Vol. 20 - This Brutal House

McMansions, subprime lending, MTV Cribs, and House music

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Who else is ready to gag on a spoon the next time someone blabs about the “white hot seller’s market” at a dinner party?

The concept of owning a home is as American as the American Dream itself. A byproduct of low mortgage rates post-WWII, homeownership saw a massive boom when the Greatest Generation came home from saving the world, made some Boomers, and spent their G.I. bill on a split-level ranch on a quiet street in a good school district. Well, not all G.I.’s got their fair share of the real estate pie — this is America, after all — and such inequality would continue well beyond the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (despite rampant suburban expansion, a reinvigoration of inner cities, and so much more since the Axis fell, housing inequality is still a big deal).

As the world turned, salaries largely didn’t outpace the cut-throat climb to the top from the housing sector. The corporate loyalists, many of them Boomers and Xers bagging a 2-5% performance raise year-over-year, found it increasingly difficult to purchase their first home on a single income. As such, turns out Xers rented much longer comparatively because the market either peaked, crashed, or left them behind as many of them came of “home buying age”.

None of this applies to the one-percent, mind you. ‘80s have-it-all decadence made way for glamorous McMansion-flaunting via pop-culture vehicles such as Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and later MTV’s Cribs. Stock-broker turned homemaking guru, Martha Stewart, launched her eponymous Martha Stewart Living magazine in 1990, setting a new aspirational baseline for generations to come. More and more commercials began bombarding families with a mandate that bigger was better — for the children, of course. Early dot-com startups, a la realtor.com, made dreaming — and browsing — a breeze. And then, a concept called subprime lending became the greatest worst investment scheme literally ever. Millennials never saw it coming…

Now, here we are, limping out of a global pandemic and the housing market is white hot. But for how long? Is “homeownership as an investment” truly a relic of the ‘90s? Will Millennials ever stop buying avo toast and lavender lattes to save for that downpayment? Is #vanlife truly the better way? Or perhaps is it best to jump on the tiny house bandwagon sooner than later?

Time will tell.


Jazzing Up the Rental / UK Designer Inspires Renters to Invest in Their Temp Space

[Re]Mixed-Use / This Harlem Development Breaks the Mold

Gimme Shelter / Tour the LA Village Moving People Off the Streets

Not-so-Eminent Domain / IOC Nabs the Gold in Systemic Displacement

The Original Tiny Home / Fictional Homes Get a “Polly Pocket” Makeover

The Triple Axel / ATL Artist + Designer + Blogger is a Triple Threat in the Home

Million View Listings / Modern Realtors are TikToking Their Way to Real Estate Fame

Bartender Turned Boarding House Keeper  / This Hudson Valley Inn Became a COVID Safe Haven

WHAAAT?? OKAAAAY!!! / Rapper Lil Jon is Bringing the Noise to HGTV

Saving Vase / These ‘80s Relics are a Modern Home Decor Craze


Boomers are downsizing. Gen-X has a kid in the attic and a parent or two in the basement. Millennials can’t afford a proper house due to an excess of Instagram culture. And Zoomers are living in vans — by choice. Here’s a watchlist, curated by the magnificent Marya E. Gates, that’ll have you calling up a real estate agent, STAT.

Curated by: Marya E. Gates / Twitter: @OldFilmsFlicker

Risky Business / Dancing with Tom Cruise in the Buff, Sorta
Whomst among us did not want to own our own home solely so we could recreate this iconic dance?

Happy House / Siouxsie And The Banshees Have Come to Play
Released on the band’s third album Kaleidoscope, this song was later sampled by The Weeknd on his early track “House of Balloons”. 

Pink Houses / John Mellencamp’s Ode to America
A Black man peacefully watching traffic from the porch of his little pink shotgun house in Bloomington, Indiana inspired Mellencamp’s epic 1983 ode to American resilience.

Burning Down The House / Talking Heads Speak in Tongues
What is David Byrne actually saying in this song? Supposedly this song came from a jam session in which drummer Chris Frantz kept shouting “Burning down the house!”, which was a chant he heard at a Parliament-Funkadelic earlier that night. 

The Big Short / Margot Robbie Explains It All
Still confused about how subprime housing loans caused a nation-wide recession? Margot Robbie’s got you covered.

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