Saturday, February 20, 2016

No Sidewalks, No Sale

I grew up in suburbia, and now I'm at a point in my life where the missus and I are considering buying a home of our own.  The neighborhood where I grew up was a classic 1950s housing tract: detached houses, strip malls, narrow residential streets and sidewalks.  Growing up I thought this was normal.  Looking for homes nowadays in the Whittier area, I'm shocked at how many neighborhoods have no sidewalks or sidewalks on one side of the street and not the other.

Honestly, I have to say that before I spend $350,000 - $500,000 on a home (which is sadly what things go for around here), I'm going to make damn sure of a few things, including:
  1. The home is a detached house or a townhouse with some kind of back yard, but not on a huge piece of land.  In fact a small lot (i.e. less than 5,000 square feet) would be more in keeping with my New Urbanist philosophy that density is important, even in the burbs, and reduce the environmental, time and financial costs of dealing with large amounts of landscaping.
  2. That I have a 20% down payment and emergency savings equivalent to six months' income
  3. That my housing costs would be affordable including mortgage, property taxes, insurance, savings for home maintenance expenses and HOA dues (if applicable)
  4. Everything on the property is permitted, and I have copies of those permits in my hands
  5. The home is on a chill street, with no more than two through lanes of traffic
  6. There is a sidewalk in front of the property and the entire block the property sits on, plus surrounding blocks, which take me to at least a few shops and ideally also a park within easy walking distance
  7. Good schools, I suppose, but how to even define that, and let's not forget that there is no substitute for parents who are actively involved in their children's education
  8. A roof which is conducive to the installation of solar panels
Getting back to those sidewalks though, it really disturbs me that there are housing tracts that are built without them.  I get that the car is king in suburbia.  Densities tend to be low, land uses tend to be separated, so transit and walking tend to take a back seat.  But walking is the oldest transportation, the transportation that is healthiest for our bodies and the environment.  To build walking out of a tract like that is actually kind of horrifying.  So let it be known: no sidewalks, no sale, at least not from me!

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