Comment 53308

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2010 at 14:30:56

In terms of building quality, I see the following factors driving the trends we're talking about:

  • Administration costs - housing/building costs have risen a fair bit in the past three or four decades, but structure costs (actually building it) haven't, and neither have wages. What has gone up is the price for lawyers, real estate agents, banks and city bureacrats. This puts a tremendous pressure on builders to cut corners and shave costs.

  • Availability of capital - James Howard Kunstler basically relates all of America's economic growth since 1950 to sprawl, and while I don't totally agree, he still makes a valid point. Between mortgages, public and private construction, development corporations, as well as the myriad jobs needed for people to pay for this, housing drives our economy. And if this fast-paced orgy of construction were to slow, it would have disasterous effects on other industries which have come to depend on it (see the mortgage meltdown). We've painted ourselves into a corner where we need to keep building "or else", and at this point, the only way people see to do this is to start purposely building things to quickly need replacement.

  • Awful Accounting. Our systems of currency and economics do not recognize the benefits of well-built structures. There is no accounting of what such buildings do for others around them (unless you own a neighbouring property). Because construction costs tend to be multiplied many times over by intrest and administration costs, their actual savings (ie: better insulation and lower gas bills) don't save any money. Worst of all, because of the real estate speculation market, it often pays much better to simply let a building rot, or build a "placeholder" like downtown's many parking lots, until the area "picks up" and they can build a high-end condominium or hotel.

  • Class and poverty: if we can't afford to build quality, lasting housing for wealthy individuals (and there's more than a few condos around, like the Chateau Royale, which demonstrate this), how are we supposed to do for the vast majority of people in this town which can barely afford their homes as is? Stagnating real wages, overy exactly the same time that building prices (and not structure costs) have gone through the roof, mean that people are far less able to afford "good architecture" in new buildings.

It's more expensive to build, and people have far less money to afford it. How else would this turn out?

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