American life in suburbs- single family homes and manicured lawns

Some folks seem to think our economy will bounce back without changing our current consumptions levels. I have links (click on the titles) to 2 article below that summarize my thoughts on two changes to American life: homes and yards.

1) We have to change our homes. This will change our lives, our families, and eventually, our society.
2) We have to change our demands of the natural landscape around us. Manicured lawns are foolish (I try to explain this to my father, who otherwise strikes me as one of the most intelligent and heroic men I know). How can we stop thinking of how our lives look in these clean-cut, wasteful, soulless terms?

1) New York Times Op: Shifting the Suburban Paradigm

I don’t care if we’re talking Le Corbusier, Cape Cods or Corinthian columns, we can’t make any progress in housing until we stop thinking about the home as decorative object and begin considering it as part of a larger whole. How does it work on the street? In the neighborhood? How is it served by transit? Is it adaptable, allowing for the housing of extended families or the hosting of an entrepreneurial endeavor? Can the owner build an accessory dwelling (a.k.a. granny flat) to do so? (Most zoning, homeowners’ associations and CCRs don’t allow for it currently.) What needs to happen to zoning, to financing, to our very notions of resale value to change the suburban condition — and by extension, the American Dream as we know it?

We’re beyond the point of a fresh coat of paint and a new sales pitch. If we’re going to continue to hold on to the single-family home, we need to transform it. There is a demand for smaller, more energy-efficient homes in less car-dependent neighborhoods; all aspects of the industry, from designers to lenders to planners to consumers, should meet it. In this era of anti-government fervor, subsidizing the American Dream isn’t an option; transforming it is the only one we’ve got.

I think it is hilarious that we have to study how to make a home fit as a part of its surroundings. We used to build homes into hillsides, considering the sun, using local materials. When you had the income and need to build another room, you simply added on another room. How far did you live from town? As far as your local road permitted. Since we have done away with so many inconveniences in infrastructure (via government subsidy), now we are wondering how to go back and build smarter.

2) Tall Grass Grows Sales
“I hear from Realtors, and I hear from buyers that part of the reason they bought here was because of the landscape and the sustainability and the green-forward thinking.”

Why are these things called forward thinking when they are actually a return to 1000s of years of building and living knowledge?


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