Home for the Holidays: How to Talk to Your Family about Housing

Filed in Membership by on December 18, 2019 0 Comments

You’re home for the holidays. The halls are decked with boughs of holly. Dad’s drinking eggnog, mom’s drinking almond-nog, your sister is drinking vegan oatmilk chai-nog; all is well … and then it happens. You make one comment about how maybe your mom’s gingerbread house could use some tasteful landscaping, and she takes the opportunity to make a jab about how maybe “you could stop paying money to live in a stranger’s basement.”

You brought up the contentious topic of housing, and now the tidings of comfort and joy have left the building.

Or have they?

As a gift to you this holiday season, the elves at the National Housing Center are offering this simple guide to help kids from one to 92 navigate conversations about housing.

When your dad puts his feet on the ottoman, looks you in the eye and lectures you on the immutability of the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (“If it worked for my generation, then it will work for yours.”)

Let your dad know that we’re going to need sensible housing finance reform if we’re going to keep the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage as an affordable option. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – the government sponsored mortgage guarantors – have been in conservatorship for 11 years. That’s not sustainable, Dad. It’s important that any new structure include an explicit federal backstop for the housing finance system and protect taxpayer liability. And, we need to provide an effective financing system for multifamily housing.

When your daughter’s TikTok goes viral – wherein, to the tune of The Commodores’ 1977 hit “Brick House,” she blames the older generations for ruining the housing market – and you decide to make this a teachable moment.

Make sure she understands that, for most home builders, the cost of complying with building regulations and codes can account for up to 25 percent of the total cost to build the home – and even more for multifamily housing. Explain to her that housing affordability is a supply-side issue. When regulatory compliance creates roadblocks to making housing affordable, it’s no surprise that homeownership and rental opportunities are being pushed further and further out of reach. And, we need permanent trade solutions to fluctuating material prices, like softwood lumber and Chinese steel, to ensure that housing can remain affordable. Also, your daughter is no longer listening. Just a heads up.

When your son asks if his girlfriend can move in with him in your basement because her part-time job and Uber gig don’t bring in enough money to rent an apartment.

Make a point to let him know there are more than 335,000 unfilled jobs in construction. These are good-paying jobs with benefits. Carpenters, electricians and masons make an average national wage over $51,000 a year, more than three times what a minimum wage worker takes home annually. It’s enough that he should be able to finally move out of what he calls his “garden-level apartment” and, as we all know, every time an adult child moves out of their parents’ house, an angel gets its wings.

When your parents keep reminding you that your cousin Amber is already married and has a nice house in the suburbs with granite countertops (and they have a Bernese Mountain Dog, and fresh eggs every day from their six chickens, and her husband makes the most amazing homemade gin).

Remind them that homeownership is a great option for some – and that you understand that for many households it represents a primary source of wealth, financial security and a gateway to the middle class. But the bottom line is that it is all about housing choice. Some people prefer to rent, and others are unwilling or unable to take on the financial responsibility of owning a home. And the gin isn’t all that good, anyway.

When your grandma doesn’t want to put out the Santa and reindeer decorations in her front yard because “this is probably the year y’all put me in the old folks’ home.”

Gently let her know that there are many options for people who want to stay in their homes as they age. In fact, aging-in-place remodeling is the fastest growing sector of the remodeling market. By hiring a Certified Aging in Place Specialist, she can get what she needs most: reassurance that you’ll help her make the choices that will help her stay in her home safely and securely. By modifying her home with additional task lighting, grab bars, lever door handles and other features, you all can make sure that holiday traditions (and grandma) are around for years to come.

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