The Verge gives us the views of “Carlos Martín, the project director for the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University” which certainly makes one wonder, again, what they’re teaching in schools nowadays. Remember when universities had Departments of English, Mathematics, History and, dare we say it, Theology? Now it’s the “Remodeling Futures Program”. But we digress because the big issue here is remodeling the present. Apparently the housing crisis has nothing to do with high interest rates, regulation, supply shortages or whatever else you thought. It’s…climate change. Because of course.
According to The Verge:
“As the frequency and devastation of disasters increase, we’re starting to realize how infrastructure, climate, and longtime institutions interconnect. And as the climate changes, our housing is uniquely vulnerable. As the world emerges from a record year for climate disasters, damages have reached a new peak. This year, there were 24 disasters that each incurred more than $1 billion in damages, claiming 250 lives and displacing hundreds of thousands of others to shelters and temporary housing.”
As any economist can tell you, inflation means that more and more disasters now incur more than $1 billion in nominal damages without them getting worse. And that as more and more people own more and more nice stuff, any disaster that does hit will do more harm. It might even kill more people, although in countries where the government doesn’t totally run people’s lives and ruin them it has done the reverse because when left to their own devices people build or buy “nice” homes and other structures and “nice” of course includes safe. There’s a reason a heavy rain in Libya is far more lethal than the same rain in Canada.
Martín begs to differ, having spent more time remodeling the future than studying the past:
“The reality is that people have been going through disasters since time immemorial, but now the frequency with which we’re going through them and the severity of damages is becoming more disconcerting”.
Also, he and the author of that piece think ordinary people are chumps and suckers and live in unsafe shacks due to the injustice of capitalism or some such. The article tells us:
“While there are a number of cutting-edge designs as well as building and retrofitting techniques that can be used to make our homes more climate-resilient and prevent such disasters from taking a massive toll, it’s going to take a lot of time and money to protect US housing stock and do it without forcing the most vulnerable populations to live in disaster-prone areas.”
Actually many people in those houses know the story of the three little pigs, and the Bible verse about building on rock not sand, and create dwellings that are far better able to resist a windstorm than the shacks of yore. Although “the most vulnerable populations” have often had less attractive dwellings and despite the contorted language of the piece, it’s not a matter of “forcing” them to move to, say, a downscale neighbourhood in New Orleans but of their already living there because all things considered it was the best they could afford.
Martin further insults the proles thusly:
“‘The majority of housing in the United States is going to experience at least climate-related hazard in some way or another,’ Martín said, noting that these could present as acute incidences, like hurricanes and wildfires, or chronic events, like an extended heatwave or drought. ‘It’s going to mean we have to start thinking much more about not just building a generic house that we think of historically in this country,’ he continued.”
Who ever told a contractor or realtor “I just want a generic house”? Rubbish. In fact houses are remarkably well adapted to, what’s that thing outside, oh yeah, the climate, including deep basements in places where it freezes in winter, cooler layouts in places with “extended” hot summers to which the populace has been migrating since roughly the 1940s, solid brick walls, double-glazed windows, air conditioning, furnaces burning reliable fossil fuels and so on. Even Auntie Em and Uncle Henry had a storm cellar, which would have kept Dorothy safe had she managed to reach it in time. Imagine that.
No. They can’t. According to the article:
“There are around 144 million homes in the US (as of 2022), according to the latest data from the 2021 American Community Survey, built mainly along the coasts and in areas prone to flooding, hurricanes, and wildfires as the climate changes. Around 85 million of those are owner-occupied. Slightly less than half were built before 1980, and roughly 35 percent were built before 1970, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Only 8.3 million new units of housing were added from 2010 to 2021.”
Which if you had a brain and paid attention to it buzzing would lead you to the realization that people have always built in areas prone to blah blah blah, partly because they are in other ways nicer than rural Nevada and partly because all areas are prone to some or all of these things, not “as the climate changes” but because the weather has always been nasty much of the time, what with floods, glaciations, hurricanes whisking girls from Kansas to Oz and so on.
OK. The last one is made up. But it was based on a very real phenomenon. Unlike, say:
“As we transition to greener, more sustainable power, homes need upgrades that include everything from solar power to new, more efficient electrical panels and battery backups to store energy. While solar systems aren’t new, and the sector has had issues, experts still believe that solar-powered homes will continue to increase our climate resilience.”
Yeah. As the hurricanes rip the panels right off your roof.
Meanwhile, down with capitalism:
“Building new, ultra-luxury, climate-resistant homes with advanced technologies is much simpler than retrofitting aging housing and multifamily dwellings in underprivileged communities to survive the next big climate event. Martín argues that when climate disasters occur, the government often tells Indigenous and low-income people that they’re living in the wrong place.”
Oh yes. Ultra-luxury. The sort of houses Harvard professors have custom-built and then start changing reality with woke terminology. For instance:
“‘I think it’s completely disrespectful and, in some cases, racist, to say this is the wrong place,’ he [Martín] said, noting everything from housing costs to zoning, NIMBY-ism, and our housing institutions plays a significant role in preventing the US from creating equitable, climate-safe housing.”
So capitalism makes non-white people live in nasty places but it’s racist to say they’re the wrong place for your kind of person? Is that what you mean? Or do you mean anything at all? Not really. He babbles:
“We have a history in this country of not letting certain kinds of people buy time against climate change. They’ve been forced to live in certain places, not of their own choosing.”
But quite apart from nobody forcing Guiseppe Martini to live in a certain place, unlike how they did it in, say, the Soviet Union, how can we have a long history of not letting people buy time against climate change when it only hit very recently? Still, the future will be nothing like the past:
“What I envision happening isn’t a breakdown in housing, but transformation, and if it’s one thing Americans do, we pivot. We can reinvent ourselves. We’ve been able to do it. So the question is, what does that look like that doesn’t revert to our previous issues around housing.”
Well, we could reinvent ourselves as underground metal cacti or something. Or just as sensible individuals who don’t believe projectors.