What are the best options for the millions of single-family homes that may be left behind by Baby Boomers as they age, many of which are in suburban or exurban communities? Is it realistic to retrofit homes and neighborhoods to accommodate changing demand?
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Rather than expound on grand concepts and tiers of statistics this month, I will tell a simple story in response to your question – one of a million stories behind the histograms. I am a Baby Boomer who divorced, left our Spring Valley house in Washington, D.C., and eventually bought a 7-bedroom house in the village of Somerset, MD. I sold it ten years later at the right time to a younger couple with two children, a perfect occupier of this house, with its suburban amenities. Now I live in a nearby gated community with a pool, tennis courts, shopping area next door through a locked gate, and use a car most of the time. I would have preferred to live next to the Bethesda rail station, but at half the space for 30 percent more cost? On the other hand, my two grandchildren are just a mile or so away.
While in Somerset, I rented my basement illegally. So did other widows and singles. Is this a zoning issue that needs to be addressed on a national basis, community by community? In places like Hermosa Beach, zoning changes allow homeowners to build another smaller house in the large yard behind.
A related issue to the foreclosure problem is the substitution or addition of renters in a homeowners’ culture. How does this affect values, both financial and cultural? I rent from a condo owner who lives in Sarasota, FL. I cannot vote, run for anything, or participate on any committees of the home-ownership association. What do others really think of my living this ‘shadow’ civic role or lack of it?
Kent Watkins is Chairman of the National Academy of Housing and Sustainable Development.
Welcome to the BPC Housing Commission expert forum! This forum is intended to foster interactive and substantive discussion about pressing housing issues. Each month contributors from different parts of the housing sector will be invited to respond to a discussion topic. Guest posts will feature prominently on BPC’s website, as well as be shared regularly with Housing Commissioners to help inform their work.
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