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The house, A home or a commodity?  RSS feed

 
Len Ovens
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Location: Vancouver Island
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Warning!!! this is an opinionated message. First opinion, I don't think there is a right or wrong answer, but I do have some strong feelings about the idea that a house is a commodity.

When it comes to found material builds or from the land builds, there is often discussion about building codes and their pros and cons. I don't really want to talk about codes, I only mention them here because one of the phrases that comes up often in such discussions is: "the next owner". That phrase assumes the house is first a commodity, then a home. It assumes that the most important value of a home is its resale value. I am wondering if that is a proper or good way to look at things. It assumes some things:

- It assumes this is not really where you want to live
- it assumes we all have the same needs and/or wants
- it assumes consumerism (AKA churn, or constant upgrading by buying the latest thing)
- it assumes "bigger is better".
- it assumes a short lived house (average residency from 5 to 10 years... so new -> used(maybe a few times) -> rental -> rebuild)
- it is most often contractor built and therefore needs code (and inspections!!) to make sure of minimum standards
- is there ever a house in this system that can be "home"?

Some of these things may be good at the time of purchase. A temporary job for example. It is often better to buy and sell than rent (it has been for us) There may be something holding up buying where we really want to (waiting for my wife to get a driving license?) But in the end, I have found it does not make a home, it is more of a hotel. It has been hard to excited about doing things to this house because it is temporary, a stop on the way.

A house that is a home first, would be built differently from a commodity. The person who may buy later is not important, the resale value is set aside. Extra rooms are not added to help the resale value... for example, where I lived before, no houses where built that were under 3000 sqft and contained at least one if not two suites for rent, even if not approved (no outlet for a stove was the common way of getting by building inspectors). A home is a place that is lived in for generations. Sometimes the home is not the house itself but the land. Aboriginal people moved often and rebuilt, but they had an area that was home. Many people would build a new house on the home land for their child when they married. Depending on the culture it would either be the son or the daughter. Home is home and a house that is home would be modified for new needs instead of the house as a commodity where the residents move for new needs. A house built as a home that is permanent is more often owner/resident built. Often less wasteful in build.

I think that todays society (first world for sure but creeping into second/third world too) has lost the concept of home. I think this is a big part of why we have lost the idea of community as well. Global community such as these forums, is good, but it is no substitute for face to face living.

What am I suggesting? To be honest, I am not sure. Am I suggesting a return to prehistoric life? I don't think so. I would suggest that this is just a part of our current consumer life style, that we are merely treating houses the same way we treat cars... or toasters.

There are some things that do not last and that we can't really make at home (anymore) like electronics, but there are also a lot of things that we can choose to either build at home or buy carefully so they last a life time and beyond.

Some people will say we "have to be practical". Perhaps there is truth in that in the world we live in... but don't be afraid to dream, or to step out of the chains of practical and commodity and live that dream. We can spend our whole life being practical and never "do" anything. I think those who have lived have tried and failed at least once, but have not given up and gone practical. Look at Paul's project and know it is not his first try at something like this and many of his rules/policies reflect that. I don't agree with all of them, but I do know that they are there because of past problems and so respect those decisions more because of that than just because "hey its his thing he can do what he wants".

He has found a place to make a home. That is my heart also. I would suggest others search their heart and think what do I want to be able to remember I did with my life at the end of my life? Personally, I have won awards at work for thinking outside of the box and making things work that can't, but I remember building a small hut on the beach from driftwood in the rain with my family in an afternoon.... that is more important. It was temporary, but it was more home than the house we live in that someone else built.
 
Robert Ray
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When I built my house I didn't consider it a commodity other than I wanted it to be worth what I paid for its construction. The taxman seems to think it is worth at least what I have invested in the place. A home is a substantial investment, should there be a return on an investment for my family? Passing it on to our kids with the idea that they will live there is probably not going to happen their lives aren't vested in our community. Does that temper how one customizes their home I don't think it should.
Does a quality built dwelling have worth? Once we assign value to it, it becomes a commodity. If your asking if a tract house could be a home I guess that I would argue that it could be. I guess the same could be said of a car being a commodity. I maintain the car and preform routine maintenance for it to retain value, common sense for an inevitable exchange down the road.
Worth being what one would give up to acquire an item. A warm tight dwelling has worth just as a meal has worth how do you assign a value?
The house that we recently built has more meaning than other properties I have owned. And the best meal I can remember is a pickle and cheese sandwich made by my daughter many years ago, you can't buy that meal again.
So is your question about satisfying the soul? Hard to place a value on a smile, sigh, a pickle sandwich or good nights sleep when it comes from knowing that it's right where you want to be and that the one you're with is feeling the same way.
 
Jen Shrock
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Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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Len - I think I understand where you are coming from. I have a small home and I don't want something larger, that I don't use and enjoy all of it. I want something that fits the way I live, is manageable for me and supports what I enjoy. I know that I ran into the house/home connudrum when working on a remodeling project that would customize a room in my home just for me, for my enjoyment. I had people question if I really wanted to do that because it might make it harder to sell, if I chose to do that down the road. My thought was...so I am supposed to not enjoy my home and use it the way that I want just because I might sell it and because someone else might not want the changes that I made?? Seems like a line of thinking that is completely off balance. What I was looking at doing was converting my sunporch into half art studio, half sitting area. I like to work on stained glass and I was actually wanting an area that was well set up for that, with cabinetry and countertops built in, electrical outlets moved up above countertop level and a small ventilation system for when I would be soldering. Yes, it customizes a small area of my small home to my specific desires, but if that small change brings me real joy, isn't that worth more than worrying what Jane or John Doe might think if I were to eventually sell?

I think, as people get deeper into permaculture, worrying about what the world thinks falls by the wayside. More with the land and changes made to it, I think that people empassioned with permaculture go with what is best for them. In each and every case, that is different for each person. Isn't permaculture about doing what is best for the earth, not about what is socially acceptable for society? If we didn't have revolutionaries like Mollison, Holzer, Fukuoka, Lawton and all the others, pushing the limits of what is acceptable, we would be continuing down the rabbit hole of earth destruction, physical health destruction, etc., etc., etc. I know that I am tired of being told by someone else what is right for me. I am a big girl and can figure that out all on my own. I am glad that there is real rumblings of a revolution to stand up for what is right and not necessarily what is just acceptable.

Home goes beyond a physical structure and, I even think, beyond land. You have to be at "home" in the community you live in. Heck, you have to be at "home" with yourself to really be happy.

Thank you for bringing up the subject, Len, and thank you for further fanning the flame of passion that has been ever growing inside of me.
 
Robert Ray
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I would agree with what Jen has said that to make it a home it has to be what you want. I would also agree that commuity makes a big difference on ones desire to make a home in a location. Sense of place and desire to be in that place makes a big difference.
 
Alfrun Unndis
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I think to some, community is the entity. Community must have members but the members aren't unique they are interchangeable. For example my town had a mini tax revolt back in 2009. Due to the 2008 crash the statistical property revaluation was off by outrageous amounts. During the public meetings hundreds complained about inaccurate evaluations of the value of their property. Some tales were heart breaking. One elderly woman lived in the house her husband built for their family. Another was over one hundred and had lived in her home for seventy years. The response of the town council members was that if they could not pay their taxes they should sell there property and move to a community they could afford. The town council was not thinking of these women as important players in the town, they were just community members who were not pulling their weight. It would be better to exchange these members for those who wouldn't be a burden on the community. Citizens are exchangeable parts. The councilors were just concerned about the health of the community.

I think this a very dark path that leads to darker places. factory - factory farm - factory town --
 
John Polk
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I believe that 'houses' have transitioned from homes into commodities as the lifestyles have changed.

Centuries ago (& even decades ago), people were more permanent in a location. Nobody would say "I'm Greek." It was "I'm an Athenean (or Spartan)" "I'm not Italian, I'm a Roman (Venetian, Genovese, Sicilian)."

Now, when your kids graduate from school, if their first good job offer is across the country, they're gone. They might visit for the holidays, but their new home is far from where parents/grandparents call home.

When you die, as much as you and they loved the home, to somebody living 2,000 miles away, it is now a commodity. Unless they just rent it out, it will soon be on the market. So, just go ahead and customize it to what makes you happy and comfortable. It seems as if everybody buying a home nowadays is going to make their own personalizations to it any way.
 
Len Ovens
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Location: Vancouver Island
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John Polk wrote:I believe that 'houses' have transitioned from homes into commodities as the lifestyles have changed.

Centuries ago (& even decades ago), people were more permanent in a location. Nobody would say "I'm Greek." It was "I'm an Athenean (or Spartan)" "I'm not Italian, I'm a Roman (Venetian, Genovese, Sicilian)."

Now, when your kids graduate from school, if their first good job offer is across the country, they're gone. They might visit for the holidays, but their new home is far from where parents/grandparents call home.


On the other side of that, maybe thirty years ago, my sister went to Hawaii for holidays and really never came back (she ended up in Turkey). She travels the world and has been places very few other people have been. But, when her sister was allowed to live in the house she grew up in, she was upset because even 30 years after leaving, that was "Home". Even though she owns a house where she lives, that house is Home. The sister living there now is having a hard time now that my mother wishes to sell that house for the same reason. It is not a problem for me because I moved there at 6 years old... interesting.
 
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