Just an absolutely fabulous long read in the American Prospect by David Dayen about the shifts in labor patterns since the pandemic that is well worth your time:
Things could accelerate from there. According to a July survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, 41 percent of U.S. workers are either actively searching for a new job, or planning to do so in the next few months. Two-thirds of those searching have considered a career change, rather than moving within their industry. Bankrate’s job seeker survey in August found even more turbulence; 55 percent of the workforce said they would likely look for a new job in the next year.
This trend has been characterized as the Great Resignation, and just about every economist and pundit has taken their crack at teasing out why it’s happening. Explanations have included health and safety fears, child care needs, a tight labor market, boosted savings from stimulus funds or reduced ability to spend money on bars and movies, enhanced unemployment benefits, increases in business formation, desire to work from home, early retirements, restrictions on immigration, demographic shrinking of the prime-age workforce, and my personal favorite, expectations of a labor shortage creating a labor shortage.
Some of these ideas have merit, though none can quite explain everything. In these moments, it’s best to actually ask the workers themselves. I did that, talking to dozens of people who have recently quit their job, or experts who closely track workers who have. And some patterns emerged.
The most vulnerable people in America have started the closest thing we’ve seen in a century to a general strike.
Work at the low end of the wage scale has become ghastly over the past several decades. With no meaningful improvements in federal labor policy since the 1930s, employers have accrued tremendous power. Workers were afraid to voice any disapproval, taking whatever scraps they could get. “The U.S. needs a reset, needs a big push, to get to a place where work is more secure and livable for a lot of the population,” said MIT economist David Autor, who has tracked the misery of American deindustrialization and the shock of China’s rise as a manufacturing powerhouse.
The whole thing is a great read and almost impossible to extract, so go check it out. It touches on a number of themese we have discussed here before as well as providing a lot of really interesting and important information.
I skimmed it and will re-read it later tonight. Interesting stuff! Thanks for the link, Cole.
Much to my own shock I, too, am part of the great resignation. I left my agency job 7 months ago to study for my license and recharge and I still haven’t gone back to full time work. I miss it but I don’t miss the way workers are treated—the petty politics, the everyday cruelty, the indifference to our work conditions and the difficulty of the work itself in therapy for psychotic, homeless, and otherwise marginal people.
It would be great if a REAL populism emerged from this trend
I’ve respected Dave Dayen’s work since around 2006, 07 when he was predicting the mortgage backed securities fuckery done blowed up the economy. Will look forward to reading the piece.
Balloon Juice does not have upvotes.
This comment is an upvote, or several upvotes, for Cole’s post.
Thanks John. Looks like a very worthwhile read.
@Raoul Paste: Real populism still seems to veer towards nativism every time. It always makes me nervous.
So, arguably I’m part of this phenomena. I’ve always struggled with depression and anxiety, but it got really bad starting in around 2014, and I suspect it was triggered by some bullshit politics at work that I’ve never quite gotten over. I pushed ahead until Covid, and the work from home helped answer my wifes fear of my retirement – ‘will I be miserable if my husband is around the house all the time’. That opened her to the idea of me retiring, which opened me to the idea.
It’s not that any of the above dynamics really played into things, but I spent 25 years in the 8-5 5 days a week in my office lane and Covid broke that cycle, created a new environment for me and my family, and allowed us to see things from a new perspective. I think a certain amount of this is just that – some of us were out there chasing dollars, Covid broke the status quo, and we realized we actually had enough dollars but needed less stress/better mental health, more time with our families, etc. but we needed a catalyst for change and Covid served that role.
But I agree that at the service end of the labor market, that general strike is probably the best analogy. Our local McDonalds, which had been doing pretty well with its $19/hr starting wage has added a $500 signing bonus. To put that in context, the poverty line for a family of four in our area was $33,700 eight years ago. It’s currently $45,000. ‘Low income’ is double that amount, so a change from $67K to $90K. With two full time workers in the household, that $19/hr still leaves you $14K a year below the low income line.
All of that increase in poverty/low income is housing costs. Median home price in my city is now $1.1M. I’m glad that CA has effectively banned R1 zoning, and it’ll take some time to see the effects of that, but they need to do something that has a short term benefit.
Perhaps a reborn labor movement is what we really need. I was appalled at the way the ‘essential workers’ were treated during the height of the pandemic, when vaccines were still not available. Nurses wearing trash bags, meat packers not making the slightest effort to make their lines safer.
It says something about the degeneration of American journalism to blithering talking heads that after ENDLESS discussions about the worker shortage, Great Resignation, etc., this is the first time I’ve seen an article that actually tries to collect some real information about what’s going on. Most of the discussions have been pure unadulterated speculation. *Occasionally* one article will have a few anecdotes – but a few anecdotes mean nothing when the media has become notorious for picking them to support a pre-conceived notion.
I expect there has beem some genuine reporting somewhere, but it’s been buried in the drek.
Conservatives will tell you that the biggest lie ever told was “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
As usual, conservatives lie. The biggest lie ever told was “the company cares about you, your life, your health and welfare.”
Peoples lived experience tells them which the bigger lie.
@JoyceH: That I would be happy to see.
@Omnes Omnibus: You can’t do populism in the US until we deal openly with the role and impact of white christian supremacy, and we’re making a bit of progress in that direction, but it’s now being resisted through threats of and real violence, and we either need to meet that resistance or wait until we can wear it down. It’s been 150 years of work, so it’s hardly right around the corner.
Beer and circuses are no longer keeping the population placid?
@JoyceH: I work as a Receiver in the warehouse of a midsize pharmaceutical company. There are only two of us, and we’re crowded into a small office that also has the network printer (so lots of other people, too). Without a Receiver, nothing gets over to production, so no meds get produced. One would think we were “essential”. My company’s solution to Covid was to put a three foot piece of acrylic between us. Kinda spoke volumes about how essential we really are.
Steve in the ATL
@JoyceH: I assume that “reborn labor movement” is code for “pay increases for labor lawyers”—I like the way you think!
How many people have newspapers that are now owned by Alden Capital and are hardly running any local news stories anymore?
The way people like to blame the journalists without realizing the same thing that is being described is also happening to journalism bothers me sometimes.
@Martin: Populism goes that way in other countries too. The issues with it are not limited to the US.
The TikTok and Facebook selfies from the Wal-Mart workers were amazing. And inspirational. I hope this keeps up, it’s a long overdue correction.
ETA, thanks John! I read the whole Long Read, too.
@Steve in the ATL: Still day drinking, I see.
@Omnes Omnibus: No, I agree, but my point was that the US is even worse than most other countries in terms of the cultural landscape that normally leads to nativism.
IOW, you can’t even consider populism until you have a populace that sees everyone as deserving. We are miles from that still, and it’s largely because we have this centuries old problem that we still refuse to face up to and address.
Villago Delenda Est
The bottom line is that most business owners only know how to manage things, to include people, who have a very nasty habit of not being pegs to be pounded into holes. You manage things. You lead people.
American business does not know how to lead. Because that requires that you think of people as people, not widgets.
@JoyceH: I think you spelled “expendable workers” wrong.
A hilarious snippet from the article is that a beer salesman was considered to have an “essential job”.
Good piece and dovetails nicely wit my current frame of mind.
Villago Delenda Est
The vermin of the Village are NOT journalists. At best, they’re stenographers. Most are just propagandists for the parasite overclass.
I saw a link to this earlier and am anxious to read it when I finish my to-dos. Dayen’s book Chain of Title about 3 victims of fraudulent foreclosures worked to expose the fraud is a good read.
Steve in the ATL
@Omnes Omnibus: it’s my right as an essential worker!
@Starfish: I have always blamed the managers and the owners for the deterioration of journalism, not the working journalists. I guess I should have stated that again so as not to cause any confusion. And, yes, Alden vulturing local newspapers is by itself a significant part of the problem.
I think it’s going to be more than “some time”. I think we will see the benefit relative to continuing with R1 zoning, but my experience living in an area that was upzoned has convinced me that actual replacement of existing housing will be painfully slow. It’s not at all clear that upzoning the whole state will be enough to get housing built faster than population growth. We really need to fast track bigger stuff than replacing individual single family homes with duplexes. We need to massively streamline the permitting process so NIMBYs and BANANAs can’t stall projects for years.
@Martin: And again, human nature always finds some out group. Put me down as a doomer about the possibility of populism not going feral.
@Villago Delenda Est: I didn’t read that comment as referring to “the Village”, but rather journalism outside “the Village”. With private equity buying up and extracting cash from local and regional newspapers, what we’re left with is “the Village”. And it’s awful.
@Fair Economist: Sorry for being salty. Alden ate our newspaper, and our reporters are quitting.
Same here. Transferred to a new position with less political bullshit, but I’m still pretty bitter…though a lot less depressed and anxious. Mostly I’m grinding away until I qualify for retirement, which is getting close. It would be smarter financially to keep working a few years after I qualify, but I’ve had enough.
Thanks, John! Added to my must read list for today!
So what happened in your upzoned area? Where is it and what was the upzoning?
I look at the craziness of CA housing prices and it seems like at least in the craziest of the crazy areas, like Santa Monica and the Bay Area Penisula, that the prices *are* high enough to drive teardowns. I know actual experts disagree and I’m curious why it wouldn’t happen.
@Starfish: When I think of private equity, I don’t think of the American economy. I think of piracy: seize the vessel, steal the cargo, toss the crew overboard (if they find a lifeboat, fine; if not, shit happens), and set the ship on fire.
@sdhays: *Some* of the Villagers are part of the problem. But a lot of the reason there are so many problematic faces among the Villagers is the owners choosing Chuck Todd to do a headline politics show while kicking Soledad O’Brian off the networks. They are an effect, not a cause.
Hmm, Toys R’ Us, Sears, Guitar Center … that seems – remarkably accurate!
@Villago Delenda Est:
“It’s too hard to lead!” That is always said in a whinny, nasal voice…..
As someone who was an employer, signed checks and all that and as someone who has been an employee as well, I’ve seen both sides. And you are 1000% correct, many/most people have no idea how to think about others and how there is more than one point of view, theirs, how to lead, how to supervise, rather they know how to abuse and berate. Some of that is that is how a lot of bosses act so that is what a lot of people know. It is easier to demand than to see all sides, it is easier to go along than to ask – especially when even asking can get one fired.
A lot of this goes along with the concept that work is work and if it were easy anyone could do it. And a country that accepted slavery, even so very long ago, is one that accepts a variety of levels of society, even as it states that we are all equal, and all the while it is very, very obvious that this society does not believe that in any way, shape or form..
I would have been happier with some unadulterated speculation. Most of the articles I’ve seen have been relaying the opinions of business owners and managers about why it’s hard to find workers, which is much worse. It’s laundering the opinions of people with a stake in the outcome as if it were pure fact. It says something about contemporary journalism that doing that was considered just fine.
@Starfish: eh overpaid pundits aren’t journalists…
Time to re-read “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”.
Staying home in the pandemic has taught many people that they don’t need so much stuff. Or need to spend so much money of things.
Granted, those people tend to be privileged and are cutting out dining out meals and new clothes. But the lived experience of being at home having value versus being out there “keeping up” has changed some perspectives.
I’m not sure that’s true. I think the US is worse because a larger fraction of our population is considered to be outsiders, not because outsiders are viewed any worse here. Europe has been able to achieve the kind of social cohesion that allowed them to set up social democratic institutions by keeping outsiders out. They are at least as bigoted when it comes to minorities, and they’re probably more bigoted when it comes to “White” immigrants.
I’m sort of part of the great resignation too.
I used to teach HS science full time as a second career (after a first career as a Federal fisheries biologist). But about 3 years ago through a series of unfortunate circumstance I found myself without a full time teaching position.
I had resigned a teaching position at a distant rural HS to take a new position at a much closer school. But at that exact time the new district was overtaken by a teacher’s strike, turnover in the admin office, and other chaos and they had ended up hiring two different people for the job. One person was hired by the central office, and I was hired by a local school administrator who moved on shortly after that to a different job. Due to the strike and turnover, no personnel actions were actually getting processed. The other guy got the job because he had a CTE certification and I only had a science certification and the job was for animal science and biology which falls under CTE. So I would have had to start teaching under a provisional certification.
As a result, I started subbing instead and found that I liked the more relaxed schedule much better. No papers to grade, no SpEd meetings to attend. No faculty meetings and endless departmental planning sessions. Just put in your 6 or so hours of class time and go home. Looking at the money I found it wasn’t that much less and my take-home pay was actually pretty similar as I was no longer paying union dues, medical benefits, retirement contributions, etc. Then the pandemic happened which let me take unemployment during the whole time that schools were closed or on virtual learning. And now that they are re-opened there is a sub shortage so pay has gone up and I can be very picky and choosy about which jobs I take.
Two years ago before the pandemic I was anxious to get back into a permanent teaching position. Now not at all. I’ll just do this for a few more years until the last kid is out of the house and then we will semi-retire and do what we want. It helps that my wife is a physician so we don’t really need my paycheck. As soon as the last child is out of the house she is likely to shift to part time or locum tenens work where she fills in as a substitute doctor from time to time and take big chunks of time off for us to travel. Or maybe do virtual medicine from a beach in Chile or Spain. Who knows. But the end of our 9-5 daily grind life is well within sight.
I lived in an area of Pasadena just off Colorado Boulevard. It was originally single family, but Pasadena rezoned everything close to Colorado for up to 4 units on a property. The existing housing was getting gradually replaced, but it was happening very slowly. I moved there in 2003, and maybe 1/4 of the single family homes had been replaced or had built additional housing on the lot. Today, that’s over 1/2, but it’s still far from complete conversion.
My impression is that there wasn’t enough money in building that kind of housing to get speculators to buy people out of their homes. When somebody died or decided to move, their home was likely to be bought by a developer, but that was the time scale of the change. It certainly wasn’t the kind of overnight change NIMBYs are afraid of.
I see a
smallserious flaw in her stream of semi almost consciousness.
The government cheese gave her strong bones for heavy lifting.
Self-awareness, thy name is Boebert.
@Ruckus: it’s like the time the actor Craig T Nelson said on a TV show, “No one helped me when I was on food stamps!” uuuhhhh….
I worked as a supervisor at one of those “be glad you have a job” places. I’d try to tell management that you can’t just shift people’s hours and shifts around – come in one day at 2 am, another day at 6, 12 hours one day and 6 the next, and pay them $9 an hour. I’d try to tell them that people need to arrange childcare, some are trying to take classes or share a car – they make $9 an hour after all. It made no impression. They’re lucky to have a job. They got to the point where every low-wage worker in the area had already worked for us or knew not to. I’m so happy to be retired.
@Omnes Omnibus: I see your point. Similarly, it’s interesting to reflect that, 50 years ago in high school we were taught about the perils of blind nationalism, probably because of fresh memories of Hitler. At the same time, we were reciting the pledge of allegiance every morning
@Raoul Paste: There is the whole “principles for which it stands” thing that should provide wiggle room.
@germy: she reminds me of my RWNJ brother, who spent quite some time on unemployment years ago, only to emerge even more RW and NJ.
I mean, that’s mostly what today’s “conservatism” is about, right? Dealing with self-loathing by projecting onto others?
I thought Boebert was the one who inherited (or was gifted) millions from her parents??
EDIT: I think that was MTG
@germy: Self awareness. She no haz it.
@Cameron: And I think, whose bright idea was it to make this legal?
I like to say that most contemporary conservatives would be fine with socialism as long as they were free to make it Whites-only.
Boris Rasputin (the evil twin)
@Marshall Eubanks: Offhand, I’d say it was the pirate’s idea.
Here’s the book they want banned:
Published in 2000, so retroactively CRT.
Self awareness is not natural, it is learned. Or often not.
They should be glad that we deem to allow them to work there, after all if all they are capable of is scut work at such high wages they can work when we want them to…… ahhh, I think I’ve captured at least the concept of being a major asshole.
Some people really do not live in a world outside their tiny, diseased excuses for a functioning mind and think that the world revolves around the stick they have shoved up their own asses. They also might just be cheap, mean and have the operational intelligence of a flower pot.
@Marshall Eubanks: I think there are a lot of dirty fingerprints all over it. Don’t know how we fix it.
Capital-Labor imbalance has grown so extreme over the last few decades and that drives media coverage. “Journalists” have internalized the CNBC model and present everything from the investor/shareholder pov. Other stakeholders can FOAD.
Private Equity is the worst…
Exactly my own frame of mind. I’m almost at Medicare age and have more than enough time in to retire. But I want to hang on a few more years to build up the retirement and get to the Medicare benchmark. Not sure that I will, though. Retirement sounds very nice, perhaps with a side gig as a financial aid consultant to keep me out of trouble.
The math of building multi-units are a grey zone unlike high rises. Lets say you buy a R1 for 3 million. You demolish and make a R4 there. That’s easily 6 million sunk into it. (You cannot make cheap housing at those 1M+ price points. It has to be upscale). You will have to sell each at ~2 million to make some money.
The math for buyers is — buy a 1R for 3million vs one unit of a 4R for 2 million + HOA fees. At those price points, the latter does make sense.
Of course I exaggerate – But the ‘demolish + upscale multi-unit cost’ has to compare well against ‘land + old but livable single housing stock’, for rebuilding to occur.
There is not enough money in building cheap multi-units on high-priced land one lot at a time, to attract speculator interests.
This seems to be the issue as the complaint is:
Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)
What a crock of shit. Really exposes these people for what they are
Old canards die hard, if at all.
They’re trying to take us back 50 years. They want it erased.
That they shove their crabbed, nasty views onto 2nd graders, who come at that book completely honestly and will take it for what it is, is disgusting. “Sow racial strife”, my ass.
2nd graders are much, much better than that. It’s a shame they don’t have any faith in them, or respect for them. They deserve better adults.
I think you have the math generally right but the prices in my old neighborhood were a fair bit lower when I moved out in 2010. Even today, a single family home there is in the $1 million range, and townhomes are a fair bit cheaper than that. That said, wholesale replacement of single family homes isn’t going to make economic sense until the replacement is a lot denser and/or builders can use eminent domain to build across more than one lot. The NIMBY fear that rezoning alone will cause the neighborhood to be remade in short order is completely contradicted by experience.
I hope the “public intellectuals” who started and promoted this panic are proud of themselves.
I knew it would end up harming unintended targets and cause trouble for less exalted people, like 2nd grade teachers. They’re idiots if they didn’t see this coming, so, they’re idiots. Of no practical use to anyone.
@germy: So she stood in line to get HER government cheese, and now she doesn’t want anyone else to get government cheese when they need it.
She doesn’t want government programs so that no one has to fucking stand in line because they need government cheese.
Got it. Oh, and fuck you, Boebert.
Gets down to how you define the we in we the people. Folks love them some exceptions.
@Ken: Thank you. I read that story decades ago and it’s never left me. Ursula K. Le Guin was a treasure whose humanity will live forever in her work.
@topclimber: And what principles for which they think we stand. I believe I differ with Steven Miller for example.
@Kay: They aren’t public intellectuals. They are GOP culture warriors. And they already claimed their first scalp so to speak in Virginia so it’s all good and working out exactly as intended. And yes, I expect they are very proud of it.
This is what I call a pull up the ladder conservative. Now that they’ve climbed the ladder, it should be pulled up after them so nobody else can climb it. It’s a shockingly common school of conservatism.
I had that feeling about [email protected] Omnibus: i
@Roger Moore: Builders don’t need eminent domain to acquire multiple lots. Plenty of people are willing to sell at the right price. They just need permission to build more densely.
There are a lot of other additional issues. Building codes generally allow builders to use wood stick construction up to 5 stories tall . If they build it on a concrete first floor base then can usually do 2 concrete and 5 wood which is called 5 over 2 podium construction. That is why we see so many low rise apartment complexes. They are cheap to build and you can use regular laborers. Once you get to 7+ stories a whole bunch of different codes kick in and you are talking about steel and concrete structures that require entirely different skills to build and far more expensive methods. A lot has been written about this. For example: https://granolashotgun.wordpress.com/2020/01/14/американская-хрущевка/
Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)
Speaking of Virginia, I have to wonder if the few percentage of indies who elected Youngkin and the Lt Gov are having or going to have some buyers remorse. The Lt Gov-elect is a crazy moron who, when asked if she were vaccinated or not, replied with some word salad about how “soon people will want to know what’s in my DNA” or something. I can’t believe she actually thought that was a good response
Yes thank you. Came here to say this. Building true high-rises (75’-0” or more above the street) is structurally and mechanically more intensive and therefore it usually doesn’t pencil out. But even relatively small-scale development is more expensive than most people here are imagining.
One major factor that no one’s really touched on yet is that the Boomer generation doesn’t seem to be downsizing as they age, which was expected by demographers. Denser housing is actually really great for senior citizens…. can eliminate stairs, less space and cost to maintain, more likely to have a walkable community. But the Boomers appear to want to stay in larger single-family homes. If this trend continues, densification will be difficult.
@Suzanne: Yeah. Where I live all of the denser housing that’s been built in the past 15 years have been high priced condos and townhouses for 55+ communities. Bought out a bunch or orchards and farms and replaced them with these communities with units starting around $750K but usually about $1.5M. They were supposed to attract seniors flush with cash from selling their homes. I don’t think that market materialized.
@Old School: MLK was known for giving great speeches and sermons. But we’ll never mention that he might have faced any obstacles or what those speeches were about. They were just soaring and rousing speeches. He was an entertainer, really. Kind of like his contemporaries Sammy Davis Jr. and Nat King Cole.
@Suzanne: Oddly, the work done by every skilled profession is far more complicated than most people imagine. Even members of other skilled professions.
@Kent: Interesting link! I even browsed the comments and found someone had posted a street view link to an area in Milwaukee near the Allen Bradley clock tower. I was down there about a month ago for the first time in several years and I was struck by how many of those khrushchyovka style buildings have been built in the last few years.
So true. My reply to questions outside of my area of medicine is that over the last 30 years I have been learning more and more about less and less. I am impressed that you and others of the legal world here do seem to know a fair amount about other areas of law outside of your expertise. If you ask me about blood pressure medications I reply I have not prescribed any since 1990 and I do not intend to resume.
@Suzanne: Lots of people do want to downsize. But often there aren’t viable options, especially in the communities in which they live. My wife and I could probably downsize, but it would most likely mean leaving our community as there isn’t much decent higher-end housing around here that isn’t also big.
@JCJ: Johnny Sanphillippo is a fabulously good and interesting blogger. I have been reading him for years. He recently switched platforms and you can find his new stuff here:
I don’t know of anyone else who blogs with quite his exact perspective
I understand that builders don’t 100% need eminent domain, but there’s a big premium to get people to leave a home they’re otherwise happy with. Every little thing that eats into profit margins makes it less likely to get new housing built, and it will drive up the eventual price of the replacement.
My old neighborhood wasn’t allowing anything dense enough to require more than ordinary wooden construction. There is one place that put 13 units on what had been 2 single family lots, but even that was only 2 above ground stories and 1 level of underground parking. That’s actually more than the general rules in California will allow; they won’t allow more than 4 units where there used to be 1.
I think this is one of those things people really need to understand. We don’t need high-rise construction to fit a lot more people into our cities. Replacing single family homes with townhomes or similar gives much higher density without requiring anything more than 2 or maybe 3 stories. The most obvious change is that the on-street parking is all taken.
Part of the reason Pasadena allowed denser construction in my old neighborhood is that it was very walkable. Colorado Blvd is a major commercial thoroughfare, so you don’t need a car for many daily activities, and it also has reasonable bus service. There’s also a train station about 1 mile away, which I would consider within walking distance. That means they can get away with less parking, including allowing denser development on streets that are narrow enough not to allow parking on one side.
@JCJ: It is only true up to a point that lawyers know areas outside of their specialty. It is usually cocktail party discussion level knowledge. Perhaps impressive to a non lawyer but pretty elementary to someone who works in that area. And a lot of what we do know can be like “Oh, that probably has tax consequences. I should forward it to the tax department before I say anything dumb.”
@Roger Moore: “I like to say that most contemporary conservatives would be fine with socialism as long as they were free to make it Whites-only.”
I think some professions require, or at least encourage, one to understand things outside the direct field, and others don’t. If you want to be a good lawyer, you need to know not just the law but also something about the field surrounding the law you practice. Medical malpractice lawyers need to understand some medicine, patent lawyers need to understand some engineering, and so on. That’s a bit different from the sciences, where it’s very possible to be successful by getting deeply into the field you specialize in and knowing very little outside it.
@Roger Moore: Oh, I know. It is an immensely complex and tough nut to crack. Paris and Barcelona are two of the most dense cities in the western world and both of them have less high rises than any equivalently sized American city. But the urban form is completely different and not at all dedicated to the automobile. It is basically impossible and illegal to build anything like that in the US today.
@Jeffro: I had a cousin who was definitely entitled to his disability payments and doing people’s taxes on the side for cash. He was sure he was nothing like those despicable welfare cheats.
@Roger Moore: I’ve worked with some patent lawyers, they all had undergrad engineering degrees.
Like most really intractable problems, the underlying difficulty is with the people rather than the technology. We know how to make cities that are much denser than what we have while still being livable, but convincing people to let it happen is really hard. It’s really weird. People are constantly saying that dense, walkable living is unpopular at the same time there’s a huge premium for homes in dense, walkable areas.
@Suzanne: Oh give us time, we Boomers will downsize eventually. We don’t feel that old yet, time will catch up to us.
I’m looking around Cincinnati and there is an apartment building boom, all over those five story high buildings with retail space on the first floor are going up, up, up.
They are all billed as “luxury apartments” going for the market rate, which is about $1,500 a month for a one bedroom — more than our mortgage payment on our three bedroom ranch. The “luxury” appears to be a glitzy lobby, a party room or two and a gym worthy of a Holiday Inn. Oh yeah, and a granite countertop in the (rather small) kitchen.
Are there really that many people who want to pay that much? And what stores are going to fill all the storefronts? Small retail has been in trouble for a long while.
There is a terrible mismatch going on. Most retirees aren’t going to be able to afford that much — it’s as much as the average social security benefit. As Kent points out, where are we supposed to downsize to?
@Omnes Omnibus: There is a huge cost savings in the construction industry in building at scale, either vertical or horizontal. Small-scale development is much more expensive per square foot than a large-scale subdivision. Prefabrication is a big push in that part of the economy, but transportation costs usually eat any savings (and more). So any projects that do get built are expensive, and therefore each unit is expensive. And then it raises property values and therefore taxes on surrounding properties, and then we have different problems.
@Roger Moore: Even more than the people it’s the institutional inertia that is extremely tough to crack.
Fire Departments who think every single urban street needs to accommodate and turn around a 60 ft aerial ladder truck. Zoning laws written in the 1950s. Construction industries wedded to 80 year old construction techniques. Minimum parking requirements. Laws that separate retail, commercial, and residential. NIMBYs who protest any regulatory change and who want to see their neighborhoods frozen in amber. Etc. etc.
The cake was a lie all along. It just took a pandemic to unveil it.
The “leaving your community” part is the important part of this formulation. Right now, as it stands, leaving your community is likely what would have to happen to downsize and have it actually pencil out. This is true in much of the US.
Del Webb, the developer, pioneered the low-cost senior housing model that covers much of the Sun Belt. It only worked as long as there were people willing to sell their large homes in relatively expensive cities (where they worked) and then buy a house relatively far outside a city with no job market, but other amenities like golf. But now all of the cities are relatively expensive, and lots of people don’t want to move away from their families.
Add to your list parking minimums, lot coverage maximums, height restrictions, setbacks, and even required building styles and design review boards.
“The board doesn’t like white buildings, black, gray, or any colors.”
“What colors are they okay with?”
“Beige, tan, neutrals.”
This was an actual conversation I had with a planner assigned by the City of Scottsdale to my project.
And then people complain we shouldn’t allow these new buildings because they’re all too bland :roll-eyes:
@Roger Moore: It is shockingly common and appalling, all at the same time.
I think the zoning laws are the biggest things holding us back. They’re basically institutional inertia and bad intent written into law. All the stuff you’re complaining about gets codified as zoning law, which just adds to the inertia.
Well, here in California there’s the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), which is the big stick NIMBYs use to block anything from happening near them. It requires just about everything to undergo an environmental review, and that review includes not just things like pollution but also traffic, sewer usage, etc. So any time someone proposes a new project, the NIMBYs can demand a traffic study, sewer study, groundwater study, etc.
It seems to me that having this on top of zoning rules is crazy. The right time to do that kind of analysis is when you’re creating the zoning rules. If the city government wants to zone an area for big apartment buildings, they should figure out how increasing the population there will affect traffic, sewers, etc. when they do the zoning. Once all that is worked out, anything that meets the zoning rules should be OK on all the things that were looked at when the zoning map was approved, and NIMBYs shouldn’t be able to stall it.
I already see the problem. I’ve been to Scottsdale several times. Yikes what a dry and boring city!
I just do not understand people who think all houses in an area should be nearly identical. Maybe it’s because I have always lived in areas that have undergone extensive infill, but I rather like neighborhoods where each house is distinctive. “Little Boxes” was intended as criticism!
Haven’t seen any mention of this bait-and-switch piece in this thread, and it seems to belong in here. Apparently a lot of companies are putting up signs advertising high starting wages and signing bonuses, and then when you go interview, the actual numbers are a good bit lower. So if you’re seeing the signs and thinking, “wow, now people can make a lot of money just working at MickeyD’s or Applebees or Staples,” well, maybe not nearly as much as it looks.
@Suzanne: “Amenities like golf”? Maybe it’s not just leaving family behind that keeps oldsters from moving to Arizona, maybe lots of them don’t center their lives on golf.
Whoever moves to the desert to play golf all day deserves it.
We live in a booming area in central Oregon, and housing availability is a huge problem with a fair size chunk of that being due to many smaller units being turned into short term rentals. There’s been two recent home sales in our neighborhood that we’d assumed would go to yet another family, but they both have permit notices on the lawn because the investor who bought them and is remodeling them wants to make them into short term rentals. They’re both 3 bedroom, two story houses so I figure “party house” is what will happen. The last two houses that sold here prior to these two went for just under a million; another one is under contract for just over a million.
What pisses me off about the short term rental conversions is that this is more housing being removed from the market for people who live and work here. They aren’t close enough to impact us as far as noise and parking goes, but we have neighbors who will certainly feel the effects, and it just further drives up housing costs for everyone who didn’t arrive here already rich. I have tried to make appointments with new hairdressers and I called 3 before I found one that was even taking new clients because they don’t have enough stylists. There’s not enough stylists because they can’t afford to live here anymore.
@Ken: I always thought “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”. was a bit heavyhanded with the allegory. See also her “The Beginning Place”,
@StringOnAStick: The Tahoe Basin has a similar problem and is trying to regulate the amount of vacation rentals, which have hit the service sector housing supply something fierce. And it’s all service economy in the Tahoe Basin, complicated by being spread between two states.
Friends sold their house here this summer for well north of a million and moved to Bend, which I had presumed would leave a nice wad of equity refugee cash in their pockets but nope, their new place cost just as much. And so it goes.
@Ohio Mom: Lots seem to like the idea of golf and then don’t play it anyway. But they still toodle around the community in their electric carts, hang at the clubhouse, etc. They hate golf balls banging off their houses with regularity though, to which I say, “But you moved to a golf country club. Which has golf, and most golfers are bad, drunk, or or both.”
I’d like to develop a community organized around bocce.
And Frisbee golf.
There you go! (But, they’d probably play pétanque.) And no golf carts.
The main thing is that regular golf playing implies things about your lifestyle that are highly desirable. It means you have free time, congenial weather, open space, and plenty of disposable income. Being able to play golf is good, even if you never actually play.
@lowtechcyclist: Played it the first time this summer with the kid and her boyfriend, and had a blast. Although they could have warned me against wearing flip-flops, lots of four-wheeling between holes.
It’s being able to strut around wearing the plaid pants and sweater vests, isn’t it?
@NotMax: There was an episode of Dexter where he visited a retirement community, and observed the retirees in their bright plaids and golf carts. His inner monologue: “As we get older we become children again. Bright colors, tricycles, playing with balls….”
That’s been a problem in ritzy ski resorts for a while, but it’s much more widespread now. My brother runs a tourist business, he’s building housing on his property because his seasonal workers can’t find housing they can afford. I know of several communities considering a moratorium on short-term rentals to deal with the issue.
@StringOnAStick: Charlottesville, Virginia, is a big tourist destination, so short term rentals through outfits like AirBnB are very lucrative. The city tries to keep a lid on by requiring that an owner live on site for a minimum of six months a year. Owners cheat though, and enforcement is problematic.
My friend Joan has a property there that has a 1910 house that was moved to join a similar house in 1925. She rents one part out short term. She also has a lodger in a large bedroom on her side. Joan worked hard as a carpenter and painting contractor until she was 60 to get what she has. Now she’s making more off her rentals than she ever did working. She still puts in two hours cleaning, etc. between renters, except when she travels. Then she pays someone.
I live in a rural county 20 miles from Charlottesville. The county board has been struggling the past year over regulating short term rentals. Now I’m seeing “No Glamping” signs along Greene County roads, so that seems to be another issue before the board.
@JustRuss: Almost makes you question whether Galt’s Gulch could function. Maybe they’d get lucky and one of the tycoons would do sanitation work as a hobby….
@Suzanne: Not only families. This discussion has reminded me — when I attended the NCO academy it was pointed out to us that in our home units we had recognition, we had prestige, we were honored, we had a known place, we were comfortable. At the Academy we were just students, transient, with no reputation or status. The same thing happens when people leave their communities, and yet that’s an absolute requirement of capitalism. That’s why extended families are so rare now. You can’t stay at home to take care of your parents and their siblings, you have to go where the jobs are. That’s why the [family blog] IMF and [expletive deleted] World Bank make “fundamental reform” the ability to fire workers without notice or reason. “Labor flexibility,” they call it.
@Kay:“Sow racial strife”, my ass.
Means contradicts what I may have said about this
@Ken: I’ve often wondered, who would shine John Galt’s shoes? Who would cook his meals? Who would wash his laundry? I don’t think he would.
@Roger Moore: I remember a book from when I was a child called Mr. Pine’s Purple House. There were a bunch of identical white houses on a street. Mr. Pine decided to paint his purple to standout. IIRC many of his neighbors gave him a lot of guff, but within a few months, all the houses were purple. That doesn’t answer your question, but I really liked that book as a child, so much so that I remember it 55 years later. Evidently, it was one of Jeff Bezos’ favorite books as a child too.
@Ken: Here’s a trenchant cartoon about the Galt’s Gulch food supply.
@StringOnAStick: I stayed in a beach town where they cracked down on party houses by imposing stiff fines on landlords and mandatory court appearances on landlords of shorter than monthly rentals. The place we were staying required that you have a referral from a previous tenant. It was very pleasant and quiet.
I’m weighing in late on this thread after covering my county Planning Commission’s Short-Term Rental hearings last night, which ended with our Planning and Zoning Director’s announcement that she found the PC impossible to please on the subject and that she was quitting, and walking out of the meeting. Seems the only thing just as vexatious as unregulated STR growth in one’s area is the amount of overreach, prejudice, special interest, and just plain *meddling* I have seen so far in my region’s attempts to regulate it. More later on this breaking story.
@Roger Moore: how are you supposed to find your own house when all the houses are identical? (Says the person living in a row of townhouses with an HOA – but at least there’s a little variety among the fronts)