Boom Our Looming Housing Crisis
posted by May 9 at 10:19 AMon
Couldn’t sleep last night, so I sat up and read the new New Yorker. It’s the Innovators Issue and there’s a Malcolm Gladwell profile of area innovator Nathan Myhrvold. Myhrvold’s a Microsoft millionaire and, you know, all innovative and and shit. I’d never heard of Myhrvold or his innovations or his hundreds of millions before… and, in all honestly, I didn’t make through the piece. (I skipped ahead, I’m ashamed to say, to a dishy review of Barbara Walters new autobiography.) So I can’t tell you just what innovations Myhrvold is busily innovating away at. But I trust Gladwell: If he says Myhrvold’s an innovator, that’s good enough for me.
But this detail, which comes early Gladwell’s piece, stayed with me…
He started Microsoft’s research division, leaving, in 1999, with hundreds of millions. He is obsessed with aperiodic tile patterns. (Imagine a floor tiled in a pattern that never repeats.) When Myhrvold built his own house, on the shores of Lake Washington, outside Seattle—a vast, silvery hypermodernist structure described by his wife as the place in the sci-fi movie where the aliens live—he embedded some sixty aperiodic patterns in the walls, floors, and ceilings. His front garden is planted entirely with vegetation from the Mesozoic era.
I was speaking with a friend this weekend about two couples who, like Myhrvold, worked in tech, got rich, retired, and built insanely elaborate mansions—excuse me, houses—in the area. Microsoft and Amazon and other tech companies, which are all located here for entirely arbitrary reasons (and could pick up and move tomorrow), created hundreds of millionaires and a quite few billionaires. My friend—who isn’t rich, but associates with richies—figures that two hundred or more these tech-money mansions—excuse me, “houses”—have been built over the last twenty years by tech millionaires with more money than taste.
Hey, it’s their money, and they can spend it however they like. God only knows what kind of monstrosity I’d build—or have built—if I had Myhrvold’s money. Probably something like this on top of Beacon Hill.
But here’s what I wonder: What is going to happen in twenty or thirty years when the tech booms millionaires start to die off? Who is going to buy all these sci-fi movie mansions with Mesozoic gardens? A lot of insanely elaborate, insanely expensive houses are going to come flooding onto the market all at once—places that cost tens of millions of dollars to build—and there’s no guarantee that our region will have the millionaires—billionaires—it’s going to take to buy up all these houses when they come up for sale in twenty or thirty years.
So who’s going to buy up all these houses in two or three decades? Who’s going to live in them?