I’ve identified eight classes of housing deficiencies that have different causes and different solutions. All the causes are bad and none of the proposed solutions are good. Within each class there are different causes and solutions for urban, semi-urban, and rural communities. Possible community and building designs should be flexible and include traditional, alternative, experimental, and natural approaches for each housing solution.
The first three classes are unemployment related. This includes street bums, the unemployable, and goof-offs. Charities should provide food and shelter until this economic group is obsoleted by providing social and economic opportunity for everyone.
The next two are income related, caused by employers not paying cost-of-living wages. This class includes renters and potential home buyers. Any solution that provides low-cost housing enables irresponsible employers to continue paying low wages. Charities should not have to take care of the working poor because there shouldn’t be any poor workers.
Bad solution 1: Building tiny home communities and micro apartments creates a sub-class of humans that live in essentially a worker beehive.
Bad solution 2: Subsidize rent and home costs. The money pipeline for the subsidies comes from taxing current and future workers and goes directly to landlords and property developers.
Good solution: The head of household or primary bread winner in a family should always be paid enough by a responsible employer to comfortably support a family on one income.
The next two groups simply want a big new house and more land, but the prices of land and new construction is grossly inflated with profits running around 1000%. I’ve been designing and building homes and developing real-estate for over fifty years, including today, and I can see how cheap this crap is to build.
Bad solution 1: Developers build homes with bigger rooms because the sale price is based on empty square feet which costs almost nothing to build.
Bad solution 2: Eliminate competition. General contractors have a lock on sub-contractors who are also profiting greatly from the shortage of talented trades-persons who are not seeing those rewards themselves.
Good solution 1: We need to train a million more construction men and women now.
Good solution 2: To take pressure off rural land consumption, infrastructure, and land prices, we should promote a culture of an active urban lifestyle with nice affordable condo developments near commercial and downtown areas, which then gives those residents an investment and the freedom and time to go out and enjoy all the recreational opportunities that Idaho has to offer. I can see myself owning a waterfront condo in Lewiston in a mid-rise condo development on the old Twin City Foods site. Save the dams, we will need them, and we should want them.
The final class we need to address is retirement housing. How do we handle access to services for senior citizens in rural areas? How do we optimize independence and freedom while providing safety and comfort? Because of all the social, healthcare, and economic variables involved, this issue itself is very complex.
Wage inflation resulting from employers competing for workers is good for workers but bad for employers. Employers always want to have workers competing for their jobs, so the Federal Reserve has applied the brakes to our economy to put the jobs balance back in favor of employers.
This is supposed to be economic “good news” because it helps workers by “cooling down inflation” in their wages, while greed and profit inflation continues unabated. Businesses damage or furlough their factories and then blame inflation on intentionally created supply chain issues, government regulations, and higher labor costs. You will see another year of record-breaking earnings by businesses.
Employers should automatically give their employees cost-of-living adjustments and if that results in compounding inflation, then more wage increases will be needed until, after a few adjustment cycles, wages and prices will stabilize at a level that represents the true value of our currency.
Then, all that would be needed to maintain price stability is a balanced federal budget and to stop printing money.
There is a very popular trend in new residential home design that is very stupid from a energy efficiency and comfort point of view.
Everyone wants a two-story open-concept living area with a two-story foyer or a two-story main living area, overlooked by open-concept living areas on the second level.
If you live in a climate that needs heating or cooling, this does not work. The upstairs spaces are always too hot and the lower level is always too cold and the whole space is exposed to heat gain or loss through the roof. Grand foyers worked in the old days, because all the bedrooms upstairs were closed off from the hallway.
Vertically stacking your living spaces with a separating door between vertical open spaces and horizontal open spaces is the most efficient space design. When the weather cooperates, you can leave the doors open.
My house has a 35 foot tall entry atrium with stairs leading to 3 floors of open-concept living spaces. Each living space has a full-view french (double) door opening out to a landing overlooking the atrium.
The three story atrium drives a convection envelope that makes my cooling cost nothing and my heating cost almost nothing.