There was an old woman who lived in a shoe... The story stays in our minds because of the unique and interesting place she choose to live. Where we live has a dramatic impact on our lives, options, and sense of well being. Most of us have the mental picture of the suburban home with the white picket fence, children playing in the yard and a swing set in the back. This is the most commonly accepted picture of what we all refer to as The American Dream. In recent years that vision has been expanded to a bigger house with nice cars in the front and a landscaper mowing the lawn.
Where do people live in America?
(and it is at this point that I accidentally deleted an hours worth of writing and will now try to recreate it with hopefully as much enthusiasm as the first time.)
1. The Dream Home - This can be as unique as the individual who dares to dream it. For some it may be a high rise condo with marble floors and a view of the city, for others a spacious mansion with tended gardens, and for others acres and acres of pasture to run cattle and horses.
2. The Economy Home - Commonly known as a "starter home" in the real estate business, this home has all the function but few of the frills of the dream home and can be purchased or rented for far less. Many are ultimately satisfied with this type of home because with it's economic savings a freedom to pursue other goals and dreams exists as well as more ability to enjoy the day to day simple joys of family, soccer games, and an annual vacation. The economy home may have a number of upgrades (or downsizing) during our life time as opportunity and economics change. This home and it's variations most closely typifies The American Dream and is therefore the most sought after and aquired.
3. The Fixer Home - These are the same homes as the Dream or Economy homes however have suffered abuse or neglect from a former owner. They can often be purchased at a greatly reduced amount by those who want to take the time, money, and energy to restore them to their best level. These tend to be my favorites and I love the turn of the century, not this one, the last century workmanship, unknotted wood, scrolling, and built in china cabinets. With a turn of the century home you are also getting a piece of history to be researched and become a part of. Newer fixer homes can often be a good investment and were the T.V. stars of home improvement shows before the housing dip. They are a great opportunity for those who desire to improve as you go and for those who have a creative sense or like to work with their hands.
4. Land - Literally starting from the ground up an idea as old as mankind. Choosing the perfect piece of land and making it your home is not for the faint hearted with all the current legal restrictions, zoning laws, and codes to maneuver but in the end it is your very own. I have known those who bought land cleared it, installed the septic, well, and then worked on the home. All the while they lived in a trailer watching their dreams becoming fulfilled. All homes start from a piece of bare land.
5. Apartments and Condos. The perfect choice for the fast paced life that has no time for yard work and enjoys the cosmopolitan life of simple meals and amenities. Also an excellent choice for most people getting their first place and don't want to have to do all their own repairs.
6. Be a boarder, Take in boarders. This is one of the most cost effective options for those wanting to keep their housing costs to a minimum. For more on this subject see my post titled Room for Rent.
7. Extended family home. This is growing in popularity as multi-generational living is becoming more common to meet economic and health needs. It has always been part of many cultures and within generational business and farming communities and the word is getting out about the benefits. Some of these are also discussed in the Room for Rent post.
8. Live in Your Vehicle. Becoming a Snowbird is one of my life dreams. I have had friends that owned a fifth wheel or RV and would take off every winter and enjoy the Arizona sunshine. Others who spend much time in their vehicles are musical performers, rodeo and horse show enthusiasts, and people in transition or seasonal workers. With the ability to park a camper in so many places it can be an inexpensive housing solution for those trying to get back on their feet.
9. The Bunk House. I'm using this to refer to any occupation that provides housing as part of the employment deal. This could include working for rich people, apartment managers, and farm workers.
10. Housesitting. If you are a VERY responsible person Housesitter.com may be a site for you to investigate.
11. Mooches and frauds. These are hard to know the numbers and come in all economic levels. They are those who live someplace without making any substantial contribution in time, energy, or expenses, not withstanding physical or mental inability to do so. The are often referred to as sons, daughters, friends, gold diggers, gigolos, and opportunists. Usually they are connected with a family tie and are therefore difficult to know how to deal with. Dr. Phil has often has segments on these relationships. This can be equally as prevalent among the well-to-do as there are adequate resources and some can develop a sense of entitlement to a certain standard of living. The Millionaire Next Door does an interesting job in discussing this.
The frauds are those often referred to as fiance and are those who move in with recipients of public assistance without declaring their income or residence on forms completed to establish household income. From my personal observation (which I admit is limited) I would estimate that it could be up to 50% of those receiving assistance at some point or another. Numbers will not be known until audits are done to verify and correct the situation.
12. Living at ones business. This may not be as possible as might have been in the past because of zoning requirements but in the past business owners often had an apartment in the back of their store, shop, or other business. This has largely been replaced by the work at home practice which provides tax deductions for those who operate their business out of their homes such as beauty shops, writers, taxidermists, and even childcare. (Yes, I threw in taxidermists to see if you were still reading, though it is true that it's a small niche business :)
13. Shelters and Emergency Housing. These of course are temporary residences and from what I have heard always overcrowded. They serve a very important role in our society to those who are in dire straights and have no where to go and may be fleeing from a dangerous situation.
14. Military housing. The military houses those in our armed forces and often their families for a season or a career. We are honored by those who serve and their families.
15. Jail and Prison. According to a statistic I read over 2 million people are incarcerated at the expense of the American people. This has to be considered as a housing choice as most of those in jail or prison have made life choices to entitle them to this housing and upon release would do so again. Of course, there are the innocents because we do not have a perfect system. That's a whole different topic but suffice to say that to provide for over 2 million people is no small economic expense. Please don't infer that I am uncaring about those in jail and prison for I have been a visitor to a few. I mention these as facts, not judgements of future behavior and potential.
16. Religious housing. This applies to anyone who receives housing as part of their work and/or position within a church or congregation. Most denominations provide housing for their leaders. Nuns, monks, priests and pastors often receive housing close to the congregation they serve.
17. Nursing homes and other medical facilities. I have included these lest we forget those who have lived and been a part of their communities who now are in places they can receive the medical care they need. Many receive few or no visitors during this last phase of their lives. It is always difficult to visit but extremely important to our family members. There are approximately 1.5 million people currently who are residents of nursing homes.
We are truly a vast population and our housing choices are a reflection of our diversity. Not all of the housing choices listed are those we would desire to embrace but being reminded that they exist has value in that it shows us there is no one right way or one path that we may walk. Some even should give us pause, reflection, and caution. At different times and seasons of our lives one may be best while five years later something else would be much better.
If I have forgotten any please add them in the comments and it would be interesting to know how many of these options have you called home in your own lifetime?