Car Busters 31, July - Sept 2007
Iím trying to decide where to live. I can buy more for my money in terms of space in the suburbs, but the places I want to be are in town. What should I do?
Dear House Hunter
Location, location, location is a catch phrase for house purchase. It applies to all activities when trying to cut your car use. Where you live compared to where you need to get to for everyday activities such as work will determine how often, how far and the means by which you get about.
Economic theory recommends buying what is likely to increase in value and renting what will depreciate. Houses generally appreciate and vehicles depreciate. So where there is a straight choice between spending available resources on property or on a less expensive property and a car, the property only option wins out. I know that life is more complicated though and that these properties will not be equivalent in size or price and will have other characteristics that differ.
The main advantage of city living is proximity. You can be where you want quickly and cheaply. Save time and transport costs by living and working in the same vicinity. And enjoy the benefits of city amenities such as entertainments (theatre, cinema, museums, libraries etc) and restaurants on your doorstep.
City livingís disadvantages include that you cannot buy as much cubic space or garden for the same money because urban rental values are higher than those in the suburbs. So, a rational choice depends on things like family size and whether you have a lot of furniture and other belongings to fit in. There may also be differences in terms of available space for play, the community vibe and the nearness of amenities.
Firstly get rid of any objects that you donít need. William Morris said "have only in your home what you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful". Instead of it going to landfill you could sell things on ebay, give to charity shops or offer them on web freecycle sites. Perhaps you could also get clever with stacking storage and wall mounting to make good use of space? Or change its format. Your music on vinyl records or CD collections, for instance, could now be housed electronically on computers and ipods saving lots of space.
As regards number of bedrooms - do children really need their own bedroom each? A spare room for guests is a total luxury. Why not just offer your friends and family a sofa bed in the living room? Or, if this isnít good enough, then they could probably afford to pay for their own bed and breakfast or hotel.
For non car owners the best value inner city homes are purpose built car free developments. Why pay for garaging or off street parking if you donít need it? Plus you get the advantages of shared amenities and space deliberately laid out to offer communal facilities in terms of gardens or play areas that are safe from motorised danger, noise and pollution.
The Nationwide Building Society reports that a single garage adds 11.1% to the cost of a house. Lynn Sloman, in her book Car Sick calculated this as requiring another 96 hours of work a year to cover the extra mortgate interest payments.
If you do ever want to use a car for occasional trips or jobs then there are taxis, hire or club cars all available in town to rent.
After looking at prices and what you can afford to buy or rent, then choose where to live in relation to what is near to it that you want to access. Your workplace, food shops and good school for instance, plus public transport stops and public open space. Donít travel further than is absolutely necessary as this wastes your time and money and will damage your health.
Personally, I like relatively high density living. I'm a self employed yoga teacher. Therefore I need access to potential students. This means that I canít easily live anywhere other than a town and expect to teach regularly without having to do a lot of travel. York is a medieval town with a relatively compact, flat lay out. I value the fact that my friends live within cycling distance and that I can get anywhere I want to go regularly by walking or cycling. The train station is also close so that I have access to a hub for long distance travel. My life involves very little waiting for public transport and I face inexpensive transport costs.
Good luck at finding somewhere great to live. Remember that less travel equals a better quality of life.
Anna Semlyen wrote Cutting Your Car Use www.cuttingyourcaruse.co.uk. We are actively looking for publishers and
authors in other countries (except North America). Email
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