It is hard to ignore the lead real-estate stories in the Wall St. Journal (5/7/2014).
The first story, p.1 , finds that in Cleveland and other cities there is high demand for inner-city apartments. Office spaces are being converted into apartments to meet the new demand.
Developers Turn Former Office Buildings Into High-End Apartments – WSJ.com.
The second story, p. c1, is that there is a real-estate slump in Hong Kong. New complexes are not seeing the buyers (but the prices, at US$2,500 a square foot) might be a deterrent.
But, the real story, p. c10, brings the two stories together. In Hong Kong buyers are showing a preference for vintage apartments, built from say 1960 to 1980. These units do not look as pretty on the outside, but they have more space and better layouts. People don’t seem to care if their residence lacks a clubhouse or a gym.
So, what does that have to do with Cleveland and the surge in apartments there? As younger people move out of the suburbs and discover more urban settings, they take with them an affinity for more eclectic spaces, openness, charm, and some garden greenery.
And finally, a local story for a change….Somewhat like the Google bus and other private shuttles that operate in San Francisco, a kid/entrepreneur in Brookline’s Mass. Coolidge Corner says he will start a “pop up” bus service in May, 2014. The service called “Bridg” will be a supplement to Boston’s MBTA service. The kid/entrepreneur , Matthew George, compiles data of where peopel live and work, and uses it to create a more direct bus service. “Bridg” (a.k.a., not Bridget) seems ambitious, with plans to expand the service”every week” (Brookline Tab, 4/16/2014). But, it did receive startup financing- just like SF!
Perhaps this is a throw back to a much earlier time when there was competition in mass transportation . Depending on its success, the concept could move the Boomers from their surburban and exurb houses into the mainstream.
source: Victoria Transposrtation Policy Institute, 2006
While we are spotlighting the H+T index developed by the Center for Technology, we should also return to a more “homely” instrument used by a few Boomers to buy their first home.
The L.E. M., or location efficient mortgage, was introduced by the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the National Resources Defense Council, and backed by Fannie Mae (FNMA),circa 1999. One article called it the “Bus-Riders Mortgage” (Wikipedia). The goal was to let borrowers who lived in an area close to jobs centers and shopping opportunities qualify for a larger mortgage. The intuition was that they could cut down on their transportation costs, which are typically 1/3 of more of the household expense. There were offered in SF, Seattle, Chicago and Los Angeles.
During the housing recession, “exurb” homes did fall in value more than urban properties. The L.E.M. mortages, although few in number, are thought to have had a lower default rate.
The chart, presented by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, is from 2006 data. It would be timely to look at the current affordability index.
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