The Cost of Shelter
Ellen H. Richards
Part 2 out of 2
Incidentals........................ 300 " 600
Total..............................$3000 to $4000
This goes far toward justifying the saying that a young man cannot afford
to marry on less than $3000 a year.
With these figures in mind, what can our $2000 family with two children
do? The rent that they can pay will not cover service or heat. There must
be a maid to fill the lamps, see to the furnace, help with the cooking,
and the wife must stay by the house pretty closely and probably decline
most invitations. For the five persons, ten dollars a week for raw-food
materials and five for its preparation is the lowest limit likely to be
cheerfully submitted to.
Rent, heat, light, etc..................... $400
Clothing hardly less than.................. 400
Children's education, even with free
schools, and their illnesses will use up. 100
Car-fares, church, etc..................... 100
Wages and sundries......................... 200
In the bank nothing.
But what shelter can this refined, intelligent family find to-day for
$400? Certainly nothing with modern conveniences. The lack of these is
_made up by women's work_--hard, rough work. And that is the crux of the
servant problem to-day. It is the reason why more families do not go into
the country to live. The work required in an old house to bring living up
to modern standards is too appalling to be undertaken lightly.
In England the Sunlight Park and other plans, in America the Dayton and
Cincinnati schemes, are samples of what is being done for the $500 to $800
family, but where are the examples (outside the Morris houses) for the
salaried class for whom we are pleading? The great army of would-be
home-makers are forced into a nomadic life by the exigencies resulting
from the great combines--a shifting of offices, a closing of factories, a
breaking up of hundreds of homes. I believe this to be the _chief factor_
in the decline of the American home--a hundred-fold more potent than the
college education of women.
The unthinking comment on this rise in the cost of shelter is usually
condemnation of greedy landlords and soulless capitalists; but is that the
In the present order of things it seems to be inevitable that the gain of
one class in the community is loss to another. Probably the law has always
existed, and only the very rapid and sudden changes bring it into
prominence, because of the swift readjustment needed, an operation which
torpid human nature resents when consciously pressed.
For instance, the efforts of the philanthropist and working man together
have succeeded in shortening hours of labor and increasing wages--without,
alas! increasing the speed or quality of the work done, especially in the
trades which have to do with materials of construction, so that
house-building has about doubled in cost within twenty-five years, largely
due to cost of labor. This increased cost has fallen heavily on the very
group of people least able to bear it, the skilled artisan, the teacher,
and the young salaried man. Again I call attention to the need of a
philanthropist who shall raise his eyes to that group, the hope of our
democracy, those whom he has held to be able to help themselves--and given
time would do so; but time is the very thing denied them in this motor
age. Help to make quick adjustment must come to the rescue of those to
whom time more than equals money.
One used to wait patiently for seed-sown lawns to become velvety turf.
Money can bring sod from afar and in a season give the results of years.
So the housing of the $2000 family can be accomplished just as soon as it
seems sufficiently desirable. It needs a research just as truly as the
cancer problem or desert botany, and affects thousands more.
One other cause of increased cost in construction and operation which
does, if wisely carried out, increase health and efficiency is the
sanitary provision of our recent building laws.
The instalment of these sanitary appliances becomes increasingly costly
because of the rise in wages of the workmen, plumbers, masons, etc. The
careful statistics of the Bureau of Labor show conclusively that all
building trades have decreased hours of labor and increased wages per
hour, so that cost of construction has doubled, and the sanitary
requirements have again doubled the cost, so that it is easy to see why
the family with a stationary income has quartered its dwelling-space.
The end is not yet: the new devices mentioned in previous chapters will at
first increase cost of construction.
From lack of business training the public is at fault in estimating
relative costs. A well-built "automatic house" costs too much, they say.
Yes, but what does it save? Cost looms large, saving seems small.
Moreover, the value of mental serenity, of that peace of mind consequent
on the smooth running of the domestic machine, is undervalued. The
American child such as he is is largely the product of the American house
and its ill adapted construction. I must reiterate my belief that the
modification of the house itself to the life the twentieth century is
calling for is the first step in social reform.
THE RELATION BETWEEN COST OF HOUSING AND TOTAL INCOME.
"It must be made possible to live within one's income."
The thrifty French rule is one fifth for rent. In towns where land is
cheap and wood abundant, or in college communities exempt from taxes,
comfortable housing is found in this country for as little as fifteen or
eighteen per cent of the total income. In some mining towns where all
prospects are uncertain and the house has no particular social
significance the rent may be even lower, although it is often very high.
It depends on the demand, on competition rather than quality. In our older
and more settled communities it is most common for rent to use up one
fourth the salary of all town dwellers with incomes within our limits.
This was true in Boston fifty years ago, and it is true to-day in dozens
of cities and towns personally investigated. It is not unknown that a
teacher or business man should exceed this in the hope of a rise in
salary by the second year. Adding the expenses of operating the house, of
repairs and additions and improvements if the house is owned, nearly half
the money available must go for the mere housing of the family.
If it is true, as I believe it is, that for each fraction over one fifth
spent for rent a saving must be made in some other direction--in the daily
expense, less service, less costly food, or less expensive clothing, or,
last to be cut down, less of the real pleasure of life,--it will be seen
what a far-reaching question this is, how it touches the vital point, to
have or not to have other good things in life.
A large part of the increase is due, as we have said, to increased demand
for sanitary conveniences, but far more potent is the pressure resulting
from the price of land.
This pressure has led to the building of smaller and smaller apartments,
so that four and six rooms are made out of floor-space sufficient for two.
It sounds better to say we have a six-room flat, even though there is no
more privacy than in two rooms, for the rooms are mere cells unless the
doors are always open. It is not uncommon in such suites renting for $50
to $60 per month for six rooms, to find three of them with only one window
on one side, with no chance for cross-ventilation unless the doors of the
whole suite are open.
This style of building prevails even in the suburbs where air and
sunshine should be free. The would-be renter looking at such suites with
all the doors open and the rooms innocent of fried fish and bacon does not
think of the place as it _will be_ under living conditions when privacy
can be had only by smothering.
The model tenements in New York rent for one dollar per week per room; the
better houses for double, or two dollars for 450 cubic feet. Many of those
I have examined renting for forty to sixty dollars per month give no more
space for the money, only a little better finish--marble and tile in the
bath-room, for instance.
The three-room tenement does, however, shelter as many persons as the
six-room flat, hence there is more real overcrowding. In all these grades
of shelter it is fresh air that is wanting. What wonder the white plague
is always with us? What remedy so long as millions sleep in closets with
no air-currents passing through?
Accepting the French rule, the artisan who rents the model tenement at
$3.50 per week should earn $3 a day wage for six days. If he earn only $2,
then more than one quarter must go for housing. There are hundreds of
Italian families in New York who pay only $2 _per month_ for such shelter
as they have, but it is only providing for the primitive idea of mere
shelter, not for the comforts of a true home life. After the fashion of
early man, these people spend their lives in the open air, eat wherever
they may be, and use this makeshift shelter as protection from the weather
and as a place of deposit for such articles as they do not carry about
with them and for such weaklings as cannot travel.
As man rises in the scale of wants he pays more, in attention and in
money, for housing, because he leaves wife and children to its comforts
while he goes forth to his daily tasks. As ideals rise, the proportion
rises until even one third of his earnings goes for mere shelter. But this
limits his desires in other directions, so that it becomes a pertinent
question, when is it right to give as much as one third of the moderate
income for housing? As every heart knows its own bitterness, so every man
knows his own business and what proportion of his income he is _willing_
to spend for a house, for the comforts of life pertain largely to bed and
board. It must be acknowledged, however, that comfort and discomfort are
so largely matters of habit and personal point of view that education as
to ideals is an important duty of society in its own defence.
If two people without children prefer to spend more on shelter than on any
other one thing, then with $3000 a year, $1000 may be given for rent if
that covers heat, light, and general outside care. But the _family_ with
children to consider must not think of allowing one third for rent under
our very highest limit of $5000 a year, and it is unwise even then. In
fact the ratio must be governed by circumstances. It is true, however,
that the conditions must be interpreted by a fixed principle in living and
not by any mere fashion or prejudice of the moment.
The one question every person asks when these suggested improvements are
discussed is, but how much will it cost? Thus confessing that cost, not
effectiveness, is the measure; that old ideals as to money value still
rule the world. It costs too much to have a furnace large enough to warm a
sufficient volume of air, it costs too much to put in safe plumbing, it
costs too much to keep the house clean, and so on through the list. We
have been too busy getting and spending money to study the cost of neglect
of cardinal principles of right living. The farmer knows the cost of his
young animals, but the father cares little and knows less of what it ought
to cost to bring up his children--of the economy of spending wisely on a
safe shelter for them.
A new estimate of what necessary things must cost has to be made before
the present generation will live comfortably in presence of the
Here again a readjustment is coming; some expenses in house construction
common now will be lessened or done away with; for example, fancy shapes,
grooved and carved wood, projecting windows and door-frames.
It is usual, when the various new methods are brought up, to estimate the
cost as additional to all that has gone before, rather than to see in it a
substitute for much that may go.
Our family with $1500 income may safely pay $300 for rent, if that covers
enough comfort and does not mean too much car-fare.
The house may cost $3000 if built on the old lines, and if the land it is
placed on is not too expensive.
A fire-proof house such as is described in the July number of the
_Brickbuilder and Architect_, 85 Water St., Boston, and probably also a
house of reinforced concrete, will cost at present some $10,000 besides
the land. Because of freedom from repairs it should be possible to rent
such houses for $500, which will bring them within the reach of our $3000
a year family, but not within the means of the $2000. What is to be done?
It will be remarked by some that little attention has been given in these
pages to the various so-called cooperative plans, like Mrs. Stuckert's
oval of fifty houses connected by a tramway at each level, with a central
kitchen from which all meals come and to which all used dishes return,
with a central office from which service is sent, etc.
Frankly, to my mind this is not enough better than the apartment hotel, as
we now know it, to pay for the effort to establish it. As now evolved by
demand, the establishments renting from one to fifteen thousand a year are
on progressive lines. According to Mr. Wells, this shareholding class is
on the way to extinction in any case, fortunately he also thinks, and the
student of social economics need not concern himself with its future, only
so far as its example influences the real bone and sinew of the republic,
the working men and women who make the world the place it is.
Within the ten-mile radius it has been usual to include a front yard, if
not a garden, in the house-lot. The cost of keeping this in the trim
fashion decreed as essential, of planting and pruning of shrubs, of
maintaining in immaculate condition the sidewalks and front steps, like
most of the items in cost of living, is due to changed standards, just as
the cost of table-board has advanced from $3 to $6 without a corresponding
betterment in quality.
Engle's law, "The lodging, warming, and lighting have an invariable
proportion whatever the income," does not hold under modern conditions for
the group we are considering, for our wise ones need the best, and not a
few of them are unwilling to buy their family sanctity at the price of a
closet in the basement for the faithful maid.
Plans may look well on paper, the completed house may seem attractive, but
when the family _live_ in the house its deficiencies become apparent.
Cheap materials, flimsy construction, damp location, any one of a dozen
possibilities may make the family uncomfortable, may cost in heating and
doctor's bills, may compel a moving before the year is out. Cheap houses
in this decade are suspicious; the more need for a knowledge on the part
of young people of what may be expected.
For this reason it is a part of sound education to give a certain amount
of attention to living conditions in the high-school curriculum. It is as
important as book-keeping; for of what avail are money and business, if
the home life is perilled? Besides, some of the pupils may have attention
called to deficiencies which they may show talent in overcoming.
Courses in Home Economics and Household Administration in colleges and
universities should be directed to careful study of this branch of
There is a great opportunity before women's clubs and civic-improvement
associations to arouse an interest in the provision of suitable shelter
for the young families in their several neighborhoods. Concerted movement
by the Federation could revolutionize public opinion within a decade.
The student of social science may well say that the first effort should be
directed to a rise in the pay of these educated young men; that no family
should be expected to live on the sums here considered; that it is not
right even to consider a way out on the present basis. Possibly so. Much
agitation is abroad in relation to the pay of teachers, clerks, and
skilled workmen, but that is another question which cannot be considered
The salaried class has so enormously increased of late years because of
the great consolidation of business interests that the final adjustment
has not been made. The one fact of uncertain tenure of position and
uncertain promotion has profoundly affected living conditions, ownership
of the family abode, and, incidentally, marriage.
There are prizes enough, however, to keep the young people on the alert
for advancement, and they feel it more likely to come if they establish
themselves as if it had arrived.
There is no denying that in the estimation of a large number of the groups
we are considering, the question of neat and orderly service, the capped
and aproned maid, the liveried bell-boy and butler, express--like the
smoothly shaven lawn--a certain social convention; and because it means
expense, the house in working order means more than shelter: it sets forth
pecuniary standing in the community. So long as this means social standing
also, so long will the professional and business family on $2000 a year be
shut out, because these adjuncts to a luxurious living are impossible. Can
society afford to shut out the intellectual and mentally progressive
element, or must it accept as normal these salaries and make it
respectable to begin on them? It is the strain which unessential social
conventions give to the young families that leads the business father to
speculate in order to get into the $10,000-a-year class, and that leads
the young scientific and literary man to take extra work outside of his
normal duties. This sort of thing cannot go on without serious danger to
the Republic. Cleanliness and good manners should be insisted upon, but
they may be secured on $3000 a year if too much else is not required. How
to secure them on $1500 is a problem to be solved, for cleanliness costs
more each decade.
After all is said, if the young people have an earnest _purpose_ in life
it is easy to plan a method of living and to carry it out. The sacrifices
one must make in the house superficially, in the consideration of a
certain class, are cheerfully borne and soon forgotten.
Little discomforts which affect only one's feelings and not one's health
make rather good stories after they are over. What is worth while? Are we
become too sensitive to little things? Do we imagine we show our higher
civilization by discerning with the little princess the pea under
twenty-four feather beds?
Let our shelter be first of all healthful, physically and morally. If to
gain these qualities we must take a house in an unfashionable
neighborhood, it should not cause distress. Why is this particular region
unfashionable? Is it not merely because certain would-be leaders choose
to live beyond their means in company with those who are able to spend
Why not be honest and happy? Live within your income and make it cover the
truest kind of living.
TO OWN OR TO RENT: A DIFFICULT QUESTION.
"Half the sting of poverty is gone when one keeps house for
one's own comfort and not for the comment of one's neighbors."
When the ideals of an older generation are forced upon a younger, already
struggling under new and strange environment, the effect is often opposite
to that intended. The elders in their pride of knowledge, and the
real-estate promoters in their greed for gain, have been urging the young
man to own his house on penalty of shirking his plain duty. They say he
must have a home to offer his bride, as the bird has a nest. Building-loan
associations, homes on the instalment plan, appeal to the sentiments they
think the young man ought to heed.
The young man is often modest, almost always sensitive, and he prefers to
bear dispraise rather than to tell the real reason he hesitates. His ear
is closer to the ground, he feels even if he cannot express the doubt of
the disinterestedness of the land-scheme promoter, of the wisdom of his
father. He knows better than his elders the uncertainties of salaried men,
young men with a way to make in the unstable conditions of to-day.
The effect of this well-meant advice is not to hasten his marriage, but to
put it off because he is not allowed to take the course he feels safest.
Or if he is willing, the parents of his prospective bride are not, and so
young people do not marry on $1000 a year, for fear of the elder
generation and their supposed wisdom.
The young people are not justified by present-day conditions in owning a
house on an income of $2000 a year _unless_
(1) They have money to put into it which it will not cripple them for life
(2) They care so much for the idea of ownership that they are willing to
take the risk of losing one half the investment should they be compelled
(3) They possess the fortitude to give it up at the call of duty after all
they have lavished on it;
(4) They care enough for the real education and the real fun they will get
out of it to save in other ways what the running and repairs will cost
_over and above the amount estimated_. This saving will be largely by
doing many things with their own hands.
To be bound hand and foot either by unsalable real estate or by sentiment
is an uncomfortable condition for the young family who may find itself in
uncongenial surroundings, in an unhealthful situation, or who may need to
Another serious objection to building and owning a house in the first
years of married life is the chance that the house will be too large or
too small, or the railroad station will be moved, or the trolley line will
be run under the garden window, or a smoking chimney will fill the library
with soot (although the latter will not be permitted in the real
A new element has come into the question of ownership by the family of
limited means which did not meet the elder generation of house-owners. In
the past the repairs were confined to a coat of paint now and then, new
shingles, an added hen-house, or a bay window. The well might have to be
deepened, but little expense was put into or onto the house for fifty
years. The married son or daughter might add a wing, but the main house
once built was never disturbed. In the modern plastic condition of both
ideals and materials this is all changed. In any city well known to my
readers how many streets bear the same aspect as five years ago? In any
suburban village made familiar by the trolley how many houses are the same
as five years ago? Even if their outward aspect is not changed, that worst
of all havocs, new plumbing, has been put in. The installation of neither
furnace nor plumbing is accomplished once for all; at the end of ten years
at most repairs or replacement must be made on penalty of loss of health.
As the community grows in wisdom and in knowledge it makes sanitary
regulations more stringent notwithstanding the fact that the increase in
expense bears most heavily on the small householder with a family whose
need is out of proportion to the income. Many a parent who grieves the
loss of his child would gladly have paid a reasonable sum for repairs, but
would have been in the poor debtors' court if he had allowed the plumbers
to enter his house. The new laws made since he bought his house require
diametrically opposite things, and the old fittings must all be torn out
as well as four times as costly put in.
It is a sad fact that the advantages of all modern sanitation are so often
denied to those who need and who would appreciate them. The renter has
here an advantage over the owner. He can call for an examination by the
city or town inspector before he takes a lease; the capitalist owner must
then put matters right. But as yet a man has a right to live with leaky
sewer- or gas-pipes in his own house without being disturbed by an
inspector. How far into the century this will be allowed is uncertain; in
time there will be an inspection of the premises of the small owner.
The only remedy in sight is for an investment of capital in up-to-date
houses of various grades in city, suburbs, and country; such investment to
bring 4 per cent, not 40, or even 15, unless by rise of land values. No
better use of idle money could be made at the present time. In
"Anticipations" Mr. Wells writes: "The erection of a series of
experimental labor-saving houses by some philanthropic person for
exhibition and discussion would certainly bring about an extraordinary
advance in domestic comfort; but it will probably be many years before the
cautious enterprise of advertising firms approximates to the economies
that are theoretically possible to-day." This is truer now than when Mr.
Wells was writing.
The great difficulty in the way is the first outlay. So many things will
have to be designed, patterns made and machinery built to make them; for
this advance in construction will not be by hand-made things. There will
be more head-work put into the various articles, but the mass of
constructive material must be machine-made, at least for the family of
limited income. And these articles need not be ugly. There must be many of
the same kind in the world, to be sure; but if the design fits the
purpose, this may not be an evil. No one objects to a beautiful elm-tree
in his field because in hundreds of fields there are similar elm-trees.
Slight variations in finish, color, etc., can give individuality to the
Therefore the first outlay for the new order will be beyond the purse of
any single family of this group. If we had learned to cooperate sanely, a
group might undertake it, but the most probable method will be for some
far-sighted men to agree to sink a certain amount of money in experiment,
just as they now sink money in prospecting a mine with all the uncertainty
it brings. Ability to _risk_ in an experiment must go hand in hand with
capital to use.
The objection commonly made is that all individuality will be taken away,
that each one must live like every one else in the neighborhood. This is
not an essential consequence, but will it be so impossible to have a
certain similarity in the dwellings of like-minded people? In
"Anticipations" it is declared that "Unless some great catastrophe in
Nature breaks down all that man has built, these great kindred groups of
capable men and educated adequate women must be under the forces we have
considered so far, the element finally emergent amid the vast confusions
of the coming time."
[Footnote 1: Anticipations, pp. 153-4.]
The practical people, the engineering and medical and scientific people,
will become more and more _homogeneous_ in their fundamental culture.
The decreasing of the space one can call one's own within urban limits has
so steadily increased, and the need for freer air has become so fully
recognized, that the case of the single householder in the suburbs and
even in the country is bound to press harder and harder. The group system
elsewhere referred to, with central heating plant and workers of all
grades at telephone-call, will make possible at a reasonable rent within
easy reach of the city the single household of one, two, or three, as the
case may be, and if without children of their own, to such shelter may
come some of those homeless little ones we have with us always, to share
in the sun and wind and garden. In the real country, with acres instead of
feet of land, much of the same kind of elaborate simplicity will be found.
Certainly the same kind of fire-proof house of only one story with more
light, "roofs of steel and glass on the louver principle," will obviate so
frequent a change of air as a shut-in house requires, and give more
In the city? Since physicians will surely be more insistent on light, as
well as fresh air, roof-gardens and balconies and glazed walls, so to
speak, will be arranged by the architect so as not to offend the eye and
yet to accomplish the results. He will cease from trying to put the new
ideas of the twentieth century into the old houses of the eighteenth or
fifteenth even, and that beauty, which is fitness, will come forth from
the tangle of ugliness everywhere. If, as the economist tells us, "cost
measures lack of adjustment," then the perfectly adjusted house will not
be costly in reality, it will be adapted to the production and protection
of effective human beings.
The cellar has for some years been changing to a storage for trunks
instead of vegetables. The old-fashioned housewife exclaims at the lack of
storage in the house of to-day, and we are eliminating it still more. A
twentieth-century axiom is, "Throw or give away everything you have not
immediate or prospective use for." It is as true of household furniture as
of books; only the very best is of any value second-hand. Our young people
may have heirlooms, but they will buy very little in the way of sideboards
or first editions. The moral of modern tendencies is, buy only what you
are sure you will need or what you care for so intensely that you will
keep it come what may. Housing of possible treasures is far too
At the foundation of the ethical side of ownership is the primitive
impulse of possession, that ownership which led to wife-capture, to feudal
castles, to accumulation of things, and to-day is expressed by the man who
prefers to have his steak cooked in his own kitchen even if it is burned.
It is notorious that most of us put up with discomfort if it is caused by
_our own_. A family of eight will use one bath-room without murmur if the
house is theirs, but will complain loudly if the landlord will not add two
without increasing the rent.
At the foundation of what seem exorbitant rents is this demand for modern
improvements in old houses, and the atrocious carelessness of tenants of
property. It is not their own, and they do not obey the golden rule in the
use of it.
Every five years or so plumbing laws are changed, and if an old house is
touched the fixtures and pipes must be all renewed. Tenants have learned
to fear the sanitation of old houses, and yet abuse the appliances they
should care for.
Public ownership or corporate ownership or an increased lawlessness are
accountable for a disregard of others' rights and of property which is
unnecessarily increasing the cost of living.
I have said elsewhere that it is not because the landlord does not want
children in the house but because he does not want such ill-bred children,
vandals, who have no respect for anything. He charges high rent because
his investment is good for only ten years.
The shibboleth of duty to own a home has so strong a hold on the moral
sense of the people that it is made use of by the promoter who may in some
cases think himself the philanthropist he intends others to call him. I
mean that the duty of owning and the heinousness of paying rent are so
ingrained that buying on the instalment plan has seemed a righteous thing,
even with the examples of broken lives in plain sight. As an incentive to
save, if there were anything to save, it might have been justified in the
days of feudalism. But for an independent American to confess that he
cannot put money in the bank, and that he must bind himself and his family
to slavery, for the sake of owning a bit of property which they will
probably wish to sell before they have it paid for, is disgraceful.
Intelligent men should see that here is the profit in the transaction;
that enough go to the wall to pay for the trouble of the rest, just as in
life insurance enough die before the expected time to put money in the
pockets of the riskers.
A drunken father may need to be held, but the young professor, the lawyer,
the engineer, should have sufficient self-respect and firmness to save
that which in his judgment is necessary, without being tied by "the
instalment plan." This method is a very viper in the finances of to-day.
The wise business man never ventures more than he can afford to lose in a
risk, but the man who takes bread and milk from his children to invest in
"a sure thing" takes a risk with what is not his to give.
To buy land for investment is another supposed virtue, an inheritance from
the time when slow growth, once started in a given direction, kept on, so
that great acumen was not needed to buy; but that is all changed to-day.
Only those "in the ring" can tell where the "boom" will go next.
In these days of unparalelled rapidity of change in industrial and social
conditions it is most undesirable for a man to be hampered by a shell
which is too large to carry about with him and too valuable to be left
behind. To each reader will occur instances of the refusal of an
advantageous offer because the family home could not be realized upon at
once, the location once so favorable had become undesirable, and the
values put into it could not be recovered because of social conditions
following industrial changes.
The keen observer hesitates in view of all these conditions to advise any
young man to invest in real estate for a home beyond a sum which he can
afford to lose if need arises to move. These changes carry a need for
mobilization of its army of workers. The encumbrance of family Lares and
Penates cannot be tolerated. Only a small per cent of young men are to-day
sure of remaining in the city in which they begin business. What folly to
encumber themselves with real estate which, sold at a sacrifice, brings
barely half its price! Moral exhorters have not carefully considered this
side of the question in their arguments for house-owning and
family-rearing as anchors to the young man.
The fact noted earlier is a case in point. After the wedding-cards were
out the bridegroom was transferred to the charge of the company's office
in another city.
The expenses necessitated by these frequent removals make an
unaccounted-for item in many incomes.
If the young couple have saved or inherited between them, say, $3000,
shall they build a home with it? Decidedly not. Because the house will
cost $5000 before they are done. Not only because of the unexpected in
strikes and change in prices of materials, but because, as the plans take
shape, the wife or the husband or both will see so many little points
which they will ask for, the paper plan not having conveyed a definite
idea to either. An excellent plan was carried out by a college woman. She
made a model to scale in pasteboard, of such a size that every essential
detail was shown in its relation to other portions of the structure.
Even if these young people do not yield at the moment of building, they
will probably wish they had yielded when they come to live in the house.
There will be nothing for it but to mortgage the place to make it
satisfactory. One cannot take up a newspaper without finding notice after
notice, reading, "Must be sold to pay the mortgage."
Exorbitant rent is of course social waste, and society must protect its
ablest young people from their own folly; but when they understand the
rules of the financial game better they will lend themselves more readily
to some cooperative plan of relief.
It is, as I well know, rank heresy, but I firmly believe that building and
owning of houses can be afforded only by those having the higher limit of
income, $3000 to $5000 a year, _unless_ the person has a permanent
position or a business of great security, and in these days who can be
_sure_ of anything?
When the land-scheme promoter advertises homes on the instalment plan,
beware of the trap!
Let no one buy in the suburbs from a sense of duty and then hate the life.
Comfort in living is far more in the brains than in the back.
It is so easy for a man or woman with one set of ideals to do that which
another would consider impossible drudgery.
My final advice is that the sensible young couple both of whom agree about
essentials, and who are willing and glad to work together for a common
end, and who love nature and gardening and believe in family life so
strongly as not to miss the crowd and theatres, may safely start a home in
the country with a garden, and pets for the children, if they have a
reasonable prospect of ten years in one spot. Let them make the place
attractive for some family, even if they have to leave it.
The women of this group will, I believe, have the qualities Mr. Wells
predicts: not only intelligence and education, but a reasonableness and
reliability not always found to-day.
Unless a reasonable prospect of ten years' occupancy is assured, then
begin life in a rented house, not necessarily in a flat. Begin with a few
things of your own some which have been yours for years, some which you
have bought together and which have a meaning for one of you and are not
irritating to the other.
Devote a part of your leisure to a critical study of the house you would
like, draw plans, make sketches in color, study color effects, learn about
fabrics, collect them for the future. You will find an amusing and
The essential point is to begin this life on two thirds of what you have
reason to expect as the year's income; keep the rest invested or in the
bank. There are to-day many temptations to spend for things attractive in
themselves but not necessary to the effective life. If friends are so
silly as to rally you on living in an unfashionable quarter, ask them in
to see your sketches and plans, and talk them into enthusiasm over the
idea. Do missionary work with them rather than be ridiculed out of your
convictions. It sometimes seems as if young people had no convictions, as
if they drifted with the wind of newspaper suggestion. So do not allow
your friends to drive you to greater expense than you have determined
upon, lest the end of the first two years of life find you in debt with no
fair start for the baby, whose life should begin in an atmosphere of quiet
assurance that all is well. It is not impossible that the nervous
irritability and recklessness of many are due to the atmosphere of
childhood. Then remember that _the welfare and security of the child is
the watchword of the future_.
A FEW BOOKS.
Anticipations. H.G. Wells.
Mankind in the Making. H.G. Wells. Scribners.
A Modern Utopia. H.G. Wells. Scribners.
Twentieth-century Inventions: a Forecast. Geo. Sutherland.
Longmans, Green, & Co.
The Level of Social Motion. Michael Lane. Macmillan.
The Theory of the Leisure Class. Thorstein Veblen. Macmillan.
The Woman who Spends. Whitcomb and Barrows.
Physical Deterioration: Its Causes and their Cure. A. Watt Smyth.
Shelter. Syllabus 94, Home Education Dept, Univ. of N.Y.
State Library, Albany.
Report of the Tenement-house Commission.
Age, spirit of the
Albert's, Prince, advice
Back, bending the
Badges of toil
Bureau of Labor, U.S.
Care of rooms
Carpentry in high school
deterioration of manners of
Class to work for
period, housebuilding of
Southern type of, houses
Commuter, trials of
of housing and total income
per person and per family
Deterioration of houses
Dishonesty in standards
Economics, home, exhibit
Engineering, definition of
Experience in doing
Friction due to house
Habit, perils of
Anglo-Saxon meaning of
evidence of social standing
-maids, physical inefficiency of
planning in High School
Colonial, of New England
four classes of
Industries, disappearance of
Invasion of residential districts
remodelled, in Providence
Labor, Bureau of
Lane, Mr. Michael
Leaven of progress
"Level of Social Motion"
Lodge, Sir Oliver
Making of things
Marriage, responsibility of
Middle, leaven of progress in
Model Tenement Association, New York
measure of success
Morison, Geo. S
Morris Building Co
Neill, Chas. P., extracts from address by
New Epoch, The
Own or rent
Parsons, Wm. Barclay
Patronage of the arts
Permanence in homestead, lack of
Pettingill, Miss [Transcriber's Note: Pettengill in text.]
Physical ill-being in
Place of the house
Possibilities in sight
Private life shabby
Question, a difficult
Regeneration, force for
Residential districts, invasion of
Responsibility of marriage
Return to nature
Rights to property, etc.
English, Inspectors Association, President of
faithful, lack of
Sewer connection, houses without
Shelter, marrying for
Sheltering the children
Spirit of the age
Stone, Mary Lowell, Home Economics Exhibit
Study, lack of
Sunlight Park, England
N.Y. Model, Association
U.S. Bureau of Labor
Watchword of the future
Well-being of community threatened
Women, corporation of
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