"New World" housing

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Matej_CZ, May 7, 2006.

  1. Matej_CZ

    Matej_CZ Member


    maybe this could be placed into the Housing forum, but I don't want to find a flat or house rental anywhere, I just want to ask something. I'm curious about this: In the "New World" countries with anglo-saxon culture (USA, Canada, Australia, NZ, South Africa...) almost everyone lives in his own small family house, not in "normal" many floor buildings like in the most of Europe. While this looks like extreme wasting (land occupation, cost of infrastructure, need for a car...) and also the satellite pictures of American cities suburbs look like an Earth cancer, I want to know, WHY ALL AMERICANS\AUSTRALIANS and so WANT TO LIVE IN THESE HOUSES AND NOT IN NORMAL ONES? I think living in a flat somewhere must be much cheaper and also you don't have to travel so long to work/school. It must be depressive to drive in a land made only from hundreds or thousands small serial-made houses.

    Is it just because anglo-saxons are snobbish and must OWN something (a house, a big SUV car with as high as possible fuel consumption) and show it to all their neighbours who also compete to have the biggest basin near their house and biggest car, or there are restrictions on other types of houses? If I wanted to build (with other people) a many floor building (like blockhouse or so) in USA/Canada/Australia and live there together with other families, would it be possible in or is it simply BANNED to build something bigger than one-floor standard "american dream" house? I'm asking about this because it looks that there aren't any normal living houses in America (except New York and in smaller scale Boston and Delaware).

    I care about ecology and it makes me really angry when people in countries which are all the time against Kyoto Protocol are doing this. It's against the logic, you could save a lot of money, have better infrastructure (public transport for example).

    Could someone write me on the forum something about this?
  2. GlennInFlorida

    GlennInFlorida Well-Known Member

    The main reason we do it is because we can. We have the land, the money, and our own particular form of infrastructure to support it.

    Apartments (flats) are common everywhere here, too. They are rented. We also have many (37 new ones up to 40 stories in height under construction or planned here in Tampa alone) condominiums which are owned and sometimes sublet. Public transportation is not as extensively developed here as it is in most of Europe - didn't need it. We have good cars, ample fuel (at costs still far below that in Europe), good roads and abundant parking. The global energy "crisis" is causing a great many people here to reevaluate their attitudes, however. Many different alternatives are being evaluated with improved public transportation and "in-city" communal housing among them.

    You also need to realize that here, with a few exceptions, downtown is not a major shopping destination. Our infrastructure is suburb oriented in large malls or "super stores" with lots of free parking.

    And, don't think we are not concerned about ecology - a great many of us are. I, for one, drive a hybrid car (a Prius) even though I only live 3 miles from work. I would take public transportation but the only alternative available to me is a 45 minute bus commute with a transfer (buses only run about every 30 minutes) instead of an 11 minute drive. Don't talk to me about bicycles either - the roads to where I work (the airport) are major highways with speed limits up to 60 mph and the have no bike lanes.

    Don't chide us for living in a manner that has served us well for the last 200 years - after all, we haven't had the wonderful thousand year "experience" of being jammed together like sardines while a few feudal lords owned all the land.
  3. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    Since when are apartments "normal" houses? Have Europeans been living in efficient multi-family living spaces since the beginning of time? :roll:

    I'm not sure where you got the idea of a one-floor standard American "dream house". Are you thinking of the typical mid-20th century ranch home? I haven't seen a new, or even recently built, one of those in all my life; most new houses seem to be McMansions, and they are disgusting. Now those houses are things you can show off to your friends and neighbors. The US has been designated as the sprawl capital, but the phenomenon isn't new, and it isn't even American. Check out this article. Now, it may be a little biased since the author of the book is American, but I think he does well to point out that we haven't invented everything awful in modern life. Besides, American culture does have its roots in European culture. To quote Glenn, "we do it because we can." Europeans came over, looking for a fresh start, and in the early days of the North American colonies, a wealthy man had land and lots of it. It's a European ideal, it just couldn't be practiced in Europe since all the arable or otherwise useful land was spoken for. So, colonists and pioneers, immigrants and migrant workers flocked to the New World and snapped up as much vacant land as they could (or stole it from the Indians). The real sprawl didn't come until the 20th century when car culture was well established, making the appearance of suburbs and sleeper communities, and commuting, perfectly natural. I think it would be nice if we did have better public transport, but we seem to have a natural aversion to anything "public". I don't know if it's that frontier spirit of individualism - "I decide where I go and when!" - or if it's just mistrust of the government.

    By the way, the desire to own your own little home and the pride that goes along with it are definitely not limited to the heirs of Anglo-Saxon culture. I think Europeans are just as proud of their apartments and like to show them off as much as Americans do their houses. And, some lucky city dwellers not only have a "normal" dwelling in an urban apartment building, but also a house or cottage in the country. Is that not even more wasteful, one family or one person having two homes? Maybe it's more of a Western European thing. But you're part of, er, greater Europe now, so you Czechs will get there too. :wink:
  4. Matej_CZ

    Matej_CZ Member

    OK, so does it mean that you can choose? If I WANT to live in shared big house in America, I CAN? Or is it limited for example to the downtown and then you cannot build it?
  5. GlennInFlorida

    GlennInFlorida Well-Known Member

    Yes, it means you can choose - you can craft your lifestyle to fit whatever needs you have. Depending on zoning (single-family, multi-family, commercial, etc.) you can build whatever you like (except maybe a nude bar next to an elementary school). Many people here choose to live in condos or apartments, others choose single family homes. We are all very different - and very much the same. That is one of our (and I mean the Global "our") great strengths.
  6. gypzy

    gypzy Well-Known Member


    I thought I would put my two cents in on this topic. It seems that the repetetive word here is choose. You can choose to look at a pretty yard outside your front door in a house. Or you can choose to look at your overweight neighbor accross the hall picking up his paper in his underwear. You can choose to have a land lord fix a leaky faucet without charge. Or pay a plumber who can't keep his jeans hiked up above his waist. In many parts of the states you can't have a pet in an apartment. Sometimes it's more expensive to rent. My house for instance, I'm paying $? for a 2 bedroom house that is 750 square feet. A one bedroom apartment the same size costs more in my area. I also have a storage shed. Once a person moves out of an apartment they don't get any rent money back. After someone sells a house they get money back. Sometimes it's just what they put into it, sometimes it's worth more than what they paid. But it sucks to have to mow your own grass and other home maintnance. So you have to way all this and decide what's best for that individual :D .

    Bye 4 Now
  7. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    GlennInFlorida hit it on the nose. We live like this because we can. Americans value our freedom. Many Czechs hated the Communist that took their land and homes and stuck them in apartment buildings sometimes two families to an apartment (all related but two nuclear families).

    Our Constitution says we have the right to own land and so we own land. I understand that you care about the ecology and so do many Americans. However, I hope you are not proposing that we should loose our freedom to own our own piece of land and build our own home to live in privacy from neighbors. I hope you are not thinking that the Communist were right to steal homes and land from Czech citizens and stick them in apartment buildings owned by the Communist government.
  8. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    A comment about zoning. Here in the U.S. the government allocates certain areas for housing development, others for commercial development (stores, shopping centers, etc.), and still others for business complexes. Hence one can not in general just buy a plot of land and build whatever he/she wants there. And, yes, there are high-rise apartment buildings in almost every major (and even minor) city in the U.S. Unfortunately, many (or even most) of these are not in what one would consider the most desirable areas to live, either due to high crime rates or else due to high poverty rates.

    To add to Ceit's historical discussion, I'd add that many families, particularly in the 1700's and 1800's, came to the U.S. (or pre-U.S. colonies) to escape some sort of persecution, be it religious, cultural, political, etc. Hence for many settlers, having a plot of land to call their own, where they have privacy and could be who they are and do what they please without fear of persecution was very appealing. This is, one might say, the foundation that U.S. culture was built on. Even now, it's not too hard to understand why a person would not want to have to put up with every other night hearing their neighbors in romantic throes, or else deal with lead-footed neighbors upstairs. As for sprawl in general, it's unnatural for a vacuum not to be filled: e.g., the only reason there is any undeveloped land left in Europe is because governments have made laws to keep it that way.

    As was pointed out by someone else, renting an apartment in the U.S. is not always cheaper than owning a house. Plus, owning a house has the added benefit of allowing one to increase one's assets, such that in an emergency (e.g. you lose your job, or have a medical crisis) you'll have something to sell to get money to live off for a while until you can get back on your feet. If you rent an apartment and become unable to pay, you get kicked out of your apartment to live on the street with nothing. So, yes, owning something is desirable here, not just for the sake of owning something (or because we're "snobbish," thank you very much), but for added financial security. We don't have the same level of socialism you have in Europe, and so have to think of these things.

    As for ecology, here in the U.S. we still have vastly more open, undeveloped space than in Europe. Europe, for the most part, didn't start worrying about its ecology until it was far beyond the current state of the U.S. in terms of urban sprawl (by land percentage) and land development. From a satellite view, I'll guarantee you that Europe is much more "cancerous" (approaching the level of one big tumor) in this respect than the U.S.

    Yes, Americans are in general more wasteful than Europeans, and that's a shame; however, in Europe there are also more services in place to encourage recycling and energy conservation. Currently in the U.S. it is not nearly as cost-effective to do these things on a large scale as in Europe. For example, creating a public transit system of the order of those in Europe (where buses run every 2-3 minutes during rush hour) would cost much more money here in the U.S., given the relatively lower population density in the U.S. This requires more drivers, more buses, trains, subways, etc., and more gas to run what would be relatively empty buses. Hence, what happens here is that our buses run to fewer places and less often, such that it becomes a large waste of time (and fuel) to get anywhere: e.g. I could drive 10 minutes to work, or I could wait for 10 minutes for a bus, drive 10 minutes, get off, wait another 20 minutes for another bus, drive 5 before I get to work. Which would you choose: 10 minutes plus the convenience of choosing when to leave, or 45 minutes following someone else's schedule? (and remember, you'd have to do this twice a day).

    In short, Matej_CZ, it's not a simple black-and-white comparison, as much as one might like to think so. You should come here to the U.S. and experience life here for at least a year or so, before you try to judge us using only what you hear on your very-much biased TV news.
  9. Matej_CZ

    Matej_CZ Member

    Thanks for your post, Sova (and others), I've got some notes:

    - apartment buildings itselves are not the source of criminality or problems in US, it's the attitude of Americans towards this type of buildings; when Americans are placing problematic people into apartment buildings in the center, it's problem of this system; in all over the world (or at least Eurasia) living in apartment building is a way for normal people, or, in American view, for middle class - I know some people from Singapore who all live in government built high rise apartment buildings (like most of Singapore citizens) and they are very nice people, all educated and keeping the laws

    - maybe the problem is anglo-saxon mentality ("my grandfathers conquered half of the world, because of it English is international language and I don't have to learn any other language, I don't have to care about the others, I'm British/American/Canadian/Australian and who is more?") - when I see the behaviour of English speaking tourists in Prague, I understand that they would have problem to live in one building with other people

    - in Czech Republic you can't be simply kicked out of apartment (sometimes even if you don't pay for months) so in this case my point of view is probably not really objective; but on the other hand, if you loose the job in Europe, you need quite a lot of time to find another - because of much less regulation in US, this shouldn't be the case, when even illegal immigrants (and there are plenty of them in America, and, as I see in the news, American economy is dependent on them) can find the job without problems

    - I don't agree with the level of "cancerism" (I hope I wrote it well), look at the satellite view of Prague and then Atlanta with all suburbs - even if Atlanta arean together have more than 4 million people and Prague only more than 1 million, Atlanta is many times more than 4x bigger than Prague, but when you compare how these cities look, you will find many parks and interesting buildings between apartment buildings, every part of the city is unique - but in America, only downtown part have "city" look, the rest is extremely big village but without village atmosphere - everyone choose if he/she wants to live in the village, in harmony with the nature, or in the city with many other people - but in America, people live in villages without village feel, people there are not connected to nature (because nature is not so close, you don't see trees and creeks, just hundreds of houses same as your), they're lawyers, doctors, bank accountants and not agriculturists - these villages were not built spontaneously, they're not unique, they were planned on square parcels, and this looks cancerous: when you see so big area dotted with the serial-made houses which look all the same in squares which are also all almost the same

    - yes, in US there is vastly more undeveloped space, but that's because Europe is much smaller than America - if you compare the concentration of people in Europe with America, you must agree that Europeans (maybe with some exceptions like UK and Ireland) are (and at least in last centuries were) much more land occupation responsible than Americans

    - public transport system in America is poor just because of land wasting, if people would live there in apartment buildings, they also could enjoy small intervals between buses/trams/metros/trains, they could be anywhere much cheaper and faster - for example, it was proved that in Prague during rush hours it's faster to travel with public transport than with cars (and even though many ignorant people from suburbs are using cars and blocking the center of the city, I really hate watching cars moving in average 3 km/h when I'm loosing minutes in attempt to cross the street because of them)

    - your example of 10 minutes drive with car versus a long journey in public transport is not so realistic - I'm pretty sure that most Americans travel to work/school much longer than 10 minutes

    In Czech Republic the only reason for using car in cities is snobbism - it's usually not faster, it's without any doubt much much more expensive. These drivers want to show that they can afford to waste money (and they also like to slow down others, they feel strong because of it). I think in America it's not exactly the same but it's very close to it - maybe you don't want to confess it. And there is another thing: when you need to use a car for your transport because you live in family house in big distance to downtown (if you really need it, not "Oh my God, I would have to be with other people in the bus!"), you also need a lot of fuel for the car. The fuel is made from oil, so Americans need a lot of oil for their lifestyle. In fact, USA alone cover 1/4 of daily oil consume. It's not only wasting, it also affects American politics. If Americans didn't need so much oil, they wouldn't have to attack coutries like Iraq to secure oil reserves. It really don't look good when in one case Americans removed dictator in the country where people didn't have so bad live and now they cannot be sure if they survive next day (25 civilists in average killed per day in Iraq because Americans do not care how Arab culture works before they try to destroy it - the Czech "very much biased" TVs were telling that this will probably happen after the end of Saddam rule, when CNN and others only praised American "dedicated boys who want to set Iraqi people free") and on the other hand they tollerate or even support much worse dictatorships in not-in-focus but also oil rich countries like Gabon (Omar Bongo have or at least had his stolen money on US banks accounts, he was shaking hands with G.W. Bush last year - after paying 9 million USD to lobbyst to make this true), Uzbekistan (where police is torturing - by boiling alive - not only opposition, but also American prisoners suspected from terrorism), Turkmenistan or Equatorial Guinea (the son of Teodoro Nguyema is living in USA without problems and is spending plenty of money).

    I'm very sorry this post is too long but - do you agree at least with something with me?
  10. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    Matej_CZ, I think you could have summed up your very long post by simply saying, "I can't stand Conservative Americans." Much of what you said was liberal propaganda. For example, if we invaded Iraq for oil, why are we in such an oil crisis now? I'll tell you why: because we didn't take our rightly deserved oil for liberating the Iraqi people from horrid dictatorship.

    I do agree with you on one thing. Most Americans don't learn other languages. However, they do care about others. Americans give more money to Third World countries or catastrophes than any other nation. Just look at the Tsunami donations. Look at any crisis and compare American donations to any other nation. We are the most generous people in the World. Yes we are the most consumptive people in the world, but we are also the most giving.
  11. Matej_CZ

    Matej_CZ Member

    Dzurisovak, I don't want to argue, but my post was no one's propaganda. I just wanted to say that everything is connected, and yes, I'm sure that oil question was important for Americans in deciding if support or not war in Iraq. I'm not saying that ALL Americans who supported the war was doing it because of petrol prices, but many of them did.

    Why USA (and the whole world) is in oil crisis now? Because the war was much more devastating on Iraq than Americans expected and it's hard and dangerous to increase the oil production there (production decreased from pre-war situation). Because the political situation in some of the largest oil producers is now worse than a few years before (Nigeria, Venezuela). Because the Chinese and other developing world's economies are growing fast and when the demand for oil is increasing fast, the prices are also rising. But I don't know why you call it crisis from American view - the price of petrol is still at least 2x lower in USA than in Czech Republic, and when you compare our salaries, petrol is still bloody cheap in USA.

    If you're speaking about generosity, it's not hard to give the most money when you're world's biggest economy. In the case of Tsunami, it was Czechs who gave the most (with regard to their salaries) money in the world (it was big media fame when Czech charities discovered this few months after the disaster).

    But I started this post to talk about New World's housing. In my previous post I forget to add that when you live in apartment building, you don't have to rent it, you also can own it, it's the same as in case of family houses. In Czech Republic there are more owned flats than rented. So you don't have to care what will happen if you lose the job.
  12. SMZ

    SMZ Well-Known Member

    Good heavens, I don't know whether this is more sad or funny. Statements suggesting that Americans (as a group) have a choice to drive or take public transit are not even close to the reality of the situation.

    Yes, most people have a longer-than-ten-minute commute to work, but for most of them the public transit option means a much longer commute or they simply don't have any public transit to use. There are many, many towns in the US with no public transit system. None. Nada. Nil. Zip. I've lived in several and it's a drag, but that's the reality.

    Somehow, though, I don't think reality will be allowed to interfere with such an "interesting" view of life in the US. :lol:
  13. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    Wait, are you talking about an apartment building? Or a frat house?

    Although I'm quite a bit to the left politically from dzurisovak, I have to agree that you just sound like you're hopping on the America-bashing bandwagon. I know your first post mentioned other former British colonies (and where are their representatives on this forum, may I ask?? C'mon Aussies, he was talking to you too) but most talk has centered on North America. It's all well and good to be concerned about the environment, but you have plenty of targets closer to home...all the (Western) Europeans I've talked to harbor a desire to live in their own little house, and they don't let ecological concern stop them, it's all about money. Of course, if you're also preaching at single-family home owners in the UK, Spain, France and Germany, I have nothing to say.
  14. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    To Matej_CZ: a few comments
    Have you ever been to the U.S.? If not then your post is most certainly propaganda, for how can one develop a purely independent, objective opinion about a place they have never been? Propaganda is everywhere, even in the U.S. too.
    I never said, nor implied such a thing; however, my comment that large inner city apartment buildings are often not in safe areas still holds true, even if it is not a cause-effect relation. And I don't particularly want to talk about the whole politics of why this is so, as this is a debate that can go on for ages.
    Actually, in the case of most Americans (not all of whom are Anglo-Saxon, nor can be characterized as having an "Anglo-Saxon mentality," if such a thing exists), most don't learn another language because they never leave the U.S., except perhaps for short vacation trips. Even when we Americans go to foreign countries, often people speak to us in English, even when we try to speak their language. It's not practical for most Americans to spend time learning new languages, when there is little to no use for such here. Your comment in this respect is inflammatory propaganda drilled into your head by politicians and the news media. Come visit the U.S. and experience the real "Anglo-Saxon mentality" for yourself.
    Finding any job is easy. Finding a good job is not. Do you think illegal aliens have good jobs?!! Most live in horrible living conditions because their jobs pay very little, despite demanding a lot.
    Perhaps I didn't make my point clearly. I was referring to the countries as a whole, not just the cities (urban + suburban). The Czech Republic and all of Europe has a higher population density overall than the U.S., and therefore is, on average, more overrun with people than the U.S. That was my point. By the way, our suburbs do indeed have trees, flowers, grass, and are in general quite green (and no, you don't see this well from a satellite). There are exceptions in largely desert areas like Arizona, but still the suburbs are much greener than urban areas. By the way, perhaps all the houses look the same from a satellites view, but they certainly don't up close. The Czech panelaks are much more indistinguishable one from another than U.S. homes.
    If you're saying that Americans are in general more wasteful than Europeans, I agree, and it's a shame. I'm not sure, however, that the differences in land occupation per capita is as relevant to wastefulness as you think. Also, I think the comment was made that Europeans essentially "ran out" of available land more than a century ago, and hence have had to build up urban areas more heavily. Hence, I'm not sure I agree with the "in the last centuries" part (20th century, yes).
    This may be true; however, I was making a point that it is not an easy thing to change. By the way, 10 years ago in Prague, it was most definitely quicker traveling by car than by public transit (I never rode a car in rush hour, so can't comment on those particular times), particularly when one needed to cross to the other side of Prague. If that has changed, it is only recently.
    You're nitpicking! It was only an example to explain why most Americans don't currently use public transit systems. Also, my commute as a student on the bus to the university was 20 to 25 minutes on a university-specific route, whereas I could drive it 7 minutes! By the way, I could walk there in 25 minutes. Where I live now, there are no buses at all.
    As I said before, come live in the U.S. for a year, and see how much time you waste with the public transit system, versus owning a car. Snobbish has nothing to do with it. If an American is a snob, he will buy a BMW rather than a Toyota, but one way or another if he can afford a car, he will buy one for the convenience of not wasting time. As for the oil issue and the politics of it all, I won't comment on that, except to say that I wouldn't exclude CNN from my comment above on propaganda.

    MatejCZ, it's clear to me that you have a personal bias against the U.S. and Americans, whether by choice or whether influenced largely by the media. If you don't have any personal experience living in the U.S., you ought to come visit or stay for a year or so, before you condemn us all as wasteful, uncaring, and egotistical. This is the foundation of progress: throwing away one's preconceived notions about the world and forming rational, independent ideas through one's own experiences, rather than relying on someone else's experiences/views/ideas/biases.
  15. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    I know this thread went dormant a long time ago, but if you're still listening,--The United States is not the root of all evil ib the world.
    I encourage you to listen to more than just one source of news.
  16. The Animal

    The Animal Well-Known Member

    Here's my two cents.
    I live here in the Permian Basin oil fields of Odessa Texas. I live 16 miles from work in a small town between Odessa and Midland. It takes me anywhere from 15 to 20 mins. depending on the speed limit day or night 65 MPH or 70 MPH. And there is no public transportation from my home in the country to work. Both cities Midland & Odessa have public transportation only in certain areas. With out a vehicle, here you are just stuck where you are at. So you just have to have something to get around. 8) 8) Unless you rent a cab everyday, and renting one every day doesn't make sense, based on the distance we have to travel you could use that money towards maintenance and fuel, etc. etc.

    To give you a idea how big Texas is, this is land area 261,914 sq. miles of land. You can drive 800 miles and still be in Texas.

    Alaska biggest state in the US. land area 570,374 sq. miles California 155,973 sq. miles. info is from Rand Mc Nally road atlas.
  17. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

  18. Viktor

    Viktor Well-Known Member


    Why all this anger against the US (where you refused a Visa)?Anyway, that is whta the US is all about; the individuals right to choose, good or bad!The US is not "prefect", but as long as 51% or more of the pop agree -- that is the law of the land. hence, despite the wrongs, corruption and waste as you put it; "We as a country manged to survive and maintain the same form of stable government for the last 231 years".. Our form of constitutional government has never in it's history conducted enmasse arbitrary confiscation of personal/real propriety and encarcerated it's citizens, who's only crime was education, that was considered a treat to a political party.

    By the way, you also complain that in CR the cost of fuel (gasoiline)more that 2x that of the US! Well, apparently your govenment decided to impose higher taxes, so as they may make the "choice"for you and (for them to spend at will) and provide you with "public transportation". Our government insted gives us a great national highway system.. The polution that is destroying our planet is mainly due to GLOBAL OVERPOPULATION .. My Grandfather, an former AH Officer, after 1918 a Czech officer answered my question when I was a child ( after the horrors of WWII). I asked why do we have wars grandpa? His answer was: "War is not personal, but rather only a means of population control were the stronger will survive". This was in 1948 when the global population was barely over 2 billion --today we have 6 billion plus - and this earth of ours is still the same size as ever. You can't blame this on the US, since it's population is less than 5% of the total global inhabitants......
  19. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    Here's something else from the Slate only about American ranch houses, which, as I thought, are now out of style. Thank goodness.
  20. GlennInFlorida

    GlennInFlorida Well-Known Member

    Why? I'll take my modest 1955 ranch style home any day over those god-awful McMansions that are sprouting up everywhere here.

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