Archive Page 2

New House………

I have spent a LOT of time over the last month or so trying to decide what plan I should build on the one remaining lot I have in Lynwood Park. However, unlike the “old days” when we were building houses on spec and we made all the decisions as to floor plan, features, appliances, bathroom fixtures, carpet, hardwood stains, tile selections, paint colors, etc. etc., nothing is going to get started by me or anyone else unless it is pre-sold. So maybe all my anguishing over which plan is the absolutely perfect house for the lot, the market, and the neighborhood is moot, since the buyer we need in order to get started might have some different ideas about what’s perfect. Anyway, here’s what’s at the top of my list right now. Any thoughts you might have will be much appreciated.

Culbertson-photo This will be a four bedroom, three and one-half bath house with a nice flow and a screened porch. We’d do it without the front porch extension beyond the side of the house (tight lot) and with the garage as a front entry. We’d also modify the elevation a bit to make it more Craftsman in style to stay in sync with most of the neighborhood. This plan is by Frank Betz (www.frankbetz.com) and is called The Culbertson on his website.

Culb 1st fl

You might notice that the plan as drawn has only two baths upstairs, but we’ll put another above the entry foyer because we firmly believe our market requires that a four BR house have 3½ baths. However, if a buyer would prefer a two story foyer in a 4 BR / 2½ BA house, we’d be happy to accommodate.

culb 2nd fl

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What will you be doing 41 years from now?

Per the ARC website “The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) has launched an ambitious initiative, called “Fifty Forward: Metro Atlanta Futures Forum,” to explore possible future scenarios for metro Atlanta and forge an action plan to ensure future livability, prosperity and sustainability. Fifty Forward is a two-year visioning initiative based on open-house style forums centered around critical topics that are now and will continue to impact metro Atlanta for decades. The forums will feature nationally recognized keynote speakers and will explore possible actions and ideas to ensure livability, prosperity and sustainability.”  See www.atlantafiftyforward.com.  This morning they hosted one such meeting where Maureen McAvey of the Urban Land Institute (ULI, www.uli.org) briefly presented the findings of it’s The City in 2050. Since the event was free and they had a continental breakfast, I decided to go.

It was both exciting and depressing.  For those of us interested in the built environment, how cities grow, how real estate is developed, and how people live, it was a chance to hear from the experts.  The good news for the industry is that demand for all sorts of housing will be considerable over the next 41 years.  The bad news right now is that the market and the means of financing are in a shambles.  Add to that our crumbling infrastructure, the inability of governments to think more than 12 minutes into the future (see post below about the water situation), and shrinking tax revenues, the near term is scary.

The term in the ULI book that caught my eye was “Full Spectrum Housing”  Here’s how they defined it:

Successful housing will mean a diversity of options.  Thriving communities will provide a full spectrum of prices and types — catering to shifting demographic preferences.  Buyers and renters will balance lifestyle choices with market options: retirees will downsize up the street; a family with children will move without changing schools; and employees will find homes near their jobs.

One of the ideas expressed by more than one of the “experts” was that perhaps the holy grail of housing, the mortgage interest deduction, may have to be phased out.  The question they ask is whether or not the policy of our government should be to encourage (subsidize) home ownership over renting.  The concept of the deduction seemed to be serving us well since WWII, but maybe now we have a new reality.  Maybe owning a home should not be the way a family acquires wealth.  Maybe home ownership causes people to stay put when they should not, like when their job moves across town or across the country.  Is that a good thing?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But either way, it’s going to get some discussion and perhaps revision before 2050.  Maybe before 2020.

The next 41 years are going to be exciting — like it or not.  They won’t be much like the last 50.  Change will accelerate.  Critical issues and the need for decisions will be coming at us at a breakneck pace.  We need to have thought far enough ahead to make good decisions when the time comes, so I encourage all of you to jump into the fray and participate.  I hope we can agree on enough to try new ideas quickly and not get bogged down in protecting turf, finger pointing, and yesterday’s thinking.

I’d love to hear some of your ideas about what our future cities — Atlanta in particular — are going to look like.  Post a comment or send me an email.  Thanks.

Water, water, everywhere —- you know the rest.

If you live anywhere around Atlanta, you might have noticed that it’s been raining a lot more than it has for the last three or four years.  Officially, the drought is over.  Lake Lanier (Atlanta’s primary water source) is now less than six feet below “full”.  Six feet below full may not sound so great, but compared to 20 feet below full just last winter, it’s a miracle.  Anyway, for years there has been great gnashing of teeth about water; outdoor watering restrictions; legal wars with Alabama and Florida about who’s got rights to the water in the Chattahoochee River; even an attempt to re-draw the boundary line between us and Tennessee so we could tap into the Tennessee River (God only knows how we’d get that water to Atlanta, but…….); mandates from the state requiring municipalities to reduce water use by 10%; etc., etc., etc.  Now, rainfall for the year is slightly above normal (about an inch) and the lake is on it’s way to being almost full.  So most folks say the drought is over.  No more worries.  Back to life as it was.

But now hold on a minute!  Drought or no drought, this problem was inevitable! And if we think it’s over, forget it.  It’ll be back.  And, as the Men’s Warehouse guy says, “And I guarantee it”.  When I moved to Atlanta 30 years ago, people said the limit on the city’s growth was water supply, and it would run out in 30 years.  So the reason has been known for a long  long time.  It’s the very small watershed of the Chattahoochee.  Atlanta running out of water shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone.  The surprise should be that the lake is rapidly getting back to normal with only normal rainfall.

The New Orleans Katrina disaster was a problem waiting to happen.  It was Russian roulette with a revolver having 100 empty chambers.  The city’s number was going to be up someday, the only question being when.  It could have been any year in the last 200, and it might be this year again.  But when and if it happens again is purely chance.  Atlanta’s running out of water is purely chance too, except that the chances are 100%.

I went to a home builders meeting about six months ago where there was an official from the state that was going to tell us about the new state water plan.  I thought, “boy do we need a plan” so I went thinking I’d hear all about how the climatologists and cartographers and biologists and geologists had figured out how we’d be able to have our cake (water) and eat it too (growth).  After at least 45 minutes she wrapped it up and took questions.  I raised my hand and said, “So what you have is a plan to come up with a plan, is that right?”  In not so many words, her answer was “yes”.  What the heck have these people been doing for the last 30 years? You know a train wreck is coming and no body does any thing about it.  Nothing.  Nada.  Nix.  This is failed leadership at every level of government, and it’s pathetic.

But guess what?  It’s raining.  There’s water in the lake.  And all the politicos are going to go back to sleep on the issue until disaster raises it’s ugly little head again — probably in about two years.  Do you have any idea how long it would take to create a major new reservoir?  10 years?  20 years?  Maybe forever.  And get this.  The City of Atlanta, with all of it’s water woes, recently sued a south Metro county (Clayton, I think) to STOP them from creating a reservoir because it would mean they’d buy less water from the City.  This is insanity.

I think I better stop now.