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The New ‘Dream Home’ Should Be a Condo (nytimes.com)
43 points by tysone 18 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 101 comments



Granted I only skimmed the article, but it seemed rather myopic to me. Why is the "dream home" assumed to be in an urban/suburban area? Why not in a small town or rural area?

In January 2018, we moved back from Charlottesville, VA (which itself isn't even "urban") to Harrison, AR. I was able to buy a five bedroom, two bath home on a half acre in a quiet neighborhood for under $125k.

My wife and I are beginning to put together our requirements for our next home, which will likely be a bit further from other people, outside city limits, and likely be on 5-10 acres. The cost will till be far less than even a three bedroom townhome would have been in Charlottesville.


Almost by definition, people prefer to live in dense areas.

In terms of prescriptive advice, high-density housing reduces urban sprawl. If you can convince a third of suburbia to change to denser housing, commute times for everyone would be cut in half. Vast swaths of land could also return to farmland or nature preserves.

So even people who personally prefer to live "just outside the city" should advocate for denser housing. When the city builds up, everything moves towards the center.

I just measured the distance from city centre to the countryside for two cities of about equal size:

Hamburg (Pop 1.5 mil): 8mi

Houston (Pop 1.8 mil): 22mi

(I chose these because LA and Chicago have coastal layouts which aren't comparable. They also connect directly to other urban areas which for the purposes of this exercise should be considered as "farmland". Or you could add their respective populations which would further amplify the difference)


> So even people who personally prefer to live "just outside the city" should advocate for denser housing. When the city builds up, everything moves towards the center.

Thanks for making this point, so many people vociferously object to any density anywhere. Nobody is being forcibly relocated to dense living, but people are being forcibly denied the option of dense living.

It's similar to transit and traffic: though other people taking transit helps drivers encounter traffic, far too many drivers will attack transit because it's "not something they use." Realizing that other people want different things and that those different things might help you with your own wants is a complicated topic for public discussion.


I'm with ya on preferring rural living, but I much prefer that everyone else's "dream home" be in the city.

Now if we could only get a better political separation between urban and rural; right now, since the urban areas have higher population density, they effectively set the policy for those in rural areas, generally without caring much about the fallout.


Rural areas are already massively over-represented in the senate because rural states tend to be far less populous than urban states and slightly over-represented in congress because rural districts tend to be smaller than urban ones.


The article was focusing on the environmental impact of different living situations, and rural living is horrifically environmentally unfriendly. It would also be financially untenable if rural areas weren’t massively subsidized by urban economic centers. If you had to pay for the true cost of building and maintaining the infrastructure you use (which would be amortized over very few people due to the low population density) you wouldn’t be bragging about how cheap rural living is.


Don't forget, that rural infrastructure that is being 'subsidized' by urban centers serves a pretty important role in, you know, growing and delivering food consumed by those urban dwellers. Also: electricity production, natural gas extraction, and landfills. All that also requires local workers.

How much more do you think the urban populations would be paying for these essential products and services if you wanted to go tit-for-tat?


Kinda depends on definitions of rural, but I'd guess the vast majority of people living in rural areas (having grown up in one) are not involved in any kind of food or energy production. Most of them are doing hour-long commutes by car into the city for work.


In those cases, it probably mostly washes out. The commuters are paying taxes for the road use (gasoline taxes) and are also contributing to the tax base of the 'subsidizing' urban areas with local/city taxes on their income earned in the city.


My friends who have their own well and septic, and only pay for electricity from "the grid", would be very interested to hear how the folks in urban environments are "massively subsidizing" their home and property, and how they're not paying the "true cost" for building and maintaining their property.

Related, I looked at a house that had a co-op for water. It was $25 a month and controlled completely by the homeowners, compared with the $100+ I'm paying for water in town where I'm subjected to the whims of the city council.

Got any evidence to back up your claims?


How much do you think it costs per person to build a road that 50,000 people use every day vs a road that only sees 5 cars per day? You’re trying to argue that 1+1=3, I am not making a controversial or radical claim when I point out that urban areas subsidize rural ones.


Well, the road that handles 50,000 people will require a ton more maintenance, that I can assure you. Plus, rarely is the county (as it's almost always the county that covers the cost) putting in the road solely for residential use. Most of the time, the roads go somewhere that isn't serviced by another road, and the residential roads are off of those (and often paid for by the residents).

Perhaps it's different where you live. But, aside from roads, what other infrastructure is massively subsidized by those in the urban areas?


The rural lifestyle you're describing has a much higher ecological impact than an urban lifestyle. And many people now, myself included, prefer a lively city where I meet and see lots of people, rather than the isolation of rural life.


I love the more rural areas, and I found a decent fit. I'm within 50 miles of an international airport, within 15 miles of a significant hub for my field, and there are fields just 5-10 min bike ride from my house. I'd consider my area to be suburban/semirural, and my main complaint is that it's starting to get crowded (there are 3 cities in my area > 100k people, though mine has 30k or so).

I started working remote, and my mind went immediately to moving to a less populated area.

I really don't understand the appeal of living in a city. There's a ton of traffic and noise, and it seems that people are way more busy in larger cities. But different strokes for different folks I suppose.


Because 80% of Americans live in urban and suburban areas.


Not many people outside of HN have opportunities for remote work. Most people don't want to be trapped into a situation where there's only one dominant employer in their area.


>Every year, the National Association of Home Builders presents its vision for the New American Home,

> This is the New American Home for 2018. It’s a sprawling monstrosity of more than 10,690 feet

Wait a minute, you mean the trade association for residential homebuilders thinks we should build absurdly large, expensive houses? Well, I'm shocked. Shocked, I tell you.


Personally I'm a fan of tightly packed townhomes (or, SFH packed with just a few inches between them, as seen in some places), but I think an important step towards the walkable urbanism the authors want is simply to remove unnecessary restrictions on housing.

Like, I get that some people want big lawns and backyards but I don't get why this needs to be the only housing that's legal in the majority of all suburbs in the country (even many inner suburbs just a few miles from major urban centers). Why can't I do what I want with my property? Is there really that much of a public interest in forcing an entire neighborhood to be grass farmers?


The big problem with townhomes and apartments is shoddy construction making neighbors a noise nuisance.

Also, economics is weird. Townhomes cost almost the same as nearby houses, perhaps because they are relatively limited supply and more cost-efficient to maintain, so people look at the sticker price and think "oh, I can get a lot more footage for a little more price".

Also, townhomes tend to get built as sound buffers alongside highways, making them unpleasant to live in.


Those problems are solvable. My perception... the real problem is Americans expect a lot of space. They would rather trade quality for sqft. A 2200sqft TH with thin walls is more sellable than a 1600sqft TH with thick walls.

Additionally, THs are considered "starter" homes. Certainly here in DC, a couple is expected to "move up" to a single-family in the outer 'burbs when their family grows.

It's all quite silly. And I say that having bought the single family in my 20s, hated it, sold it in my early 40s to go back to a TH. Now I walk to work, shorter drive to pretty much everything when needed, less maintenance. I'm much happier.


>Certainly here in DC, a couple is expected to "move up" to a single-family in the outer 'burbs when their family grows.

Yep, I'm in DC too, and happen to live in a condo. There's lots of townhomes near me, but it amazes me how many people willingly move out to Haymarket or Warrenton to buy an McMansion and then drive 2+ hours/day, mostly sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-66. Now the government has cut down all the trees and dug everything up around that highway so they can widen it, which of course isn't going to help one iota.

>It's all quite silly. And I say that having bought the single family in my 20s, hated it, sold it in my early 40s to go back to a TH. Now I walk to work, shorter drive to pretty much everything when needed, less maintenance. I'm much happier.

Interesting: you sound a lot like me.


I get really annoyed at a few co-workers who live out in Haymarket and commute to Reston. No shit your commute is awful. There's a reason I live in a 1500sqft TH across the street and not a 2800sqft McMansion 20+ miles away! Yes, they cost the same. But, is the extra space really worth the commuting headaches???


Townhomes, at least in the Portland OR suburbs, cost exactly the same as stand alone homes while being typically smaller, sometimes with a one-car garage, and maybe only a small backyard (sometimes no backyard). While the list price of the townhome is typically less, you can pay hundreds of dollars per month for a HOA which brings your monthly payment up to almost the same price as a stand alone home.


None of that seems like an explanation for banning them.


There's more to zoning than just wanting nice looking grass. For areas not originally built to house 3-4x the density, there's likely issues with capacity for: utilities (sewage/water), roads/traffic, stormwater runoff, school enrollment, and local services. That's not even considering veiled NIMBYism manifested as environmental concerns: tree removal, disruption of ecosystem, natural/green spaces, etc.

Even still, in growing suburban areas, you do typically see what you're proposing: conversion of a multi-acre lot to many, high-density homes (e.g. 'carriage' houses.)


Oh sure I get that. Any matter of urban design & planning has infinitely more complexity than you're going to find on an internet discussion. Undoing postwar suburban sprawl is not going to be an easy task.

Still, for any person who is a fan of urbanism it's easy to be salty about this topic. City planning has favored motorists living in sprawl for half a century. Nobody cared about the noise pollution that would result to those living in the inner cities when public policy pushed everyone to the suburban fringe. Nobody cared about the risks and the inconveniences to pedestrians and cyclists when we designed our cities to favor motorists.

And yet, the moment we start to talk about allowing some multifamily units in a place that is traditionally single family you are immediately bombarded with the Concerns. My schools! My traffic! My parking spaces!

I wish the same concern was shown before we covered the entire nation with the suburban blight that rules today.


I'm generally opposed to tree removal everywhere- I guess that makes me a NIABY?

They cut down huge trees that provided tons of shade, build something new, plant a sapling, and call it even. I swear half the time the tree wasn't even in the way.

Anyway, this process also tends to repeat every twenty years or so as buildings get old, companies die, and style changes. So as soon as the tree is starting to hit it's stride, start all over.


Calling suburban homeowners grass farmers is an insult to real grass farmers like Joel Salatin and Gabe Brown ;).


Indeed, particularly in light of how much criticism these gentlemen cast at the useless, counterproductive front lawns of America's suburbia.


I have dealt with more than my fair share of HOAs in such housing (townhomes organized as condos, high-rise, etc.) Some of the stories of dysfunctional HOAs are right on the money unfortunately. Also, state laws give HOAs more power than they typically deserve: until about 2012, Texas allowed HOAs the following: place liens on shareholders' properties without explicitly informing them, deny them xeriscapy options, and define where they may or may not place flags. It is horrifying what trouble a bunch of tinpot bullies can cause when they manage to infest an HOA board.

Transparency is another problem area: it is often difficult, without going though the expense of making a purchase offer, to get HOA terms, details of board meetings, and budgets; this makes it tough to go in with informed consent when making one of the biggest purchases that you will make. I had to withdraw a purchase offer (and lose my option fee; I since learned that a good realtor would get the information before going through the process of making an offer) once after reading the 60+ page HOA terms, which appeared to mandate that the buyer must leave a key with the central office and that the latter may visit properties as they needed with unacknowledged prior notice.

I wish HOAs had to be treated as public concerns so that the light would shine brightly on pathological boards and buyers would have the best available information possible.


I'm remembering how weird of a place (Boston) I'm living in.

> This is the New American Home for 2018. It’s a sprawling monstrosity of more than 10,690 feet (the lot encompasses 65,340 square feet).

Even properties that Red Sox players are living in west of the city are rarely over 6,000sq/ft. When I see a listing for a home over 3,000sq/ft here it's a rarity.

~1200-2400 sq/ft homes are pretty average in the Boston/Cambridge area. Many condos are more in the 800-1600 sq/ft range, and it's also not uncommon to find 1200sq/ft houses.

I guess that being said, almost everything here is 100 years old. I'm personally against a condo for myself because I'm just too damn loud (drums and guitar), and I'm sure to piss off most neighbors with that. If it wasn't for that hobby, I'd be totally happy with a condo.

I just checked, and there is one property for sale in Boston-proper (which includes JP and Dorchester) over 9,000 sq/ft for sale right now, and it's a 15k sq/ft estate for nearly 4mm.


In my experience houses greater than 6k sq ft are useful for one of a couple scenarios: either you have >5 residents (parents, grandparents, kids, live-in help) and need lots of bedrooms/extra space, or you're throwing frequent social events and need your home to function as an event venue.

I briefly lived in an 8.5k sq ft house with two other people and on many mornings I felt like Jack Nicholson in the Shining. Never again.


You can easily fit >5 people in 3500 sqft -- that's enough for 4 large bedrooms upstairs and a whole living unit in basement, with a large main floor for "entertaining".


> You can easily fit >5 people in 3500 sqft

I used to live with my two brothers (so three people total) in a 860 sqft apartment and we never had problems with stepping on each other's toes.


In Brookline there are 3, they range from 9.5 to 38 million dollars: https://www.redfin.com/city/29676/MA/Brookline/filter/proper...


$4,000,000 / 15,000ft^2 = $267 / 1ft^2

That's actually a steal (unit price wise) in the Boston/Cambridge market right now.


Very large houses never have high price per square foot because the utility of housing space scales logarithmically not linearly.

The price curve starts flattening just above the median sized house for a given area.


Not only that, but the construction costs are cheaper per square foot for larger houses. Much of the cost of a house is in the kitchen and bathrooms. But bigger houses almost always still only have one kitchen, even if it is a lot fancier, and the number of bathrooms doesn't go up linearly. Bigger houses just have bigger rooms mainly, and also extra rooms that are empty and don't cost much to build ("bonus rooms", dens, etc.).


However, the operational (heating, AC) and maintenance costs of a large house do scale more directly with it's size, especially for jobs that involve the whole structure, like re-roofing, re-siding, etc. So in the end they end up being far more expensive to live in.


Siding costs do not go up linearly with interior volume. This is basic geometry which I shouldn't have to explain on this forum.

Operational and maintenance costs are a different factor; we were talking about house price, and I went into construction cost. Operations costs are different, and consumers are pretty infamous for only looking at initial costs and not thinking about operational/maintenance costs. This is especially true with cars: people look only at the purchase price and don't think about how much gas costs, so they buy a giant SUV even though it gets 50% worse fuel economy, and then they complain about how much it costs to refuel.


> Siding costs do not go up linearly with interior volume. This is basic geometry which I shouldn't have to explain on this forum.

Of course it doesn't scale linearly with volume, it scales linearly with exterior surface area, which itself scales with square footage, which was the base metric I used, not volume. The shape that minimizes the surface area to volume ratio is a sphere, which most houses are not.


No, but the circumference of a rectangle does not scale linearly with the area of that rectangle. The area increases quadratically with the circumference.


The point is that bigger houses are more expensive to operate and maintain, all else equal.


Yes, they are, and that's why I responded by pointing out that consumers generally don't think about that factor, they only think about initial costs.


It's hard to blame consumers if they are buying the average sized homes for their area that are still huge in operational and maintenance costs.

In most newer SFH developments, house size is usually dictated by exclusionary zoning (i.e minimum lot and house sizes) and developer business priorities, not by what is financially prudent for buyers. And as your SUV example illustrates, bigger sells better.

Choosing not to buy in to that usually requires relocating to an area that values efficiency over size, and those are often very expensive areas, since they are few and far between.


The consumers are always at fault, as they're the ones with the purchasing power, and the voting power.

>And as your SUV example illustrates, bigger sells better.

There's no such thing as "vehicle zoning"; if consumers wanted to buy smaller vehicles, they're out there on the market. No one's forcing them to buy and drive huge SUVs.

>In most newer SFH developments, house size is usually dictated by exclusionary zoning (i.e minimum lot and house sizes) and developer business priorities, not by what is financially prudent for buyers.

This is controlled by the local government, which is controlled by the voters, who are the consumers.

They don't have these problems in Japan, because they don't have exclusionary zoning. If you own the lot, you can build whatever the heck you want on it, and the neighbors have no power to stop you.


he said 9k sqft, 15k sqft "estate" whatever that means. At 9k it's $444/sqft.


No. Common walls and shared floor/ceiling sucks, thank you very much. Better to be in a trailer (which I quite like)


Exactly. People living in urban areas are used to the noise or the requirement for silence but when I moved to an apartment from my parents' house I hated every second of it.


This. Home separation is important for quality of life.


a major point people dont consider is the HOA. Speaking from experience of a friend who was a plumber for one of these condo complexes:

In a condo, if an HOA is required to fix plumbing or landscaping, paint, or roofing, then it comes out of the CAM fees paid by the residents. However, if the HOA does NOT pay for that work, or tries to stiff the construction firm they hire, the construction company can take out a lien on the property until their bill is paid.

That lien means you cannot sell your condo until the HOA pays their debt. In my friends case, the HOA had blown all their CAM money on lavish vacations and dinners for key members of the HOA board. They had no money to pay for a sewage repair job, and left 54 members of the housing compex stuck with a $20,000USD repair bill. After a grisly court battle the HOA was disbanded, CAM fees were agreed to be paid directly to the plumbing company for the year, and the complex went into foreclosure after the debt had been paid as most tenants had sold.


Are condo HOAs typically run by insane petty dictators who will demand absolute perfection in lawns, house trim, and the shapes your car leaves in your driveway?

https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/nation-world/national/ar...


In our case, it's a bunch of senior citizens who stand outside and stare down anyone who walks in and immediately call the police if someone parks in a reserved spot.

I am genuinely amazed at how petty they are. They also upgraded the part of the complex they live in for 3 years in a row and keep postponing the other areas.

They write hilarious monthly updates cheering how much damage their new tall speed bumps have done to cars.

I would be pretty pissed if I actually owned one of the condos, but as it stands, its pretty funny.


HOAs are not restricted to condos. Many newer SFHs are governed by neighborhood HOAs also, and they are famous for putting onerous restrictions on residents.

Also, not all condo HOAs are a mess like you describe. I'm part of a 3 unit HOA on subdivided infill lot. It's dense, but no shared walls or structures. The low HOA fee covers the shared insurance policy and nothing more. Within my exclusive use area I'm free to do anything reasonable with landscaping, etc. Only structural changes to my unit require HOA approval

The dysfunction of some HOAs is more a function of the misplaced priorities of the members, as in the example you gave, not with the idea of shared ownership itself.


The laws regarding exactly what plays out when an HOA(condo board) doesn't pay its bills likely changes drastically by jurisdiction, but higher level you are highlighting an important point - "The Tragedy of the Commons" is a very significant issue with condos, only takes a few bad actors to make things really bad for everyone.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons


You're talking about the HOA as if they are a third party. Isn't the HOA just the group of condo owners? Who were the two parties in the grisly court battle?


> You're talking about the HOA as if they are a third party. Isn't the HOA just the group of condo owners?

No, in the same way that a corporation is not just the group of stockholders; it's a distinct legal entity operationally controlled by it's own management (either employees or a contracted management firm), who is accountable to a board, who is normally accountable by election to the condo owners. Owners, or groups of owners, suing HOAs are just like shareholders suing corporations, it's not an uncommon thing.

Also, lots of HOAs are actually structured to be effectively controlled by the original developer until certain time and/or unit sales triggers move them out of a privileged role, and may have rules set in place during that time that place high procedural bars on changes that would provide effective control to the actual homeowners even if the homeowners have nominal control.

HOAs are a hotbed of principal-agent problems.


While all that is true, as an HOA member and major stakeholder in the HOA, it's incumbent on the members/owners to actually read the quarterly financial updates, attend HOA meetings, vote, etc.

Certainly easier to do in a neighborhood-run HOA for a small building or TH cluster than a high-rise, but the point still stands, I think.


54 people couldn't cough up $20k?


54 people couldn't pay the bare modicum of attention to their HOA's budget to stop them from spending on meals and vacations that have nothing to do with the HOA's role?


I've lived in HOA neighborhoods before; the power any individual resident has over the HOA is nearly nil. You'd basically have to run around to all the neighbors and convince them to vote for someone else at the next board election; it's just like regular government politics that way.


Yes, that's a pretty bare modicum of effort.


Convincing your neighbors to vote a certain way is "a pretty bare modicum of effort"? If that were true, we wouldn't have our current democracy in such a terrible state. Billions of dollars are spent on every election to try to convince voters of how to vote, and look where it gets us. How do you think one person running around to his neighbors is going to convince them to vote for genuinely good HOA board members? Remember that the bad members are also going to be running around trying to get votes.

And who would you have them vote for anyway? Yourself? I don't know about you, but I have no time or inclination for such a job. Frequently, HOAs turn out this way because the people who do have time for that crap are the people who really are a problem. This is a strong argument in favor of professional property management in fact (which is what my condo has, and doesn't seem to have any of these problems).


The "bare modicum of effort" in that case as the average person would be at least paying attention to the folks running around trying to get votes, and paying attention to what they are telling you. Billions of dollars are spent trying to convince voters to vote, because the only real winner in most general elections, whether HOA or national, is "apathy" as most votes are undecided or not even cast.

Also, things like meeting minutes and annual budgets are generally required to be transparent in most HOA founding documents (constitutions, articles of incorporation, bylaws). You don't have to want to be a board member to review meeting notes (or directly attend meetings in most cases), and especially to review an annual budget of how your money is spent. 54 different people in the example above had an opportunity to review the budget? Did they just not care? Was it "creative accounting" fraud? (If so, why weren't the people responsible personally liable for fraud? White collar crimes are still crimes.)

My HOA maintenance fees include major utilities so we all assume year-to-year increases, but just about everyone in my building still seems to take a fine tooth comb to the annual budget every year in the hopes of avoiding an increase or finding a possible decrease.

(Also, property managers are generally orthogonal concerns to HOAs given they have different goals and most property managers still report to an HOA. You can still have good property company reporting to a bad HOA. There are also plenty of horror stories of bad property management companies out there. My HOA has already been through a small handful of property management companies trying to find a good one. We seem to have lucked out with the current one, at least, given all that we are going through.)


>because the only real winner in most general elections, whether HOA or national, is "apathy" as most votes are undecided or not even cast.

That simply isn't true. As bad as voter turnout is in the US, it's still over 50%. The winner is ignorance, as so many voters actively vote against their own best interests (e.g., poor people voting for the party that passes tax breaks for millionaires).

>why weren't the people responsible personally liable for fraud? White collar crimes are still crimes.

Now this is an excellent question here. I have no idea what the answer is, but it seems like the US is really bad about this kind of thing, and not just with HOA management. It seems like prosecutors here just don't want to bother with cases like this, maybe because not enough money is involved?

>There are also plenty of horror stories of bad property management companies out there.

Yes, but at least here, as you found out with your case, you can just hire a different company when you need to. It seems like the best case is what your HOA has going on: an HOA composed of owners, acting mainly as overseers for the professional management company that does that bulk of the work of managing the place. The HOA horror stories I've seen (and experienced) seem to involve HOAs which do their own management, so basically some busybody in the neighborhood who has time and interest gets voted in along with a few of his cronies, and then mismanages the funds badly.


Voter turnout only goes over 50% for presidential elections. It isn't even that high for midterm federal elections, let alone local ones. A school bond failed in the next county last week because an overwhelming number of votes supported it - but they didn't have enough people vote to make it a legal quorum (or whatever it's called).

https://www.fairvote.org/voter_turnout#voter_turnout_101


I'm on my HOA board, so yes, all of your objections appear to me as "I don't want to do anything at all". And comparing "talk to your 50 shared neighbors" to "organize an election with hundreds of millions of voters" is just off the charts hyperbole.


Again, you didn't answer my question. Who exactly are you going to get them to vote for, if you don't like the guy who's running the place now?

And yes, talking to 50 neighbors sounds like a big PITA to me, when you aren't even on the board and don't have a way to contact everyone and arrange a meeting; you'll have to go door-to-door and hope to catch people when they're home. That's a significant project. You don't have to do this in neighborhoods that don't have HOAs. And finally, again, WHO will you have them vote for, if you can convince them to not vote for the other guy who's mismanaging funds? Are you volunteering to spend all your free time on this payless, thankless job?


What do you mean, I didn't answer your question? I am volunteering, yes. I literally already do this. I would tell them to vote for me. I am very aware of what being on a HOA requires because I already do it and yes I think it is not that hard. So to be clear: ME.

(I might use magical technology like mailboxes to facilitate asynchronous communication if I didn't already have access to the email address of every homeowner, which as a member of the HOA you should have)


>I would tell them to vote for me. I am very aware of what being on a HOA requires because I already do it and yes I think it is not that hard. So to be clear: ME.

Maybe you're willing to volunteer your time for another job, but I'm not. Moreover, I'm under no illusion that people would vote for me; I'm not highly charismatic.

So who is someone like me supposed to get people to vote for? Where's this magic person in every subdivision who has the time and talent to take on this thankless job? Your solution doesn't scale.


Another "tragedy of the commons" thing. It's only about $370 per person (or unit), but they're probably not all trying to sell at the same time, so you probably can't get them to all agree to it. So there's probably 5 people trying to sell at the moment and the rest refuse to pay up just to help those 5 sell, and they probably think that this might come up again in the future thanks to even more mismanagement.


I had a friend go through a roof replacement in his condo complex that cost $13k for each condo owner. I know nothing about plumbing but maybe it was per owner?


$20K each, most likely.


1 million dollar sewer repair bill? unlikely.


It's also just the cost. A condo is appealing to me because they're cheaper and I don't need a big place, but when you add in the HOA fees (SFH don't have HOAs around here), they start to look pretty close in price.


NO. Condos are actually really crappy places to live, like being in an apartment complex but you have to pay a (generally) overly burdensome HOA, deal with politics and power play issues, not to mention the noise and nuisance of being in an apartment. Townhomes are better, but truly the "dream home" is still your own house, no HOA, with space between you and your neighbors, a dedicated place to park your car, and the freedom to say "get off my lawn."


Lawns are ridiculous wastes of water.


Ideally I never want to encounter any other person that I don't actually live with at my residence. Condos are terrible, as are townhouses, and indeed normal houses built on tiny lots squished up next to each other ruled over by an HOA. L'enfer, c'est les autres.

Yes, condos have a place, and are necessary sometimes, but they're an unfortunate compromise, not even remotely a "dream home".


As long as the new dream home has thick walls and soundproof ceilings...

But I'm not gonna bet too heavily on builders caring about those features.


A friend of ours has a condo that was built in the 60s, and there’s a foot of concrete between every floor and unit. I envy that.


In my area (Texas), condos in desirable areas cost more than McMansions, so I don't see things changing here anytime soon.


Are the McMansions you are talking about in the same desirable area?


There's something super amusing about some of the stuff they describe in the article, along with the diagram of the public transportation options. What they don't mention is that everyone who lives in that building almost certainly would drive to work- Because, Los Angeles. Those units will be near a new subway line that will be completed in the next five years (but they'd still have to bank on their office being on that line).

I also don't tend to find a lot of new condo developments in this area that are for sale. They all seem to be rented by the builder. My presumption being that credit continues to be so cheap, they can afford the slow burn down from rents, since thye're not getting crushed by the interest payment. But, I'm not a landlord, so I don't know for sure.


Screw condos. I’ll take a home where I can put up ham radio antennas and shoot guns, without pesky neighbors.


You're not wrong and this isn't just a throwaway sentiment. Yours is an actual realistic criticism of the ideas of the article despite what the urbanites think.


"The urbanites" are 80% of America. "I personally don't want it" is actually a pretty vacuous criticism of a proposal that most people should do something.


I'm not really sure it's a criticism, more just an minor splash of inchoate rage, and we're supposed to sort of figure out the implied criticism. Which is, I assume, that perhaps more people want a massive house in the middle of nowhere than don't, and that most people don't actually want to live in a city, but put up with it for one reason for another. And then perhaps this massive house should be the ideal home, because what is the point of an ideal if it's something that most people don't want?


Okay, I'll spell it out for you. I understand that most people in the world and the USA are packed in to high density cities on the coast. But your numerical superiority does not mean that your ideals define what is or what should be. Nor does commenting on alternative views of what is good mean we are full of 'rage' despite what your stereotypes may suggest.

Living in high density areas is a trade of individual rights for job opportunities. And it makes sense. You can't have people in high density areas playing around with things that make loud noises because everything you do in such areas effects others. It's just common curtesy if not against the local laws.

It's not about house size. It's about all the comprimises you have to constantly make when you don't really own the land or building you live in and can't chose what behaviors you want to do even if they don't hurt others (ie, San Fran saying they can tell you what you can do with your apartment or house re: airbnb). This diminishment of the individual is bad for US society as it has existed for most of the past. Unfortunately the urbanization of America by relative population is unlikely to stop and those born into it will likely never know freedom is available elsewhere.

ps, high density areas have terrible, terrible radio frequency interference. If you want to set up an amateur radio astronomy kit or do a bit of ham radio you're pretty much out of luck except for the line of sight VHF and up bands that are, mostly, boring. And don't even try to to put up a decent size tower; it won't be approved because all the people nearbye will be "effected" by being able to see it and complain (if it's not explicitly against local law).


I agree with most of your post, choosing to live in low density if you prefer should be considered wholly valid. However...

> This diminishment of the individual is bad for US society as it has existed for most of the past.

This statement is vague, presumptive, and poorly justified. For those who prefer to live in the cities can you justify there is a diminishment of the individual? In what ways is it "bad for US society"? And finally, I'm not even convinced on "has existed for most of the past"


I mean the dimishment of the individual for the potential* betterment of society as a whole or advancement of some ideology. In this post I will try to clarify the differences between the US's incumbent system of individuality versus the rest of the world's collectivism.

But first, back to specifics. It is not controversial to say you have to give up many individual rights by living within city limits. My example above was the lack of property rights when living in a large city like San Francisco. You can't do with your property what you like because the city values social harmony over individual volition and rights. They effectively own your property and allow you to do some subset of things on their whim. Another example of this is city wide smoking bans in privately owned businesses and property. Depending on your point of view this may be an entirely worthwhile thing if it betters society as a whole. But it is definitely the diminishment of the individual. It is a restriction of their behavior despite no use of force or fraud.

More generally, there are two takes on freedom as implemented by governments. The first is that of negative liberty as originated by Kant and fleshed out and implemented in foreign and domestic policy by Isaiah Berlin and his contemporaries in the US federal government in the 1950s-1980s. It is the idea that freedom is the absence of obstacles, barriers or constraints imposed by external agents. In it individuals are free to the extent that they are not interfered with in their personal choices or behaviors. This fits snugly with the US founding documents like the declaration of independence and the bill of rights. US citizens have generally been free to do whatever they want as long as they are not hurting our defrauding others. I will not try to convince you this has existed for most of the past because it is incredibly obvious and the very heart of the country's founding ideology.

Almost all other countries take a different approach. They believe that individuals do not really have full volition and that often internal things restrict their freedom just as much as external things. Like the smoking example above, no one is forced to go to a resteraunt that allows smoking. But in a collectivist point of view people that do go aren't really in control of themselves and need to have their behavior restricted for the greater statistical good. The individual's volition is not valued nearly as high as that of social harmony and so force is used to constrain their behavior. This is positive liberty. It is not inherently bad but it often leads to troubles with authoritarianism due to the concentration of power and acceptance of the use of force to interference with individual choices. This is bad and often has lead to very bad things happening.

Even if you value social harmony over individual choice the slow shift of the balance towards positive liberty in urban areas of the USA is bad if only because the USA is the last nation left that prioritizes the individual choice over social harmony. If wiped out here it the world becomes a much less diverse and free place.

*, potential: And this is another key point. In political systems that value social harmony first decisions are made based on potential future outcomes. This leads to things like future crime wherein certain behaviors that don't hurt or defraud others are met with violence by the police because there's a statistical chance the person involved may do something bad later. The epitome of this is drug laws but it also applies more generally.


Thanks for the detailed post. A few thoughts before the weekend:

> the US's incumbent system of individuality versus the rest of the world's collectivism.

>Even if you value social harmony over individual choice the slow shift of the balance towards positive liberty in urban areas of the USA is bad if only because the USA is the last nation left that prioritizes the individual choice over social harmony.

I do think it is a bit of a broad brush to paint the world in this manner, polarized between the individualist united states and the collectivist everybody else. Certainly the difference between China and the United States is day and night, but I find it unlikely there is such a wide difference between say Australia and the United States.

> This is positive liberty. It is not inherently bad but it often leads to troubles with authoritarianism due to the concentration of power and acceptance of the use of force to interference with individual choices. This is bad and often has lead to very bad things happening.

While I can't disagree that this "positive liberty" can certainly be bad, or even terrible, when misused, I don't agree this meets the standard I was looking for, that the usage of positive liberty as seen in US cities is bad for US society.

>This fits snugly with the US founding documents like the declaration of independence and the bill of rights.

I can't say I disagree, however I question how much of a role I would place the countries historical individualism in our modern public policy. Do I want a repeat of the Boston Molasses Flood because it's that important to me that we embrace our historical individualism, therefor we must not place restrictions on the activity of those doing private business in a city?


Yeah, but how are rich Americans supposed to feel superior to poor Americans in an 1800 sq ft condo? Ridiculous. That's just for plebs. /s


Reading the article and these comments is somewhat entertaining. 1. The size of the show home is dictated in part by the desire of the associations to incorporate and show off the different products of the sponsors. More sponsors means more revenue for the show.

2. Roads are needed to transport goods from urban center to urban center in addition for rural to urban. Years ago the livestock industry changed their slaughtering and processing from urban center to rural (or small town).

3. This author is based in San Francisco. By the standards of my part of the world, SF is now a third world country, people shooting up in the street, taking a dp where hey like (in the road, etc. If she can't fix where she lives what right does she have telling me how to live?


After owning a few different place, single family home and two condos, I've decided that I will never own a condo again, only a SFH. Too much crap to put up with.


>This is the New American Home for 2018. It’s a sprawling monstrosity of more than 10,690 feet (the lot encompasses 65,340 square feet).

No, this is an exaggeration for the sake of a highly slanted opinion piece. The average size of a new house in the US is about 2500 sq ft if I remember correctly.

>Does anyone need 10,000 square feet to live in?

Does anyone want to put up with petulant condo associations/HOA squabbles? Besides, if someone wants to pay housekeeping to clean it or spend half their week cleaning that's their business.

>Enter the Green New Deal

oh so this is just a thinly disguised anti-rich opinion piece


No, this is an exaggeration for the sake of a highly slanted opinion piece. The average size of a new house in the US is about 2500 sq ft if I remember correctly.

No, the NAHB titles their test home "The New American Home".


> oh so this is just a thinly disguised anti-rich opinion piece

are you rich?

I'm very anti-rich.


What is the point of these opinion pieces? Why should we care about what someone at New York Times says over any other person? These kind of articles must be made simply to drive traffic and stimulate rage. It will be interpreted as just another coastal elite telling Americans they should aspire to live and die in a cold steel and concrete box partitioned out in a shared building with neighbors on all sides pestering them and a condo HOA breathing down their backs. I guess it worked.


Well, as you say, it's an opinion piece. It's raison d'être is to allow people to make informed decisions. To that purpose, it is helpful for a society to have reasoned analyses that go beyond the low-value collection of stereotypes and bad-faith of sentences like:

> just another coastal elite telling Americans they should aspire to live and die in a cold steel and concrete box partitioned out in a shared building with neighbors on all sides pestering them


As opposed to The National Association of Home Builders giving us their opinion on what we should live in?

Isn't it reasonable to have a conversation about what kind of houses we want to live in, we want builders to build, we want government to encourage?


You don't need to read the NYT if you don't want to. They publish things that people seem to enjoy reading.

Concrete is warmer than wood, it's a much better insulator.




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