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Saturday , January 18 2014
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Small Minded: Signs That Point to a Bleak Future

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By David H.

This year we were bombarded with news pieces about the beauty of microliving, the benefits of a car share program, and the bargain behind something like Megabus.  And while a small apartment with smaller bills, or a lack of the hassle incurred with car ownership, or even an inexpensive trip to Dallas sound great, it almost sounds like a prep course for lower expectations.

Prior to the problems incurred by the banking industry several years ago, the idea of living in a house no larger than about nine hundred feet, sounded a little silly.  The cost of housing and homeownership come at a price, but one that most americans one day hope to achieve.  So, when I decided to start the arduous task of looking into a new home purchase, microliving was an option that I looked into.  What I found, was an existence that was filled with all of the same issues as before, in a smaller environment.  Property tax, costs of ownership, and general maintenance were all there-with a large amount of compromise attached.  I thought that the idea behind a micro apartment was possible or at least probable, only in congested cities like New York.  But, when faced with the task of helping someone look for an affordable apartment inside the loop, I found that it’s not such an odd idea even in Houston.  Of course, if you have to live close to downtown then you’re used to the idea of $1,800 a month for a rental.  But, for those of us who think that’s just a bit insane, or for those who make less than that a month, going micro has become the new thing.  What I saw, were “studio” or “efficiency” apartments that had been retagged with the “micro” moniker.  Sadly, these little spaces are still $500 to $1,000 a month, depending on where you want to live.

Recently, Enterprise Rent-A-Car has started advertising the “benefits” of using car share.  Though this method makes perfect sense when it comes to a citywide fleet program, such as in Houston, does it really work for the individual?  Obviously, this is a car rental program that is designed to charge by use.  A twenty-five-dollar yearly membership fee, added to a nine-dollar-an-hour rental, sounds like gouging the disenfranchised more than a “great deal.”  Renting a similar vehicle from Enterprise comes at a cost of about thirty five dollars, with less restrictions, but coupled with gas and proper insurance.  But, the question I raise, is how difficult is it to own a car?  I’m not asking this as some entitled person who doesn’t understand the struggle to save on a small wage, but rather as someone in a city fueled with thousands of cars under one thousand dollars.  The existence of such programs shows how low wages and a high cost of living are taking their toll on our society.

Which of course, leads us to Megabus.  One dollar to ride from Houston to Austin sounds like the deal of the century.  The bus also offers up the option of free wi-fi to sweeten the deal.  But, what began as the option for an offer per ride, has now shrunk to an offer made during certain times of the year.  Keep in mind, that when I searched for a trip to Austin, the entire trip was only twenty four dollars.  However, the same route booked from Greyhound, was actually cheaper by about six dollars.  While bus travel has never really been my thing, the option for cheap travel makes one wonder why the sudden push exists.

If you shudder to think that most modern dollar store chains now offer groceries that include dairy items and produce, it shouldn’t come as a shock to you.  It seems to me that all of these “great deals” lead up to more of a compromise than anything else.  Most of us were raised to believe that a person gets a job, attends college, gets a better job and starts saving for the future.  I’m  hampered by the realities that face current and future generations below my own.  That now, a college degree doesn’t mean a great job, that a home loan is obtained with twenty percent down, and that something as small as a car payment can be difficult for many to qualify for.  As we Houstonians usher in a new year, we should never give up hope for a better life.  That possibly such an ideal is something more than a campaign slogan, but a way to forge a new future for you and yours.  As it stands to me, these are all signs of a possibly bleak future, where people can’t afford a home, qualify for an auto loan, and who have to travel by bus to visit relatives. But if these trends of compromise continue, the future looks more hopeless than hopeful.

 

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