Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Are Apartments a Better Answer to the Housing Crisis?

Sometime in the early sixties, a large California developer opened its first development of condominiums for sale. Even by the standards of the day, they were offered at rock bottom prices. A home for a single family that could be bought for $10,000.00 was big news. The need for suburban housing that could be built in high densities and thus be affordable was apparent. It allowed for volume sales, which, of course, meant higher profits for home builders. Other developers followed suit, and the affordable, single-family attached home became a ubiquitous part of the California (and national) real estate market. An industry, as well as a type of housing, was born. Multi-family developments, however, were not new, even in the sixties.

For decades, rental apartments provided affordable housing for millions of people. What was new was the offering of these apartment units for sale. Because that's exactly what condominiums were - apartment units that could be sold to individual owners. In every other respect, they were just like the apartment buildings that everyone was familiar with. The big difference was that the maintenance and repair of these condominiums was now the responsibility of the owners - there was no landlord to foot the bill.

Now, even those homebuyers who could not afford a single family home could get on the real estate ownership bandwagon. Low interest and low down payment loans offered by various government agencies, gave many low and moderate income wage earners the opportunity to purchase a home. Most people could buy with 5% or no money down. Veterans could buy a new home for nothing down. Condominiums, and their planned development cousins, became the darlings of the real estate industry, and they were constructed by the car load.
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