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Monday, December 29, 2008

Silver lining for skaters

You had a nice house. You had a nice pool. Now it belongs to the bank. You are distraught. But somebody else is happy, according to this NYT article By JESSE McKINLEY and MALIA WOLLAN.

"Across the nation, the ultimate symbol of suburban success has become one more reminder of the economic meltdown, with builders going under, pools going to seed and skaters finding a surplus of deserted pools in which to perfect their acrobatic aerials."

Skaters are coming to Fresno from all over the place. I've never been to Fresno, California, but I have this image of a hot, sunshiny place in which a pool was a more useful accesory than it would be in, say, Chicago.

“God bless Greenspan,” posted one skater, “patron saint of pool skatin’.”

California officials estimate there are 5,000 abandoned swimming pools in Sacramento County alone.

The future of housing

My own suspicion is that the housing market won't come back for a long time. Politically, it will make sense for cities to zone single family housing areas to allow apartments. This was extensively done for patriotic purposes in World War II (to satisfy a housing shortage) and in my neighborhood there were a couple that were grandfathered in until recently. A lot of the McMansions could easily accommodate two families -- splitting a 3,000 square foot McMansion into two areas means 1,500 square feet each, which would be a generous apartment.

Cities will do this because their citizens will demand some way to stay in their houses, and this is a pretty easy way to keep the citizens happy and preserve the property tax base. I believe duplex neighborhoods are historically pretty stable and well kept, because the owner lives in one and rents out part. One of my family's friends when we were growing up needed money to pay to send their deaf son to St. Joseph Institute, so they rented out the main part of their house, and lived in the walk-in basement for many years.

The main downside is for home builders -- this will keep down the demand for new houses. Renovators should do OK, though.

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