House Hunters (International)

As an American there is something that strikes me as odd about this TV show, something that has been puzzling me that I hope someone can help me clear up.   If you are a TV watcher I don’t think you can have missed the many new shows dealing with housing.  People looking for houses, people renovating houses, people looking to create income from renting portions of their houses to others… all seem to run day and night on one particular network.  It is my understanding that it has a rather wide viewing audience and since it is devoid of politics I have found myself turning to it to escape the 24/7 barrage of political bullshit that seems to fill most other networks.

Here is the thing that bothers me, or, should I say leaves me with  questions I have no answers to.  It is my hope that a reader of this can help me out here and provide me with some answers.

How can it be that houses in other countries always seem to cost more than comparable houses in America?  Why is it, do you suppose, that homes in Canada, England, The Netherlands and almost every other country I have observed are priced  far in excess of what the exact same house in America would sell for?  In some cases, if you have ever watched the show in question, you will notice that they are priced two or three times MORE than the same house in America would cost in spite of the fact, at least they tell me it is a fact, that here in America we have it better than they do anywhere else in the world?  Our housing prices have plummeted, tens of thousands are evicted from homes they can no longer pay for, daily, and still we are informed that America’s particular brand of Capitalism is the cat’s meow when it comes to the right way to run an economy.

All this puzzles me even more due to the fact that one of my remarkable offspring (and family) have recently relocated to The Netherlands where they are gainfully employed designing custom electron microscopes for the electronics industry and biological research.  They are dealing with it and the cultural shock of realizing that people who are not blessed with the boon of inhabiting the most “exceptional” country in the world can still not only find homes and happiness, but, can somehow not be driven to mass suicide once they are old enough to realize they are not Americans.

Since most of the TV shows I have observed deal with properties in Canada I will tell you some of the things I have learned about home ownership there.  First, homes cost MUCH more in Canada than comparable homes do in America in spite of the fact, reliable sources inform me, that Canadians spend most of their time lining up at our border in an attempt to purchase American health care because it is so much better under a fee for service system.  The fact that Canadians outlive us by more than two years, statistically, is irrelevant of course.  In Canada 50% of the homes do not have a mortgage on them and a minimum of 25% of the purchase price is required to even apply for a mortgage.   Liars Loans, the foundation of America’s floundering financial housing base, it appears, never quite took off in the rest of the world for reasons the American banking industry have never figured out.  Canada has no “Housing Bubble” and prices are not only stable, but, continue to climb.  Our housing prices, in case you have missed it, have plummeted and remain stagnant.

So, how can this be?  Since we are the “Free” ones and since we are the “Exceptional” ones… how come so many of us are living in the street or expecting an eviction notice any day now?  Why is it so much cheaper to purchase housing in America, and yet, so hard for Americans to aspire to successful home ownership?

I have a few ideas:

1.  Could it be that NOT having to continually worry about obscene and crippling health care costs permits people to actually save more for things like down payments and pass more of their lifetime wealth accumulation to their children?

2.  Could it be that government investment in infrastructure and mass transportation is a good thing because it frees people from having to remain constantly in debt to banks for automobile loans, insurance and maintenance?

3.  Could multitudes of people riding bicycles, rather than being an admonition of an unsuccessful economy, really be the mark of a culture that understands that saving money AND getting exercise are a win-win combination?

4.  Could making it less financially attractive for people to live in suburbia by putting high taxes on gasoline while, simultaneously, improving every aspect of life in urban areas, (instead of abandoning them to the poor where crime, poor public education, hopelessness and the illegal drug trade take their inevitable toll) , actually make some kind of sense?

5.  Is it possible (and I’m asking this as a kind of a joke) that capitalism as we practice it here in the exceptional good old USA isn’t turning out to be what we were told to expect?  That instead of it Flowering here it has turned out to be more of a weed infestation where one particular kind of weed, like kudzu, monopolizes more and more of the available resource at the expense of everything and everybody else?

[As a side note]  My daughter informs me that my grandchildren in The Netherlands are now playing in clean and attractive parks, within easy walking distance, that would be considered DEATH TRAPS if they existed in America.  There are sharp objects not wrapped in rubber and things to climb, where children can actually fall, that are not roped off for the children’s protection.  We are left to wonder how children not growing up in America ever survive to adulthood.

I would appreciate any ideas or comments regarding any of the paradoxes presented by the thoughts and information above.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “House Hunters (International)

  1. Canada here…

    We have had no national housing policy since the 1970’s. And that policy never reached the poorest. Toronto’s city housing projects are widely viewed as slums, and the City of Toronto as the nations leading slumlord. There are localized housing bubbles in the country. Vancouver is the most obvious. Toronto is pretty bad, too. In Halifax, rents have pretty much doubled in the last ten years with no comparalbe raise in the minimum wage. Condos are going up EVERYWHERE in the city core, driving up rents and gentrifying long-standing artsy neighbourhoods where rent was once relatively cheap. Suburban sprawl is not a uniquely American problem. Halifax’s outlying areas have at least doubled. Subdivisions are built further out into lake and forest land every year. Once public lakeshores and ocean frontage gets privitazed. The city sells off public land to developers at a cut rate. Every dirty trick in the book is employed by developers to pressure city hall into getting their way (threatening to build an 8 story office tower if they don’t get their 5 story condo approved). The Harper government is currently passing legislation that will effect EI benefits that will serve to drive many rural people who have depended on seasonal labour out of the country and into the cities or to Alberta. Rural public transportation is almost non-existent. High speed trains are a dream. After the 2008 fiasco, Harper’s Conservatives reacted by making it harder for poorer families to secure a mortgage. While this may seem sensible given what happened in the USA, it should be noted we never had the kind of banking system that led to your problems. So why punish the poor for a non-existent problem? There was NO talk of how to make housing affordable for the poorer people, yet still keep the system safe. Nothing progressive like that. Bank profits in Canada have QUADRUPLED in the past ten years. Surely they could afford to spread the wealth around a bit? Find a way to reach the poorest who are routinely exploited by slumlords? But no…

    Obviously, we aren’t as fucked up as you are. But we have a LONG way to go…Canada suffers from a split personality. We don’t know whether to be all-out socialists, or listen to the dark side and go the American route (Harper and the Tories, however, have no scruples, and have made their position PAINFULLY clear – painfully for everyone who isn’t rich, that is…). I want to move to Denmark, or Sweden, or Norway. I know it’s ever colder there than it is here, but they’ve got the right ideas.

    • Thank you so much Brent, I knew I could rely on you to give us the view from The Great White North. It seems that the term “conservative” means the same in Canada as it does here. “Hurray for me and to Hell with you”.
      But tell me… what percentage of your population live in their cars? What percentage are in debt $100,000 and more to banks for their education with little or no hope of a job? And last, but not least, do you have friends that do their own dentistry because they can’t afford a dentist?

      On the bright side, when the shit finally hits the fan here in the best and most exceptional country in the world we can fall back on the knowledge that even the poor own a bar-B-Q grill of one sort or another and I have it on good authority that the rich taste like chicken.

      Be well Brent and go easy on the maple syrup.

      • Yes, we are clearly “ahead” of you, and our situation is not as bad on most fronts. Our dentristry is not, however, covered by Healthcare, and I haven’t been to one for twenty years. I brush regularly and watch the sugar intake , including maple syrup, which is really pricey, anyway. And there is no discussion in our country of expanding drug coverage. Many who work for large corporations do get some dental and pharmaceuticals covered, but the working class? Nope. I paid out $300 for some anti-fungals a few years ago. If I’d been with the governemnt or a corporation, I would’ve been covered. There is some drug coverage for seniors. But if you are part of the working poor, you get screwed over every which way by everybody, from the courts to the banks. The rich get richer…

        Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go clean my gun and get that alignment problem worked out on the scope…

  2. Art Fern

    Capitalism needs a cop to have any chance of working. Socialism, in it’s purest form, stifles individual initiative and is still vulnerable to corruption. A cross between to the two seems the only way. Until, of course, we develop Mr.Fusion and each family unit can be self sustaining, with it’s own hydroponically grown food. Cars made out of carbon. Clothing you can grow on genetically altered cotton plants. Flying cars. Made out of carbon. But I digress. Our problem right now is that the cop on the capitalism beat is either drugged insensible, bought off or nonexistent and any effort to re-engage the cop is labeled as “socialism” as if that were some sort of disease that would cause one’s gonads to explode. But I’ll leave that analysis to inter-lecturers like you, with your so-called “thoughts”, I’ll just stick on as a little worker bee, stuffing honey up the queen’s ass until I collapse. I keep telling you, bottled water, shotguns and ammo and generators. That run on water.

  3. FrogFeathers

    Regarding your ideas: Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes!

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