Originally Posted by happysmileylady
Have you ever done any real research into one of these subdivisions you discussing? Like actually researched how these homes are sold to people? Because what you describe doesn't really fit in the process. Pantry...my home has one because I picked a floorplan with one. My sister's home does not because she picked a floorplan that doesn't...because she didn't want a pantry. If a home doesn't have a pantry, it's not because the builder decided that they didn't want to build it, it's because the original buyer of the home decided they didn't want one. Building a home or buying a home is a pretty big deal to most folks and they do their research. They aren't going to buy a home that doesn't have what they want. If the home isn't going to function well for them, they aren't going to buy it. If a builder isn't listening to their customer and providing what they want, they aren't going to be in business very long.
And on the other side of the coin, if ANY business, be it a development builder or a custom builder, isn't worried about profit they aren't going to be in business very long either. Custom builders provide that higer cost insulation because it's important to their customers, not because it's better for them. And I am sure they charge more accordingly as well. Lower quality insulation may be the standard in the developments, but that doesn't mean it's the only option. If it's important to that specific customer, upgrades are usually available. At additional cost of course, just like anywhere else.
Location-A substantial number of suburbanites don't commute to the city. The live in suburbia because they work there too. Those nasty big box and chain places that people dispise so much do employ people and those people often live right there. The managers and cashiers and greeters at Walmart aren't going to commute far to work at Walmart, so of course they live in that cookie cutter subdivision less than five minutes away. And these places are full of locally owned small businesses, of course those owners live in those same cookie cutter subdivisions. Not to mention that these places usually start out in the middle of cornfields, but business often spring up around them. I mentioned previously that the only places within walking distance are a DQ and a gas station, but actually I was wrong. There's a hospital too the one I had my kids at. It was build just like 3 years ago. A friend of mine bought her house when it was in the middle of a corn field, but now there's a Y opening up that's within walking distance, and the district opened a new school right there also. And, if they walk through the Y's ginormous parking lot and athletic fields, there's quite a bit of other stuff that's recently opened up right there too.
Actually, yes, I have. And for you to assume that the only people buying homes and moving into subdivisions are buying brand-new homes wherein they had input on the design process isn't accurate. At all. Maybe you heard about the Housing Bubble??? Yes, we continue to have new subdivisions built all over the country - there is in fact a glut on the market. One of my sisters lives in a very popular area in NW MT - and the city where she lives has, per their estimates, about 5 years of speculative homes built. Empty developments sitting there, houses built and waiting for a buyer. My SIL's home (mentioned earlier) was in a subdivision which was "hot." She could either take the home they offered her, or wait for a year for them to build to her specs. So she took what they offered. They were in a tornado-prone area (not tornado alley, but they do get tornadoes every year) - but everything was slab on grade (quicker and easier for the contractor, but NO basements - and none of their set floor plans had 'safe rooms' for tornadoes built into them either. Again, if SIL wanted to wait for quite awhile, she could have had that designed into her home. But she took what they were in the process of building and willing to sell her.
*Someone* is moving into all those suburban homes built in the '50s, '60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, and early part of the last decade. And *someone* is buying the speculative homes that were built three years ago. The percentage of people in this country who can afford to purchase a newly-built home is not a large number, especially more than once in their lives. Most people are moving from a previously-owned home into a previously-owned home. That's the nature of the beast. So, no, they don't have a say in whether there is a built-in shelf in their kid's room, and they don't have a say in whether there is a pantry. As you point out, they DO have a choice about which home they purchase. But in markets which are constrained (high prices for homes, high cost of living, etc.) - they don't really have much of a choice. Dh and I looked for a long time to find our home. It didn't have all the features we wanted. But housing prices kept going up and we couldn't afford to wait because if we did, we would have had to settle for even less of what we wanted. I suppose we could have relocated to a different city/state and found a suburb where the developers were able to build a home to our specs in our timeframe but that's a bit ridiculous given that we both had jobs and family in our area and wanted to live here, not in Indiana or etc.
Not all the workers can live in the suburbs while working those big box stores. In fact, in parts of the Mountain West, they must commute from a neighboring county or even state, to their jobs. Jackson Hole, Vail, and even my own lesser-known community spring to mind. Some employers in Vail were creative enough to build employee apartments above their gas stations etc. to try to combat this, but the fact remains that property prices in some areas simply make it impossible for the low-wage workers (even when paid more than the average for workers like them elsewhere in the country) to live there.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, my husband is an architect and so are many of our friends (scattered around the country, university friends). It is insulting for you to assume that the reason that they are designing energy efficiency features into the homes and office buildings they design simply because their clients ask it of them. Frankly, they often put those features in after talking their clients into doing it and explaining the long-term cost savings to the clients. They are educated, passionate professionals who know how important it is to do this, for the future of the planet and the long-term financial usability of the property. And, architects aren't typically paid more for specifying an r49 insulation or incorporating passive solar into their design. They do it as a responsibility for their clients. The contractor might charge more for the additional materials. [Not all architects do this automatic incorporation of energy-conscious features, but dh and his friends do as much as possible].
As Cat's Cradle said, I think an aspect of our disagreement in this discussion stems directly from differing definitions of "suburbs." I tried to clarify that in my recent post - that obviously there are going to be gradations and differences including 'suburbs' which were once self-contained small towns and have been absorbed through urban sprawl. And I defined my take on "suburbs," which is the one I learned in my Urban History course -- the area of development which houses people outside the city, away from their work, and from which they commute TO work in the city, typically with very few amenities or local businesses and not usually walking-friendly.
Finally - we continue to talk about suburban areas which used to be cornfields and now, after several years of being a suburb, have their own DQ's and a gas station and a hospital. But the fact remains - they were once cornfields. Where are we growing that corn now?????? We have a finite amount of agricultural land in this nation. We are already importing foods from other countries. If we continue to advocate and defend gobbling up agricultural land so we can all have our big suburban homes, we will find ourselves in a situation where, rather than exporting food to other countries, we are importing it. And while in some parts of the country, a little 1/8 acre lot might grow most/all of what a family needs for food (even some backyard chickens) - that's not true for *all* of our country. In places with limited rainfall, and/or less temperate climates, etc., it would not be possible. I live in a grain-growing area but I could NOT grow the wheat, oats, and barley we eat as well as all our fruits and vegetables on our lot (and it's larger than most of our neighbors' lots). Let alone goats or some other larger meat source than chickens (assuming they were legal, which is a gray area in our city).
Is it responsible for us as a society to continue this entitled expansion into our farm and ranchland and open spaces, this commuter lifestyle with our Kentucky Bluegrass lawns carefully watered, fertilized, and mowed regardless of our ecosystem and the wildlife we are displacing and the agricultural people who have been forced into selling their farms/ranches in part by the skyrocketing property values caused by the developments around them?
When you move into that cornfield, think about what used to be there. What happened to that farm family, their way of life, their dreams for their children and grandchildren.
This isn't just about whether you have the sort of house you want (assuming you can get it). It's about a continued cancerous expansion of our suburbs which leaves our cities weaker and which jeopardizes our nation's ability to feed itself (and to feed others as well). Chamomile Girl's post #90 (middle paragraph) sums this up well, I think.
Does anyone else have the Talking Heads' "(Nothing But) Flowers" playing on loop in their heads as a result of this conversation? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3t5nmgRVMs&feature=related