Sunday, December 13, 2015

Needed: Greater Flexibility in Housing

Non tradable sectors include what can be considered core elements, in living and working environments. Economically and otherwise, rules for these areas of life often become more rigid than necessary. Granted, there are good reasons for standardization, in that commitments to routines in resource use generally pay off. Regular habits become culture over time, and lead to centuries long residual effects for land values as well.

Hence a general equilibrium may intensify societal norms, through both increased regulations and expectations. Regardless of one's actual abilities or economic access, asset designations may be formulated as though individual abilities don't vary, while family and charity are expected to make up for the difference. As it turns out, there are historical moments when this logic can backfire...

This appears as though one of those moments. Is it possible to scale back some of these excessive demands on the part of government and special interests? If there is to be real economic growth in the near future, something needs to shake up today's stodgy non tradable sectors. In particular, housing needs to adapt to the changing circumstance of the present. Who is ready to create a much needed housing market from scratch, instead of pretending that housing is still on the verge of overheating.

Granted, the solid nature of housing, reflects the solidity which is understandably sought as a backdrop to life in general. Most individuals with the income to do so, will continue to build traditional housing which requires a substantial degree of resources, well into the future. Even though he designed lightweight housing components during the course of his lifetime - for instance - Buckminster Fuller continued to live in traditional housing.

But there is only so much room in many prosperous regions for more traditional housing, and many of these citizens resist new apartment complexes as well. Part of the reluctance on the part of municipalities to make room for lower income levels, is the fact these individuals don't have as much to contribute, to the kinds of infrastructure that traditional development requires.

Fortunately, new communities can be established which make flexible ownership a central component of local opportunity - both for asset formation and infrastructure needs. In many instances, excellent designs which are strong and lightweight are already waiting to be put to good use in the marketplace. There is no reason why respectability can't be "built in", when new owners become part of the process of participation and mutual responsibility for the results.

Societies seem to suffer from a lack of imagination, when it comes to creating ownership options in more places through better means, for those with small incomes. For one, landlords scarcely benefit from low wage renters who aren't personally invested in their living quarters. Likewise, those same renters may suffer, if and when those landlords let their properties deteriorate. With some higher income exceptions, renting just doesn't have good incentives. Neither rentals or traditional housing constructs, are quite sufficient for present day housing needs.

Flexible ownership options could provide the incremental means which are needed by those with small wages, for gradual paths toward individual responsibility. One thing to consider, is that these densities will be somewhat different from present day city patterns. Often, knowledge use communities would likely include walkable areas near the core, with more traditional forms of transportation along the peripheries. Even though basic infrastructure patterns would be built into the environment, many of the building components would maintain a degree of mobility for changing ownership patterns.

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