Monday, November 11, 2013

The Explosion of Suburbia

Writing fiction requires research. Depending on the subject, sometimes I enjoy this task and other times I don't. As I was researching Cape Cod style homes for one of my stories, I read an article I found interesting about post-World War II and the choked housing market in a growing population. Since today is Veteran's Day, I thought I'd share it with you.

First of all, THANK YOU to all who serve or have served our country. Freedom is not free, and your sacrifice is great. God bless you!

In 1946, approximately 13 million servicemen and women returned from war. Most had the same dream--to own a home on a quiet patch of land, start a family or spend time with their existing family, and simply enjoy the fruits of their labor. Maybe some even envisioned a white picket fence. But the steadily growing population over the past sixteen years made the housing supply scarce. Realtors felt the noose of supply and demand tightening around their necks. Something had to be done--and quick!

Post-war economy was strong and returning GI's held the governments promise of low interest rates, long mortgages, and plenty of houses. What kind of houses would these promises build? Small ones. Inflation was high, nearly doubling the cost to build a home. But, land away from the city was cheap. Farm land quickly transformed into highways, shopping centers, and subdivisions--with one-level homes, enough space to raise their average family of 3.5 kids but not too much land to tend, and chock-full of all the modern conveniences. Behold, the birth of the "housing edition."

Fact: In 1950, more than 1.5 million homes were built and added to the housing market.

Developers William and Alfred Levitt were so successful, the subdivisions they built were nicknamed "Levittowns." Home buyers like the quality of these villages and they loved the low price due to prefabricated house parts and production speed. Levitt crews built a house every fifteen minutes. Levitt's methods were copied, causing an explosion of subdivisions nationwide, especially surrounding big cities.

That's the history behind suburbia. My writer brain concocted all sorts of plot lines as I researched this. Perhaps this post will be a jumping off point for someone who writes historicals, since I do not. For those of you who are reading this post that aren't writers, I hope you enjoyed the insight into a part of our American history.

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