America has a housing crisis but not like the 2008 housing crisis, this crisis is not a crisis of mortgages or anything like that, it is a crisis of people being unable to afford shelter of any kind. It is truly a matter of cost.
The Creation of a Crisis
This modern housing shortage has been forged over the past 40-50 years. After WWII, the single-family home became the standard for shelter throughout most of the country. The homes were cheap and appreciated in value. American cities spread out to accommodate these homes. While wages grew and people were able to move into larger homes, this system worked very well. However, for younger buyers or people with lower wages, this left them often scrambling to attempt to find affordable places to live. Over the past decade, this has now become a crisis. It is a crisis that can’t be solved by building more homes. The cost of land is often too high and the cost of construction for even the most basic of homes is often $150,000 meaning that new homes start at $300,000. Older homes have appreciated in value making the mortgage payments and 20% downpayments out of reach for younger buyers as well. These problems have turned Americans into a nation of renters but often, people aren’t saving any money by staying in the rental market.
The Rent is Too Damn High
In this story from OZY.com, they are highlighting a trend in suburbia: urbanism. Many suburban towns like Bellvue, Washington are supporting the construction of small apartments like one might find in the city. The apartments are about the size of a school bus but the key is affordability. They provide workforce housing for people that is desperately required around the nation. The price of buying a home is at an all-time high and the trend of people into towns and cities and away from smaller towns with no jobs or even exurbs has pushed up the price of housing over the last decade. Cities like Bellevue are trying to cope with this rise in rent by subsidizing the construction of these small apartments. The thing about these apartments that would surprise most people is how popular they are and how accepting people are of living in a smaller space, as long as it is affordable.
Buying A Home? Try a Tiny House!
Another area where Americans are beginning to innovate in terms of shelter is in the tiny home movement. Tiny homes became quite popular during and after the recession. Often smaller than their modular home ancestors, they can be fixed or transportable and tiny home communities are popping up all over the country. Youtube channels by popular people within the movement show the great and not so great sides of tiny home living. The biggest appeal of the tiny home movement? Cost. Tiny homes can be bought for under $50,000 and can often be set up in RV parks and other locations.
Living in a Van Down By the River
For many, living in a fixed location is a problem. While living in a van might have been a symbol of poor life decisions in the past, that is no longer the case. For many, especially younger people, living in a van and moving around has become an instagram-worthy journey. There are even people who live #vanlife with children. For the working poor in cities like LA or Seattle and even New York, living out of a vehicle is essential as the cost of housing is simply too high, often even with roommates.
Retiring to the RV Park
For older Americans who no longer want to take care of large homes, retiring into an RV and traveling has been a trend for several decades. However, for poorer retirees, RV living can be essential cost savings. RVs, especially used can be inexpensive and the only fixed cost being RV park fees which are lower than property taxes without any of the maintenance required.
A Better Housing Idea
Although Americans are finding interesting and innovative ways around this housing crisis, the sad reality is that America needs better housing options and a better variety of them. This housing crisis was caused by too many single-family homes being built. The cost of single-family homes in both land and real money has made that form of housing cost-prohibitive to many. Public housing is a key part of providing housing for America’s homelessness crisis and a key part of providing quality housing for everyone. Cities and even the Federal Government need to subsidize developers to create townhomes, duplexes, triplexes, and forms of housing that cater to a variety of price points. Although the market has attempted to create some changes with van living, tiny homes, and micro-apartments, the reality is that America needs real housing solutions.