Monday, January 30, 2006

Willo Weep For Me

Older homes in historical neighborhoods can be architecturally attractive but are small, often come with repair issues involving plumbing and electrical wiring, and have become quite expensive.

"We put a lot into our home, but we feel confident it will sell," said Erin Benn, who with her husband, Jay, has listed a home in the historic Willo district for $335,000. They are moving to a bigger one in north Phoenix. "The run-up in home values have given us more options."

I like the Willo district. The streets are quiet and narrow, it's close to downtown work and shopping, the architecture of the homes is generally pleasing, the foliage is mature, and My Florist Cafe is just down on the corner.

We chose a home somewhat to the north. First we picked a school district, then after that roamed until we found a suitable dwelling.

Someday I will tell you all about my own home.

We probably could not afford to buy it at today's prices, and the historical district homes command far greater costs now. We were lucky to get in a few years ago before prices really exploded here. People like Erin, above, probably feel that they can get a much bigger home in one of the outlying areas of new development that surround greater Phoenix like distant asteroid belts, as James Howard Kunstler would say. So, like Erin, people are selling and moving.

"Barbara Parsons just wanted a bigger, cheaper house when she moved south of Queen Creek to Pinal County.

For her 42-mile one-way trip to work, she rises at 3:30 a.m. to hit the driveway by 5:30 a.m. at the latest for a "somewhat safe drive." Three hours a day trapped in her car battling one of the worst intersections, where Hunt Highway meets Ellsworth Road, has her considering moving closer to the metro area's core."

The situation that Barbara finds herself in is just the situation that Erin will sell her home to then aquire. Maybe they can just trade houses.

To continue from Carl Holcombe's January 22nd article:

"It will likely only get worse as huge planned subdivisions such as Anthem in Florence push Pinal County's current population of about 277,000 to 2 million in the next 20 years."

Actually, it will likely get worse than worse.

Let's do a little simple math with a hypothetical scenario. Assume a 42-mile commute each way, and two wage-earners making this kind of daily trip. Also assume that they drive large red-white-and-blue blooded SUV's which average about 14 miles-per-gallon. After all, a lot of commute time is spent idling or creeping along slowly, so that estimate is surely conservative, in the context of my scenario and argument.

So the two commutes consume 12 gallons of gas daily, not counting weekend trips and additional mileage for sidetracking off to soccer fields, stores, and the like.

Just today I drove by a station posting $2.48 for the low-test stuff. But let's suppose our couple has tanked up for a better price. Plug $2.40 per gallon into the equation.

Between two such people they spend $28.80 a day on gas going to and from work alone. That's $144 per week, or $576 a month.

But they saved a lot of money on their mortgage by getting a new home in Blandthem, so their mortgage is only about $1200 a month instead of the $1800 per month they were paying on their little remodeled $300K dollhouse in Willo.

Now we look into the crystal ball of Peak Oil where we clearly see that gasoline prices will continue to rise. In a few short years, unless mini-hybrid solar plastic automobiles replace their SUV's, the theoretical couple could be paying as much to fuel their commutes as they do on their mortgage.

Of course, the people of Pinal County have foreseen this problem coming for years now and have planned accordingly.


The Other One said...

I have been studying geography, and urban development for several years now, I don't get it. Why on god's earth would someone move 42-mile away?? I get annoyed at my 12 mile commute sometimes.

I guess the bigger question has always eluded me is how do people afford it. You discussed the 14mpg F-U mobile (and I think you are being very generous, btw); most of those take premium fuel, gas will surely be over $3/gal by memorial day, and heaven forbid we have another war in the mideast...well you get the idea.


Goddam Liberal said...

Hey! I live in a historic district too... not Willo but close by. I used to live in Chandler, where I moved to be close to work - then I was transfered to a job in Glendale. That commute was a nightmare. Now I live centrally, and wherever I'm commuting too, at least I'm going in the opposite direction to the main flood of traffic. Plus the historic homes are simply better built than today's ticky-tacky boxes that are thrown up quickly with inexperienced illegal labor.