Sunday, November 28, 2021

Quests in the Sunday Paper: For a House and for a Gubernatorial Portrait

The Sunday paper has two long pieces that are very interesting. One is important generally, the other interesting more personally. Both are worth reading in print!

Front page today

The generally important one is on the continuing problem of the cost of housing. It will furnish material for conversation and debate, and will be productive in that way.

But its shape is a little dissatisfying. The very first version online had a headline something like, "Why so many are priced out of the Salem housing market while new home construction is at a 10 year high."

It has been revised to eliminate the "priced out" portion and focus on the 10 year high for construction. That is unfortunate, and simplifies the shape and initial impression of the article in more optimistic ways.

A double kind of romantic closure at end

And in fact the harmony in the piece may not be wholly earned. It ends with a kind of double romantic closure: Even after vicissitudes and difficulties, they got the house and they are starting a family.

But a different focus might have yielded a better analysis. Maybe tragedy is a better genre, tragedy for climate and tragedy for people who cannot afford housing. Above all, the tragedy of our continued obsession with the single house and a large yard.

Still not building enough

We might be at the point when we can no longer guarantee houses with garages and big yards. The single detached home, and its situation in swaths of lawn-and-driveway zoning, cannot be the standard for housing any more. Driving is a great problem for emissions, and our mania for garages and parking an ingredient or contributing factor. And finally, we still aren't building enough housing. Not just oneplexes and duplexes, but all kinds of housing.

From the SKATS 2019 RTSP appendices
(comments in red added)

This chart doesn't go back to the 70s, but it does show the 80s and 90s. 

Even with some quibbles, the piece shows the value of journalism and is worth subscribing or buying at the newsstand. (Previous notes on housing supply here. And a note on a story from 2013 on climate that also seemed to use the wrong genre. Unearned happy endings are a bit of a thing.)

A great quest story

Less important in any general way, but more delightful and interesting in immediate ways, Claire Withycombe's quest to find the official portrait of her ancestor Governor Withycombe is totally worth reading!

March 9th, 1919

Governor Withycombe is interesting also because the elevation of Ben Olcott from Secretary of State to Governor required settling many details that shape our succession plans today, twice invoked with Governor Kitzhaber's resignation and with Secretary of State Dennis Richardson's death in office. And of course Withycombe faced the 1918 flu. His story is interesting in several dimensions. 

And previously, with varying relations on Governors and portraits:

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