You’re relaxing on your front porch on a breezy, sunny day. Your ears are enjoying a symphony of chirping birds and gentle, elegant wind chimes. And then next thing you know, that tranquility is shattered by the booms and bangs of cement trucks cruising down your street and jackhammers pounding loudly nearby.
Welcome to your area home-building boom.
This is precisely what happened in my Metro Detroit neighborhood. The local school district sold a large parcel of land that once housed an elementary school to a developer. The developer then constructed approximately 18 new single-family homes and basically inserted a neighborhood where one hadn’t previously existed.
Additional developers also got in on the action, buying up old bungalows, razing them and building new Cape Cod-style houses that sold, on average, for $250,000 (and in many cases, more than that). Many units were sold before construction was even completed. When the dust settled, in a four-block radius of my front porch, 37 new houses stood on lots that had either been empty or occupied by an older house that was torn down to make room.
With an average of two people per house, that equates to 74 people and 74 cars that weren’t there two years ago.
It’s a constant stream of contractors and laborers, noise and dirt. And I couldn’t be happier.
Home-building booms can considerably adjust the dynamic of a community, ushering in new houses, new families and rising home values. In my suburb of Royal Oak, Mich., the average house size is 1,000 square feet. The new builds are decidedly larger.
“The average size of a new build here is 2,500 square feet,” said Don Johnson, Royal Oak’s city manager. “There are two different types of builds – building soon-to-be-occupied homes on a property where nothing previously existed, or knocking down one home to build a new one on the same lot.”
With the former, it’s rare for a city like Royal Oak to have an empty lot that’s big enough to build multiple houses. The city’s residential lots are primarily already developed. The city’s population has also shrunk. Through the decades, figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show Royal Oak dropping from 89,000 residents to approximately 59,000. And yet, new builds are going up with never-before-seen rapidity.
“There are not a lot of the large families like we saw in the ’50s and ’60s,” Johnson said. “The average now is about two people per house. The number of young people has increased, and there are not as many school-aged children in the homes like it once was. So, it’s not necessarily more new people, just newer people and less of them per house.”
Yes, these major developments bring increased traffic and noise pollution, but what they leave behind is valuable. Our home’s value shot up 40%, the city’s tax base has grown and the overall aesthetic of our subdivision has vastly improved.
For Johnson, the real shift is the decrease in the number of people occupying each home. In the ’50s and ’60s, it was common for families to have four or five kids in one house. Today? Not so much.
According to data found at Gallup.com, the website of the nation’s premier pollsters, the U.S. is seeing smaller families, with 58% of American adults saying that having no more than two children is ideal. One-third favor having three or more, the lowest percentage since 1966.
To lend perspective, at the end of World War II, 77% of Americans felt that having three or more children was ideal. That percentage held for several decades before slowly shifting to where we are now.
The result is more attractive homes with greater square footage, smaller families and escalating house values. With these developments, the jackhammers can go all night, for all I care.
Are you experiencing a home-building boom in your community? Let us know in the comments below.
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