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Old 01-12-2011, 07:11 AM
 
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Housing is one of the areas where European countries differ from each other the most.

In some places such as the UK, where most of the atrractive land houses vast amounts of people, space and detatched housing is at a premium. Scarcity drives demand, after all.

Some places have dense city centers, ancinet and beautiful, and lacking the 50-story apartment buildings that you could put up in the USA, with loads of apartments.

In other places, such as Scandinavia, vast amounts of land are available, and people can easily live in detached houses within walking distance of the city center.

It is an area where the culture has shaped itself to fit the circumstances. Which varies a lot form region to region. Entirely different forces are at work in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, the Med countries, Benelux and the UK.
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Old 01-20-2011, 02:34 PM
 
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Default U.S. is also very restrictive

Quote:
To a large degree developers can build whatever they want in the U.S. If people didn't want suburban sprawl, developers would start losing money on those projects.
I have to take issue with this. Until 1995-2005, it was very difficult to build anything other than suburban sprawl in most U.S. jurisdictions. The culprits were engineering standards for streets (often requiring curving streets with few connections - very ahrd to walk anywhere), zoning emphasizing single-use (and neighbor opposition to changing that), strict minimu parking requirements, and minimum lot sizes. While this is quickly changing, there are still many barriers. These policies go back to the 1920s and 1930s and to the FHA requirements for mortgage guarantees and by the 1950s and 1960s were firmly set in most city's zoning codes. This resulting in a) most people not even knowing what other lifestyles were like, unless you were one of the few who grew up in a nicer neighborhood within a city (i.e. akin to the European experience); and b) lending institutions refusing to lend money to build something like a mixed-use building, because banks are by nature conservative and didn't have expeirence with these projects which had been banned for so many years. The news is replete with developers in the 1990s who wanted to build an mixed use urban-style development, who had customers, but who had to fight the city, the bankers and the neighbors.

We then enterred a vicious cycle where we got everywhere by car, thus we had to use a lot of our cities for pavement (roads and parking), and thus people started demanded 3-car garages and opposing any new development (especially dense development) on the grounds that it would create traffic. We simultaneously dis-invested in public transit, which is much of America wasn't feasible anyway because of the low densities and poorly connected street networks. Finally, we disinvested in our cities, putting up highways along the waterfronts and building high-rise public housing, reducing quality of life in cities further.

Now, to 2010, the sprawl-iest developments also are the ones with the highest foreclosure rates, while the pre-war, walkable developments have seen the largest price appreciations since the 1990s. Prior to this, we had to offer all sorts of strange and ill-advised loans in order to get modest income people into the government-promoted "American Dream."

Don't get me wrong, Europe has their urban planning failures, including investment in faceless modernist housing in the suburbs & etc. I am just here critiquing the widely held notion that American housing reflects market tastes.
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Old 01-21-2011, 08:49 AM
 
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I wanted to follow up b/c I think this is an interesting question. I recognizing the truth behind what the OP says, I too read the Labour government in the UK has decided that greenbelts need to be relaxed a bit because population growth and disatisfaction with housing conditions/costs. I know in some countries a single-family-home is basically for the upper-middle-class and up.

I was curious what kind of housing the "typical" middle-income family iives in, in your respective countries. I know this is a hard question - what is typical, what is middle-class? Let's say a family, skilled blue collar or middle-income professional occupation, not in the center of the main city. Do they have a single family home? A row house or terrace with a garden? An apartment? Is it small, or large enough? Etc. I am also curious if the 30-year mortgage is standard, or if some shorter loan period is typical ...
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Old 01-21-2011, 09:13 AM
 
Location: Yorkshire, England
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Originally Posted by docwatson View Post
I wanted to follow up b/c I think this is an interesting question. I recognizing the truth behind what the OP says, I too read the Labour government in the UK has decided that greenbelts need to be relaxed a bit because population growth and disatisfaction with housing conditions/costs. I know in some countries a single-family-home is basically for the upper-middle-class and up.

I was curious what kind of housing the "typical" middle-income family iives in, in your respective countries. I know this is a hard question - what is typical, what is middle-class? Let's say a family, skilled blue collar or middle-income professional occupation, not in the center of the main city. Do they have a single family home? A row house or terrace with a garden? An apartment? Is it small, or large enough? Etc. I am also curious if the 30-year mortgage is standard, or if some shorter loan period is typical ...
My Dad's primary school headmaster and my mother's a semi-retired teacher in Yorkshire, in the north of England, so fairly middle income. They are in their late 50s. They've got a three-bedroom detached house with a front and back garden, which is paid off after a 25-year mortgage (I think 25 years is standard over here). I couldn't tell you how many square feet it is, because I don't know, as sizes are rarely quoted over here. Not massive but big enough, is what I'd say. Now me and my brother have moved out they say it feels too big for two people, and when they retire they'll buy something smaller. I imagine it would be worth something around $350,000, nearly ten times the average salary for one person in this country, but when they bought it in 1983 it would have been much more affordable, perhaps four or five times average earnings. It's much, much more difficult now for a couple in their twenties/thirties near a major city. In the decade before the recession prices went up ridiculously, and haven't significantly gone down.

The cost/size of housing here is for me one of the worst things about this country in terms of living standards compared to the cheap, very well built housing I've seen in German cities, but when I see middle-class American houses on TV they generally look enormous, far bigger than is really necessary. Also when I've seen tornado damage on TV I'm surprised at how easily homes get blown apart, though maybe I'm underestimating how strong American tornadoes can be and maybe these are trailer homes?

Last edited by ben86; 01-21-2011 at 09:30 AM..
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Old 01-21-2011, 09:22 AM
 
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In Holland the middle class lives mostly in terraced houses with usually a very small token garden in the front and a larger one in the back and some live in apartments. Apartments are usually too small for families with children, which is why those tend to move to the terraced houses after a few years when the children get a little older. The terraced houses are typically large enough for a family with 3-5 children.

I'd say 30-year mortgages are typical for first time buying a house. Houses are too expensive to most to pay off in a shorter period and at this moment there are tax reductions for mortgage interests in place that make it more attractive to have longer loan periods. These are criticized in politics at this moment however and may be repealed in a few years.
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Old 10-28-2011, 11:49 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Hasdrubal View Post
I guess it depends from country to country, but generally speaking Europeans tend to socialize more than Americans, meaning that they do a lot of street life in cafes, public buildings, parks, etc. American cities, with a few exceptions (college towns, big cities in both coasts) are dead after 5 pm, when people go home after work. That doesn't happen in Europe, people love urban living.
That's not really true of Northern Europeans. I lived in Norway for a few years, and I found that their lifestyles were similar to Americans, most go right home after work. Much of Scandinavia outside the university districts are dead after dark as well. Honestly, it wasn't too different from Minnesota. My impression of the UK outside London was similar.
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Old 10-29-2011, 12:15 AM
 
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Originally Posted by ben86 View Post
Huge generalisation of course, but British people would prefer to raise a family in a detached house with a garden and green space for the children to play, and commute into the city if they need to. That is generally not possible for most families with our high property prices, high population density and very strict planning regulations. When I lived in Poland I was surprised to see a village with a beautiful lake and views of the mountains within easy commuteable distance to Katowice and Bielsko-Biala, two cities of, say, 500,000 and 150,000, still populated by country people growing vegetables and rearing animals on their small-scale plots. When I told Polish people that what I saw was like an idealised view of 1950s country life in Britain and nowadays properties in that village would be so expensive only professionals could afford to live there they seemed quite shocked, and said that they would rather live nearer the action even in a smaller apartment. In some, mostly eastern European countries I get the impression people are looked down on somewhat for living in the country.
If you take in consideration that 10,000,000 Poles are looking for jobs in Western European countries ( UK for the most part I imagine,) then yeah, British people will have "high population density" with no "gardens and green space," while Katowice and Bielsko-Byala will have their pastoral view with plenty of cows and no people in sight))))
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Old 10-29-2011, 04:28 AM
 
Location: Leeds, UK
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ben86 View Post
Huge generalisation of course, but British people would prefer to raise a family in a detached house with a garden and green space for the children to play, and commute into the city if they need to. That is generally not possible for most families with our high property prices, high population density and very strict planning regulations. When I lived in Poland I was surprised to see a village with a beautiful lake and views of the mountains within easy commuteable distance to Katowice and Bielsko-Biala, two cities of, say, 500,000 and 150,000, still populated by country people growing vegetables and rearing animals on their small-scale plots. When I told Polish people that what I saw was like an idealised view of 1950s country life in Britain and nowadays properties in that village would be so expensive only professionals could afford to live there they seemed quite shocked, and said that they would rather live nearer the action even in a smaller apartment. In some, mostly eastern European countries I get the impression people are looked down on somewhat for living in the country.

The reason a lot of emigrants from the UK (generally to Spain, Canada, Australia, NZ) give for wanting to leave is not being able to afford the detached house on a half-acre plot they could buy with the same salary abroad.
Australian house prices are now on par with South East England, Spain is broke, and New Zealand has never heard of central heating. Your best bet would be moving to northern England or Scotland (naturally )


But most Brits I meet aren't really bothered if it's detached or semi-detached, as long as it isn't terraced or high-rise, they just want to bring their children up in a suburb with a nice garden. High-rise living in the UK is a big no-no for families, and only desired by singles/young professionals/couples with no children in city centre's


Quote:
Originally Posted by 2360039 View Post

A difference with the United States is that in most European countries living IN the city is something to work for. The inner city is not dirty, it is the best place. So you want to live close to it. Most people here really want to live close to (or in) a city center.
In London the wealthiest suburbs are inner-city, but so are the poorest. In my city, city centre living is popular now, with many new apartments, but away from the city centre, inner-city living is frowned upon..
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Old 10-29-2011, 05:13 AM
 
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Originally Posted by prairiestate View Post
European cities are regularly praised for their lack of suburban sprawl. While this is a good thing in many ways, is this what Europeans really want? Developers are going to build what the market demands, but I believe that European countries tend to have much stricter land use policies that control what can be built. If developers were allowed to build single family homes, or even semi-detached homes or very small apartment buildings (say, 10 units or less) would many Europeans flock to purchase these units to gain some space and breathing room? Or would the majority of Europeans reject this housing to remain in high rise apartments or dense apartment blocks near the city center?
Most Europeans do not live in high-rise apartment blocks etc., but in 2 to 4-floor houses.
Indeed as was already said, we like to live in the city. Except for two or three cities we don't have that separation of business and residential areas where you have a downtown that is basically dead and empty during the night. Nor are we afraid of our neighbors and fellow beings in general, thus avoiding people the way many Americans seem to do.
Also, many of us like to walk, many don't have a driver's license and/or car, so living in a remote suburb is not appealing.
I guess living reflects our different attitude towards life. In Europe society and socializing is much more important than in the US, i.e. staying connected to the humans around us. In the US people think of themselves most of all as individuals.
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Old 10-29-2011, 06:01 AM
 
Location: the dairyland
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Originally Posted by Neuling View Post
so living in a remote suburb is not appealing.

I agree with your post for the most part. However, it is wrong to say that European cities do not have suburbs or that they are not appealing. Many small towns and cities got absorbed into cities' commuter belts. So they are technically towns or cities, but actually they are suburbs. Look at Frankfurt. Around 700,000 people in the city. Several millions in the whole Frankfurt area. Most of them in small towns where everyone has his own house with a garden and commutes to Frankfurt for work.
Some suburbs even look very similar to the ones we got here in the US. Not sure I like that or not. Even in the US I always lived in big cities, never in the bubrs.
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