Wednesday, December 13, 2006

An "apartment dream" for America's future? ...

[New York week, continued ...]

  It’s been called “the American Dream” –- owning a single-family home.  And it’s testament to the successes of government, the private sector, and individual Americans that the homeownership rate (including condos, of course) currently is near a perhaps-all-time high of more than 68 percent of all households, despite the 1995-2005 housing price jump (which was fed in part by high demand, of course).  But we can’t expect the homeownership rate to continue to rise (can we?) with a rapidly growing and urbanizing population on a limited amount of land.  “Density” is what the future will hold, many predict, and density is often inconsistent with single-family homeownership.  Will significant numbers of American families accept a “dream” of less than the old ideal in the 21st century? 

Queensps1    For a source of a possible affirmative answer, we can look, of course, to New York City, where the homeownership rate is only about 30 percent.  Even many affluent New Yorkers have accepted apartment life in Manhattan, of course.  Today, a growing number of apartment buildings are popping up in what used to be single-family neighborhoods in the outer boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens (photo at left), the Bronx, and Staten Island.  Who lives in these apartments?  A large number of residents are immigrants (today typically from elsewhere than Europe), for whom a cramped and noisy apartment in New York may be major step up from the economic, political, and social troubles of their native countries.  As the United States becomes a nation of immigrants and immigrants’ children, we may increasingly become a nation that accepts apartment living as a new and acceptable ideal, appropriate for a more crowded 21st century.

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