Shall I Build A House
after the War?
New Building Organizations
efficient and less costly building methods have so far been used mainly by organizations
which operate on a large scale. Because of their size they can get advantages
that are out of reach of the builder who puts up a few houses each year. These
larger builders buy materials in quantity and hence get lower prices; and they
can keep tighter control of their subcontractors. It is from these newer house-building
organizations that housing authorities expect the greatest help in reducing prices
of homes after the war.
Chief among them is the “operative builder.”
He builds on his own land and usually according to his own plans. Operative builders
have worked mainly in the medium- and low-priced fields where, as we have seen,
there is the greatest demand—and need—for more houses.
growth of operative builders was one of the features of the recovery period in
house building in the late 1930’s. In 1940 over half the FHA applications
came from such builders, who were usually found in and around large cities, where
their methods often enabled them to build a better house than their competitors
could for the same money.
Some operative builders construct homes for
rent, usually garden apartments. These often prove to be beautiful and desirable
types of housing, attractive to renters.
A unique kind of building organization
has been developed by some of the insurance companies. These corporations, seeking
ways of investing their money at a profit, have begun to build large housing projects.
Here the builder is an agent for the insurance company. He studies the condition
of the market, recommends projects, selects sites, directs the planning, chooses
the materials, and works out the building methods. He operates on a cost-plus-fixed-fee
contract. One insurance company has built about 17,000 rental units in New York
City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Alexandria, Virginia. The scale of operations
makes it possible to erect apartments and garden projects that give the tenant
good housing for less money.
In communities of 25,000 or less, another
new type of builder has arisen. The local lumberman or supplier of building materials
has become a dealer-builder. He finds the buyer, arranges the financing, undertakes
the actual construction, and supplies the materials. He also repairs and alters
old houses. Some dealer-builders have used prefabricated materials, thus saving
money on construction as well as on materials. Often this arrangement in which
the dealer is also the builder has lowered construction costs.
Some Special Reasons for High Prices