Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Who Needs Two Sinks?

I have a love/hate relationship with the television show House Hunters. I love houses, and I love to see how real estate markets work in other communities. I am convinced, however, that in order to be on the show one must be a total self-centered moron. I still DVR the show and watch it on occasion, but it makes me weep a little bit for America (the international version is WAY less objectionable). 

As someone who is in the process of purchasing a house built in 1884 in the heart of downtown in an urban Mid-West city, I clearly have preferences about how houses should look and where they should be located. I HATE sprawl. I also hate new houses - if it was built before 1960, I wouldn't even look at it.

I get it - to each his or her own. Some people want to live in a new house in a green field right by the freeway (lovely view) developed with horrible land use policies and brand new infrastructure instead of investing in a developed community that already has all the infrastructure you need. Good on you, people. But when I drive by a new development that you can see from the highway with these giant houses, it makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit. It represents everything that's wrong with America. 

I also get the convenience of a new house. Did you know you can build a new house in a densely populated community? True story. Take a look at Plymouth, Michigan. It's a great city with tons of new houses being built within walking distance of downtown. It works people.

There are so many reasons why House Hunters makes me crazy. People would want to live downtown, but it's too noisy. We Americans need giant yards and enormous houses. The charming cape cod in a dense city neighborhood that housed a family of 6 in the 1950s is too small for a couple and their one baby. Instead we need a 4,000 square foot McMansion with a bonus room. (Surprise! The bonus is you're an a-hole). Everybody has to have two sinks in their master bathroom, otherwise their life is going to end. How could you possibly have less than 4 bathrooms for a family of four? Tragic. And we wonder why other countries hate us...you know like Europeans who live in small apartments downtown, walk everywhere and take transit. Oh how I envy them.

One of my favorite books on sprawl, Suburban Nation, details the havoc sprawl has wreaked on America. It has led to less independence because we have to drive everywhere. We live our lives in our cars shepherding between work, school, shopping centers (in disgusting strip malls). We're obese. One of the premises of the book indicates that we created wider streets to accommodate firetrucks, yet this results in traffic accidents kill way more people than fires. The evils of sprawl are numerous, and yet we don't get it.

I could not be happier to be moving half a mile from my office where I can walk to work. I can walk downtown for dinner. I can walk or bike to the Lansing City Market for groceries. I intend to drive significantly less, and I'm looking forward to living my urban American dream. And maybe my new master bedroom does have two sinks, but I swear it wasn't a real consideration in the purchasing of the new home. 

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