Neighborhoods under construction | Tacoma Daily Index

From Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

If you’ve visited Tacoma lately, you can’t help but notice construction cranes and construction projects all over town.

In February, there were more than 3,000 housing units at some stage of development in the city.

In the standard economic formula, increased supply should reduce demand, which, in turn, should reduce prices.

In 2022, however, the traditional economic formulas no longer work as before.

In Tacoma and most major cities, three competing forces are twisting the once sacred law of supply and demand.

First, demand shows no signs of abating.

Tacoma, like most urban centers, is attracting new residents at record levels, and those numbers are expected to rise dramatically.

The trend of working from home has put economic pressure on areas outside the usual urban centers.

Second, due to a construction boom in many regions, combined with supply chain issues, building materials are costing more – in many cases – far more than ever.

And third, cashing in on a construction boom was just too overwhelming for hedge funds and other investors.

Hedge funds currently own about one in seven homes across the country, with a much higher percentage in the most desirable/profitable areas.

Add the black swan-like unpredictable variables like a concrete workers strike or weather that’s too hot, too cold, or just too unpredictable, or unavailable truckers if they don’t want to haul supplies in various conditions, as well as the increased expenditure – even the sheer unavailability – of labor, both skilled and basic, and you have market forces disconnected from the previously stable two “laws” like supply and demand in addition to unpredictable market forces, trends and realities like we’ve never seen before.

Even changes in interest rates or changes in zoning laws – and, perhaps the craziest wildcard of all, a potential war in Europe, combine to throw off all the market plans and assumptions that seemed so sound. just a few months ago,

All of these factors drive prices up.

In the past, as at almost every other time in human history, competing, if not contradictory, forces were at work in the housing market.

We may have had labor shortages, equipment shortages, or funding issues (as in mortgage rates) – but rarely, if ever, have all three (and even a few others) been in motion at the same time.

After World War II, we saw some of these impacts.

The design scheme that many of us know as Mid-Century Modern followed this era of deprivations and shortages. Before the clean lines and turquoise tones of the late 1950s, cleaning and repurposing were the hallmarks of late 1940s and early 1950s housing – even to the point of buying used nails (and twisted) hammered (literally) to make them usable. shape.

It was the days before Placoplâtre or plywood – when strapping and full-dimensional 2x4s were the only building materials, with no big-box hardware, and few laws or binding rules regarding permits or standards. construction/renovation – especially beyond urban limits.

Right across from the house where I grew up, in what was then unincorporated Pierce County, was a small two-bedroom rental house built in the immediate post-war period. It was a very simple and cheap box style house.

In the 1990s it was demolished to make way for a larger house. During the process, the demolition crew discovered that the house did not have standard studs.

The structure of the house was a series of stacked railroad ties; they weren’t attached to each other or anything – just stacked like a child might build a log house.

The exterior siding and interior plaster made the house look indistinguishable from others in the neighborhood.

In other words, at the time, looking for solid, affordable housing, almost any rules, skill level, and material would do.

We are now in similar territory – when standard, established rules and expectations no longer apply.

From zoning changes to new materials (from bamboo to hempcrete and more), nothing is the same.

One possible (and partial) solution is 3D printed houses (https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/can-3d-printing-become-a-solution-for-the-housing-shortage).

3D printed houses are very basic and affordable, put together quickly (about 24 hours) and require very little labor.

They are not elaborate or even very attractive – but they are shelter – and for many this is the most urgent consideration, if not the only one.

Our housing crisis is on so many levels now that all the solutions are on the table.

No solution, from 3D printed houses to massive buildings to ADUs, will be attractive, practical or even welcome for everyone.

Apartments being built around Tacoma — and everywhere else, it seems — might provide shelter, but they assume a generation (or more) is locked into renting.

Home ownership, for better or for worse, is what makes a neighborhood. And as many of us have learned recently, builds generational wealth.

When a building is constructed, more than one building is being constructed.

After all, are entire neighborhoods of quasi-permanent tenants what any of us want?

Housing and prices are increasing day by day.

How much, and for how long, and to what end, are the recurring questions.

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