March 20, 2007

D Magazine Article Response

D Magazine Article Response

Dmagazine on Teardowns/McMansions

Starting at the bottom of this article, the graphic on the older homes’ increase in value is impressive. Two things, though: first, how do we know these weren’t selectively illustrated simply to support the article’s premise—that teardowns are a plus?

Secondly, it must be remembered that the real estate bubble (which has begun to burst, at least in a number of key cities nationally) played a big role in the mushrooming prices. A more widespread study that compares the established homes amidst teardowns/McMansions to established intact (non-poor) neighborhoods would be interesting to see.

The article states, "The city needs your money, and getting taxed on the true market value of your house is a good thing, so long as I’m not the one paying it." But that’s just it; assuming the gist of this article is true, and older homes’ values do actually go up significantly, then not everyone is going to want to have their taxes increased. I know that mine continually go up already, and my home has roughly doubled in value over the last decade. If this article is so concerned about the already-established residents, then maybe its writer should realize their means are more limited to deal with these increases, contrary to their new-blood, big-money counterparts.

The piece additionally notes, "What about people who can’t afford big homes and higher taxes on their current homes? Don’t worry. Following Rosenthal’s cycle, the poor will start moving into your McMansion when its value plummets in 50 years." –not exactly comforting to those who’ve worked to maintain and improve their homes in this area for many years.

Again, even presuming this premise is correct (that the values will increase), doesn’t that simply exacerbate the decision to move out of the neighborhood to capture that increase? If you’re already a homeowner in the area and have somewhat finite means, your increase in taxes might cause you to consider moving before you’re otherwise ready to.

But that’s all in the event the article’s assumption is on target. What if it’s not? As another resident cited on this blog, an ABC nightline special some nights back indicated the so-called "boon" to the area may well be a big bust for those current and sometimes longstanding homeowners. In many cases, their homes they’ve lived in and deservedly seen appreciate in value can become solely viewed as teardowns and considered no better than their lot value. Perhaps that lot suddenly becomes so much more valuable as to make the homeowner better off anyway, but that’s a high-risk proposition for all the responsible homeowners like myself who have proudly seen their homes already rise significantly in value. That really applies to anyone here who already owns a home.

The D-Mag article also talks about how good these new, higher-end homeowners are for the neighborhood; that they’ll increase quality of living for everyone. To some degree, that may be true. But do you really see these folks integrating well with those who have already been here a considerable number of years? They’re already coming in and vanquishing the prior property in order to dwarf their surroundings. And if, as we can surmise, this redevelopment becomes a trend, you can be assured they’re much more likely to "take arms" with like-minded and like-financed newcomers in their area than they are the "old guard." Inevitably, they’re at least as likely to ensure the process of neighborhood overhaul is accelerated.

I may be "old school," but I’ve always been taught a decent neighbor—especially someone new—does his or her part to at least somewhat fit in out of courtesy. Why, if these individuals crave such larger and newer homes, don’t they attempt to rebuild in areas with other larger homes, where such a new development will integrate more easily with its surroundings?
One neighbor who supports the McMansions notes how much of an upgrade these will be from their rundown, neglected, and crime-attractive predecessor. Perhaps it would be a welcome change in such a case. But it’s hard to believe the only homes affected will be ones some of us wouldn’t mind seeing greatly overhauled already. Inevitably, a progressive teardown process will destroy a lot of those well-preserved longstanding homes that help give this area the special character it still holds. Folks who have helped provide stability and a sense of tradition will likely be among those whose homes are eliminated.

I wonder if that neighbor will feel differently when the area he confesses to loving starts looking more and more like some generic newer development in Allen or Frisco?
- BH