Housing And Social Change

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Desertrat, Jun 5, 2005.

  1. Desertrat macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2003
    Location:
    Terlingua, Texas
    #1
    I guess it was somewhere around twenty years back that I read an article about the sociological aspects of the changes in how we've built subdivisions and houses in the post-WW II years. Overall, there's a mix of changes. Some technological, some of it just human desires, some it was the change in how towns and cities developed--but there were impacts.

    Some of the points made:

    Pre-war, most detached-home lots were commonly 50 or 60 feet wide. Before air-conditioning, there was a need for a front porch as a place to sit in the cool of the evening. This allowed casual conversation among neighbors on either side, as well as those walking along the sidewalk. Also, there was a mix of ages within a neighborhood, from the very old to the very young: This led to an automatic conglomeration of "neighborhood watch" and "babysitters".

    (I recall that sort of thing from my own childhood; I was born in 1934.)

    So here came the post-war years. Many ex-military folks didn't want to go back to some equivalent of Baltimore's "Row Houses". There was a desire for an independent house on its own lot. And along came Mr. Levitt with his "Levittowns".

    First window A/C units and then central HVAC reduced front porches to little more than a small entryway. Wider and deeper lots led to less interaction with neighbors. And add TV and we started having New Neighbors for whom there was less interest in becoming acquainted.

    Another couple of factors included far more mobility to move away from the "old home town" and easily find a good job; also, there was the rise of subdivisions comprised of people of similar ages.

    "Developers" working adjacent to existing cities sold lots of 100 feet and more in width, and didn't include sidewalks. With AC and TV, folks just didn't interact nearly as much. (I saw this in the subdivision built adjacent to my old family farm/ranch outside of Austin, beginning around 1970.)

    "Alienation" became a buzzword concerning familial problems within this new style of living.

    Anyway, there's some stuff to consider, as you look around the world you, yourself live in. For those of you who are younger, consider the changes you've seen as we've now added the Internet and the recent rise in "five acres, five miles from town" desires.

    'Rat
     
  2. takao macrumors 68040

    takao

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2003
    Location:
    Dornbirn (Austria)
    #2
    interesting about that air-condition thing

    over here you still have to search for familiy hosues with air condition, untill now i haven't a visited a single house or even flat with it (i've seen thos in window units though)
     
  3. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2002
    Location:
    Republic of Ukistan
    #3
    I'll stick with the punkah-wallah. Much more energy-efficient.
     
  4. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2003
    Location:
    Terlingua, Texas
    #4
    Ah, but takao, how often do you have daytime temperatures above 90F (33C)? In many parts of the US, summertime high temperatures above 37C are quite common.

    For my area, May and June are commonly the hottest sustained days of high temperatures. Commonly thereafter our summer rains provide temporary cooling. Regardless, temperatures above 40C are common.

    skunk, how much do you pay your punkah-wallah? :D I'd bet that A/C is less costly than minimum wage.

    'Rat
     
  5. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2002
    Location:
    Republic of Ukistan
    #5
    In kind.
    :D
     
  6. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2003
    Location:
    Penryn
    #6
    There's no doubt that suburbanization has led to many of the ills that our society experiences today. Cities prior to WWII though weren't necessarily the nicest places to live and after WWII, many servicemen didn't return to their rural beginnings and cities just didn't appeal to them but the suburbs did.

    There's a national non-profit that goes around the country helping to advise cities on how to make them more livable. One of the most favored environments according to studies they've done is the rowhouse neighborhood.

    Here on the west coast, Portland takes top marks when it comes to livable neighborhoods and good mass transit. They've done so in a rather radical way. A ring was created around the city and all development had to take place within that ring. It allowed mass transit to be viable and neighborhoods to be strong. Of course, it meant that people who owned land outside of the ring weren't able to cash in on its potential value. Which of course is anaethma to capitalists. But, by sticking to its guns Portland is a pretty incredible place. There's no easy answer but limiting and concentrating development is essential if cities are going to be livable and society healthy.
     
  7. mactastic macrumors 68040

    mactastic

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2003
    Location:
    Colly-fornia
    #7
    Yes, there are many things influencing how cities develop. Everything from natural points of interest to tax policy plays a part. But none of it would have been palatable, or indeed conceivable without the personal mobility the car offers.

    First, I think you are putting too much importance on the common use of the air conditioner. Yes the AC has changed how we think about housing, but mostly in that we no longer care to take the time to try and design heating and cooling into our houses. But that is more about style than form. Witness the fact that the front porch disappeared from the houses in areas that don't need AC to this day. No, what killed the front porch was the car, or more specifically, the garage for the car. Housing from the late '30's and 40's tends to have a detached garage to the rear of the lot. Typically you go down the side of the lot to get to the garage. Now look at post-war housing. Garages move to the front of the house and a double car garage takes up at least 20'.

    One of the things I really try and avoid is to face the garage doors to the street on houses I design. It looks like acreage of flat, boring material. I like turning them when there is room, or splitting them up and/or putting them in the back of the house.

    But see, lots have gotten smaller again but interaction hasn't gone back up. And some of these places never had AC. I saw this in the last subdivision I lived in. Lots were 50 feet wide with a side detached garage (built in the '40's as a beach resort for the LA crowd) and only 20' back from the street. No sidewalks either, in fact the city was requiring anyone who wanted to increase the square footage of their house to put in a two-car garage and install sidewalks. It kept a lot of people from adding on to their house, but it was a response to the lack of parking caused by residents being forced to park anything beyond their first car on the street.

    Alienation is indeed the problem, not of the cities, but of the suburbs and the suburbs of suburbs.

    FWIW, I read that some 60% of car trips are now suburb-to-suburb rather than suburb-to-city.
     

Share This Page