The Undeniable, Unstoppable, Future of Housing for Most of Us.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in one of America’s many suburban neighborhoods in a four-bedroom house with two and a half baths, a nice yard on top of a small hill in a safe neighborhood less than a mile from a highly functioning police department, fire station, community center and park. I took my living situation for granted as virtually everyone I knew lived in some form of suburbia or other.
When I got older, I too purchased and lived in houses in suburbia’s different manifestations from urban to rural and everything in between. It was not until I traveled overseas a few times that it sunk in how unusual American’s idea of housing was in comparison to the rest of the world’s practices. The rest of the world and parts of the US pack their populace into high rises and clustered living, while leaving large swaths of land untouchable in terms of building. This is highly economically and practically efficient, but really does not lend itself to personal expression, creativity, pride, or showmanship, which are all defining, classical American ideals.
In fact, many people in these countries had no need to and did not even own a car! This was an unthinkable thing to me really, as all my households have had at least two cars and often more. In addition to being stacked on top of each other, these high-rise residences were relatively tiny compared to what I was used to in the States. What these houses or apartments lacked in space was only matched by the poor level of service one experienced in trying to manage these dwelling. Really, comparatively housing outside the US did not even begin to compete. Many Europeans know this and call Americans soft, citing our silly need for things like air conditioning and screens even!
We think prices are out of control in New York where a small 2-bedroom place can cost 8,000 a month. I would assert that they are a good deal compared to their counterparts in London which can cost up to five times that amount on a monthly basis for the same amount of space. I would also say it is all ridiculous and there are underlying reasons for this, but that is for another time.
Let me pull you back to my ideological four-bedroom childhood home and my realization of the accompanying massive cost of maintaining such a residence. Sure, there is the mortgage itself, and most are tied to fluctuating interest rates that seem to only change to our detriment. There is the real estate tax, and the home owner’s insurance. If you have a lawn and landscaping, you know how expensive that can be to plant, care for, and basically prevent from becoming a wasteland and citable, finable offense.
Really though, that is just the start. To own a house in suburbia is to own your own little black hole for money. If the roof leaks, the furnace breaks, the sidewalk buckles, the hot water heater goes, plumbing goes bad or any of the other million issues occur, you will be out thousands of dollars. Most households do not have thousands of dollars lying around, in savings or anywhere for that matter and simply have no way to pay for these things leading to untenable and unsustainable situations turning the American Dream into the American Nightmare.
If you choose to spruce your humble abode up to make it your own and renovate, you must realize that you will only recover a fraction of what you “invest.” I think most of us understand the idea of your house being your biggest asset is a sham. Yes, In a different past time, that may have been true, but it is no longer. Profit in real estate is reserved for investors, developers, realtors, insurers, bankers, and fraudsters from an unsuspecting public holding high the false beliefs that used to be true but no longer are.
The reason we do not have thousands of dollars lying around is complicated and no really the subject of this missive. But the reality is that most do not have savings or extra money, party through our own actions and party through the concerted actions of others unknown by them. Owning a house in suburbia is a luxury that is rapidly disappearing with the middle class and decent paying middle-class jobs that we all so happily traded for low prices from Wal-Mart and all their cheap Chinese items.
Obviously, we are all not going to be tricked into moving to Soviet style grey concrete bunkers synonymous with communism. Enter the rise of Tiny Homes and the devaluation of asset and the promotion of experiences. Like it or not 400-800 square feet is your destiny. The cost to maintain and operate your modern mud hut is far less than the suburban manse of yore.
Not only is the cost of operation and ownership vastly lower for your Hut Home, but you are very much limited in what you can fit n it, effectively lowering one’s completely wasteful ability to own and hoard a bunch of needless and useless shit. It is ironic that everyone had to have all this superfluous shit on the cheap directly leading to a situation where no one can afford to have a place to even put it. Again, there are reasons for this and this irony was not lost on those that perpetrated it, but that is not for now.
Personally, I would rather own 5 Tiny Homes all over the country than one glorious suburban ranch with 2 acres and a picket fence, but I am fortunate to be more mobile, virtual, and richer than most. Most will end up with a Hut Home instead of a house in the burbs. Tiny Homes, Sustainable Dwellings, Apartments, Efficiencies, Mobile Homes, Motorhomes, Cruise Ships, they are all the same. They are under 1,000 square feet and that is the inevitable future for most of us.