, access to public transportation, like rail, was feasible, albeit at a distance. The newer suburbs lack transport redundancy and are built solely around car. Going forward, how will we?
What about the kids?…and why a map of Long Island?
Most urban planners and transportation analysts know a lot about Levittown. One of the reasons that it was so popular was that parents wanted a superior place to raise their children. J. Llance Mallamo*, a Suffolk County Historian, writes that in the 1950’s and 1960’s there were numerous fantasy and youth related establishments there . “At one time Long Island boasted a seemingly never-ending host of childhood delights including Syosset’s Lollipop Farm, Frank Buck’s Zoo and Monkey Mountain, and Harveys…”.
What changed? Mallamo says demographics but could it really be The Houses of Boom? In the 1980s and 1990s we built McMansions that turned child raising inside and inward.
*see Long Island Architecture, ed. Joann Krieg, 1991
chart: Atlantic Cities
In “Houses of Boom” we ask where the buyers are going to come from to purchase those large, remote suburban properties. Who will want to move into the supersized family homes preferred by the Baby Boomers?
It doesn’t appear that it will be Millennials. In this chart, from Atlantic Cities (4/24/13), there is a comparison of attitudes about renting versus buying. It is based on a poll of 1453 adults. People who say they prefer to rent are more likely to live in the suburbs or rural areas, and they are younger. The study, which was sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation highlights that there may be large changes underfoot about house ownership; these preferences are not based solely on economics.
The data in this chart is not a revelation. Demographers have been pointing to this issue since the 1990s, calling it a “spatial mismatch” between family size, and housing stock. Now, financial people are wondering about its impact on the housing market (WSJ 3/7/2014- Michael Milken, op ed.) In Houses of Boom I raise this question: why did our cars get smaller and more efficient in the 1970’s, following the energy crisis, while our home sizes got smaller, and in some ways, less efficient. Is that trend about to reverse?
The Baby Boomer Housing Bust.
This is a basic article that lays open the seismic shift. In my book, “Houses of Boom” we go beyond the numbers and look at how people can prepare for this and secure their retirement and quality of life. Kudos to Forbes Magazine and this guest contributor for getting people involved and interested in the topic.
The issue has previously been discussed and commented on SubReddit:
Baby boomers’ approaching housing bust has business implications from business
“…The amount of new retail space across the U.S. has remained relatively flat in recent years, but New York’s Bronx borough has emerged as a hot spot.At least five major shopping malls or centers are under way in the Bronx that will add more than 1.4 million square feet of space, one of the largest local retail expansions in the country…..”
Bronx Emerges as a Retail Oasis – WSJ.com. (2/25/2014)
Why? businesses following consumers back to the urban core of cities as they search for new markets….
As people age-in-place, walkability is a key factor. This article, from the New York Times, talks about road design which favors cars, and then “street diets” . The latter means we downsize our roads so that they “play nice” with multiple transportation modes, like biking and walking. See this thoughtful article by Leigh Gallagher.
The Mean Streets of New York – NYTimes.com.
As our population ages, walkability becomes an even more important factor. People drive less, and come to depend on having just one family car, or even none. Second, walking is all about exercise and fitness…something we keep when we give up the gym membership. Third, walking is a past time …a way to get out and know the community.So, efforts in NYC to “reinvent” walkability are an important trend, whether you live in Albany or Antarctica!
Blogging note: How are you supposed to access the senior center?>
photo by author, on location in Turkey. Nov. 2012.
Perhaps this is the world’s earliest mobile home? Inside there is a small wood cabin that can hold 10 or 15 people, and of course, stairs to reach this high point. Going forward, Boomers need to think out whether their homes are carrying them forward…where they want to go. Or, are these homes, like the TH (Trojan Horse) very toxic.