( – promoted by buhdydharma )
Much to everyone’s surprise housing starts were up in February. Unfotunately the increase was for multi-family dwellings no doubt preparing to house all those on the street from foreclosures. The largest increases were in the Northeast, South and Midwest. Oddly California hard hit by foreclosures has a good backlog of housing available. And so it starts the slumming of America, more below the fold.
I’ve diaried before about my neighborhood. Historic homes, built between 1890 and about 1940. We have a nice mix demographically and economically. There are people in the neighborhood who are comfortable but not the very wealthy. We have apartment buildings mixed among the single family residential, but it was very carefully planned. They are never too big, always on a corner lot, quality construction and never more than one on a block and facing each other. Many are on the historic register including a 1/2 block of brick rowhome duplexes built in the 20’s. They all have off street parking and are on large enough lots there is a good buffer between the apartments and homes. All but the row homes have trees in their yards, they are built to blend. There are even a few of the big older homes that were cut up for apartments during WWII still remaining as apartments. Rental houses are very few and the owners usually live within blocks. We have no traffic or parking issues, no crime issues because of planning. We have a very strong neighborhood association in part because of the high percentage of owner occupied homes.
There are a lot of things tied up in home ownership, things we very often don’t think about. Home ownership is a commitment to the community and the neighborhood, it helps stabilize neighborhoods. Home owners support better schools and public spaces, the amenities that make a neighborhood a good place to live and raise a family. Generally even neighborhoods in lower economic areas with a high percentage of home owners are better and more consistently kept. Crime rates are substantially lower.
Our neighborhood is changing, established neighborhoods all over the country are going to be changing and not necessarily for the better. There is a finite percentage of rentals a neighborhood can handle before there are serious issues. Renters are by nature transient, it is a rare renter who will stay and become involved in their neighborhood community. They have no investment financially to protect, they have no anchor. It is believed a neighborhood can sustain a 40% ownership rate if renters stayed 5 or 6 years and were active in the community. There are places like that, Baltimore has neighborhoods with renters who have stayed for generations. They are long well established neighborhoods that are optimum. Realistically with leases being as little as 6 months and jobs scarce 80 -20 might be too optimistic.
Apartments bring parking and traffic issues. Traffic makes a neighborhood less safe and less livable. Traffic also brings crime, wouldn’t think so but here is how it works. Heavy traffic means people and children spend more time in their back yards or indoors, neighbors lose touch, new ones aren’t met and the feeling of community starts to suffer. Being uninvolved, unconnected opens the door for crime. No one watching or in plain sight and crimes of opportunity go up. Crime lowers property values and it is a down hill spiral. This happens regardless of the economic level of the residents.
There are also the neighborhood schools. Ours has relatively small classes, we like it that way. We have very active parents and businesses. What would your school do with another 200 children? Could they absorb those children and keep the quality of education high?
These changes are likely coming to your neighborhood, be ready, be vocal, go to the city planning meetings. Make sure they have a good plan for Multi-family units, make sure they don’t destroy the very thing that makes your neighborhood desirable and livable. Our neighborhoods are only going to be saved by those of us who love them.