Housing

Methodist Urbanism: Ocean Grove

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Here’s the ubiquitous American landscape with a dash of central New Jersey local color. It’s not the rain and dark skies that make it look so bleak. No amount of sunshine can brighten this much asphalt, synthetic stucco, and vinyl siding. There’s no point in complaining about any of it. It exists and will continue to do so for the duration. Shrug.  read more »

The Mines

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There’s a literary trope in which an ambitious young man goes to work in the mines for a few years to earn an income with which to go back home. In the US it’s bundled into narratives of the Wild West (where incomes were very high until well into the 20th century), but it also exists elsewhere. For example, in The House of the Spirits, the deuterotagonist (who owns an unprofitable hacienda) works in the mines for a few years to earn enough money to ask to marry a society woman.  read more »

The Sacred Cul-de-Sac: Lakewood

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In 1901 John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil (now ExxonMobil) began purchasing hundreds of acres of land around the town of Lakewood, New Jersey an hour and a half south of New York. He then built a thirty bedroom, twenty bathroom country estate. Lakewood was a prosperous year round vacation destination complete with swimming, tennis, golf, and ice skating, as well as numerous hotels, fine restaurants, a theater, and many large elegant homes.  read more »

California Must Stop Trying To Stomp Out Suburbia

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We may be celebrating — if that’s the right word — the tenth year since the onset of the financial crisis and collapse of the real estate market. Yet before breaking out the champagne, we should recognize that the hangover is not yet over, and that a new housing crisis could be right around the corner.  read more »

Welcome to Park Forest

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Recently a follower sent me an interesting e-mail. He said he recently re-read The Organization Man by William Whyte, originally published in 1956. The suburban Chicago village of Park Forest, IL, about 30 miles directly south of the Loop, figured prominently in the book, as an example of the kind of Levittown-style suburban development that was taking America by storm at the time. In checking in about Park Forest today, he found that yesterday’s model of white middle class and middle management homogeneity is now a black-majority community.  read more »

Ten Years After Lehman Collapsed, We’re Still Screwed

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The collapse of Lehman Brothers 10 years ago today began the financial crisis that crippled and even killed for some the American dream as we had known it. Donald Trump might be starting to change that, at least for Americans who aren’t determined to remain in our bluest and priciest cities.  read more »

“Middle America” in America’s Urban Century

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In the late 1990s and the early Aughts, when the last Gen Xers and the first Millennials were launching into their adult lives, “Urban America” was a very different place. On many fronts, the choices young ambitious graduates had were fast becoming limitless, save on one key front: the cities where they could reasonably want to live.  read more »

A Generation Plans An Exodus From California

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California is the great role model for America, particularly if you read the Eastern press. Yet few boosters have yet to confront the fact that the state is continuing to hemorrhage people at a higher rate, with particular losses among the family-formation age demographic critical to California’s future.  read more »

Beginnings, Middles, and Ends

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I was recently invited to give a talk at a housing conference down in Los Angeles. Once again my fellow speakers engaged in the usual arguments. Aging Baby Boomers asserted that we need to keep building more 1957 style suburban homes on the edge of the metroplex because that’s what people want and can afford, particularly once they marry and have children. Then a group of Millennials sang their sad song of high prices and a lack of options in the places they really want to live.  read more »

America Is Moving Toward An Oligarchical Socialism

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Where do we go after Trump? This question becomes more pertinent as the soap opera administration seeks its own dramatic demise. Yet before they can seize power from the president and his now subservient party, the Democrats need to agree on what will replace Trumpism.  read more »