Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Vanquished in Victorville (Or: A new low in the High Desert)

This kind of thing disgusts me. Sixteen new homes in various stages of construction — including four completed houses — razed to the ground because of a cynical bottom-line calculation. 

Yeah, I understand that the Texas company that owns the homes in San Bernardino County's Victorville, a High Desert community of 110,000 people on I-15 on the way to Las Vegas, didn't have enough cash to finish the homes, but their solution is completely messed up.

I could understand that the homes in the early stages may not have warranted finishing, but knocking down four nice homes (even if they are cookie-cutter tract homes) is a foolish waste of resources and labor. Surely some better way to save these units could have been found, like finding bidders to take them as is and pay the cost of completion themselves. I have relatives in the area and they would have jumped at such a chance.

When we have so many homeless, so many people living in substandard houses, so many still un-resettled Katrina victims, etc., this is just dumb. Another example of how worship of the bottom line trumps practical use of resources. Isn't that how we got into this mess in the first place? 


  1. Well, that's the reason why they demolished them. They didn't do it for any other reason than economic. The cost to complete building and/or selling these after they were finished was more than what they could get from it. And I don't think anybody would be willing to buy them because the prices you think that are "dirt cheap" may be higher than the actual value now. That's why they will just keep the land (less expensive to hold on to) and sell it later when it rebounds. YOu can't hold on to vacant homes as it's too costly. Sure, it would be nice to have builders who built homes and then if they can't sell them, let homeless people move in...but no company is in that kind of business or charity.

  2. "When we have so many homeless, so many people living in substandard houses, so many still un-resettled Katrina victims, etc., this is just dumb."

    Actually, many of the banks with empty houses are utilizing "house sitters" in hopes of maintaining the upkeep on them and keeping away the vandals, so that they will be able to sell the properties once the market rebounds. These sitters pay little or no rent, but they do not know the time frame of their stay.

    The homeless problem is bigger and messier than just not having a home for most of them. Many of them suffer from mental issues, and the stigmas associated with them, which makes "every day normalcy" a serious struggle for them. I know that no one asks for these types of diseases, but bringing them in from the cold is not an easy endeavor by any means.

  3. LastnameKim, I agree with you that the numbers may simply add up if one considers all the factors you mention, especially for the unfinished homes (and the barely started ones in particular).

    But I still can't help but think that, particularly for the finished ones, something could have been worked out at the county, city, state, or Federal level to keep the homes — maybe even have them occupied with some payment to the construction company — to preserve the finished homes.

    To me, this is a failure to find an innovative solution that was acceptable (the city or county signed off on demolition permits) because of a religious adherence to short-term thinking about enhancement of the bottom line.

  4. And John from Taejŏn, you make a very good point about the myriad causes of homelessness. Here in Honolulu, where homelessness is rampant, it's easy to see the mental illness angle.

    But there are two things, I'd like to point out, one of which is that a lot of homelessness in expensive California is the result of some people sinking below the financial level needed to maintain a home.

    The second thing is related to that, which is that local, state, and Federal governments pay money for various forms of housing that they must obtain through often expensive needs. Halfway houses, battered women's shelters, disaster victims, etc.

    Any of the four completed homes they destroyed could have housed one or two families, which are being housed through FEMA in trailers and what-not that probably cost more than what it would have cost to buy these "unsalable" homes from the construction company.

    Again, I say it was a failure to find an innovative solution.

  5. I agree with you, Kushibo...I also think it's such a shame when a perfectly new home is's such a waste. But also remember that these are PUDs (Planned Urban Development homes) and so, they are supposed to have an association, neihborhood, etc. If they kept only a few of the homes and didn't finish the others, they wouldn't have any means to start an association, security, shared community ammenities, etc. And most of these PUDs are in suburban areas, so it would be quite spooky, if not lonely, for the few who lived in those few homes. Also, what retailer would want to come in an area where there are only a few homes? No matter how cheap, I wouldn't want to live in a 3-4 home unfinished PUD...that's scary. haha

  6. LastnameKim, I see your point, but I'm not sure if your assessment of the negatives applies here, largely owing to the uniqueness of Victorville (and pretty much almost everywhere else in the High Desert) versus the truly urban portion of San Bernardino County.

    Have you been to Victorville? I don't just mean driving through, but stopping there to shop or eat or drive around? While I admit that Victorville and Barstow have exploded in population since I was a kid, they are still, compared to Los Angeles, sparsely populated and somewhat isolated communities. The people who move there go there because it's cheap and/or because they like the isolation and the starkness of the desert.

    This "PUD" was only going to be sixteen homes. Not being around community amenities is an apt description even if all sixteen were completed and sold.

    In short, a lack of community connectedness and amenities is not what this happened in Victorville, methinks.

  7. Even if these housing units were used for the homeless, how would these ex-homeless survive in suburbia without access to transportation, food (nearby Wal-marts/Krogers), or jobs (especially if they are mentally ill and can't work)?

    Half-way houses may sound great for the sane among us, but they sound the same as mental institutions/sanitariums to those who have been institutionalized before.

    I wish there were some easy answers out there, but good luck finding and implementing them.

  8. Your points are well taken, John, and I agree that not all types of usages would be suitable there. But the Federal and state governments pay a lot of money to house, for example, disaster victims (they are still housing many Katrina victims in places well outside Louisiana) in homes far less desirable than this.

    I hope that there isn't a rash of housing destruction coming, but if there is, I think it the "developers" should be required to show that they've looked in to this possibility before they're issued a "destruction permit."

    If there really is a rash of this kind of thing, it might make sense for some agency or organization to put bring together distressed developers and agencies in need of temporary housing needs (like Katrina victims).

  9. The person, or corporation, that owns the land would also be taking a huge loss if he allowed miss-matched housing in the development built years apart and in differing styles. That's also not taking into account the depreciation that allowing homeless into the subdivision would cause as more affluent buyers would be hesitant to move in and build nicer houses.

    Personally, I'm tired of McMansions and wouldn't be upset if the sizes of houses were regulated a bit to save some of the energy and water that these monstrosities use for so few people residing inside them.


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