Real Estate

William Levitt

Fascinating story of Levitt creating suburbia. It strikes me that while home construction stayed more efficient than it once was, the process later migrated away from his sheer assembly line, low skill version. Also, had it not been him, it would likely have been someone. The time was right. On the other hand, it might have been more organic and varied, filling that housing need affordably. I am no construction expert, but most of my life I have had the idea that there has to be a better way – a new better way – for housing to be made efficient and affordable. I mean, above and beyond rethinking the ridiculous burden of local zoning and other regulation that does more than anything to contribute to homelessness and excess cost.

Personal angle on this is my late friend Tom had been born in Levittown, NY, and had moved in his youth to Massachusetts, even though his father still worked as a flight engineer out of New York. That was how I first heard of Levittown and its origin.

Another personal angle: I would have absolutely hated the rules Levitt imposed. If such rules are attached after you own property, then it’s not really your property. I’d have been the first person to rebel and add a fence or a clothesline, if for no other reason than because it was forbidden. More likely, though, I’d have moved elsewhere.

I Didn’t Realize It Was THIS Bad

However, this corroborates my view that there is indeed a new/continued housing bubble and, naturally, the potentially for it to fuel another crash. I’m lucky to be in an apartment with rent that doesn’t routinely increase, but what was barely affordable market rent ten years ago is now slightly less affordable below market rent. In a world in which we need either an even larger apartment or, better still, a house rental. Neither of which will happen any time soon, though certainly they will happen sooner than home ownership. The only way I’ll ever own property is if I pursue my old dream of buyng a piece of insanely cheap land in the middle of nowhere so I can at least camp out on it now and then, perhaps build a cabin getaway, or if the housing market fully crashes next time and I am in a position to take advantage of it. It was a big surprise to me that houses didn’t deflate to what they were worth in the last crash, and tended still to be overpriced. The house next door last sold in a $100,000 short sale, at a price that was somewhere between 20 and 70 grand more than I’d have considered appropriate.

Realistic Monopoly

These are great revisions to the classic Monopoly board game. I especially liked:

These rule changes create opportunities for cooperation, as well as the possibility of crises. That’s because most players will probably end up owing far more than they can hope to repay if they ever have to cover all of their debts at once. A few unfortunate throws of the dice can create situations where there literally isn’t enough money in the game. This creates a great opportunity for players to learn how debts get restructured, as well as the importance of knowing everyone’s place in the hierarchy of the capital structure.