Chapter IV, "Everyman's House" book, by Caroline Bartlett Crane Creator
Crane, Caroline Bartlett, 1858-1935, author Institution
Western Michigan University Subject
Architecture, Domestic Subject
Better Homes in America Item Number
Part of Caroline Bartlett Crane "Everyman's House" Collection Type
collection, text Format
EVERYMAN AND HIS RESOURCES
Let the grand houses prosper as they can;
We sing the little house of Everyman.
AND who is Everyman? He is the man who cannot have the 'grand house,' but should be able to have the decent, attractive, convenient 'little house.'
'The wage-earner,' at once said the newspapers and the general public. 'They are building a ?model house' for the wage-earner and his family.'
'You're right,' we said. 'But not any more for the wage-earner than for the grocer, or the photographer, or the doctor, or the lawyer. We are building that house to help any family in which the father finds it none too easy to make both ends meet, and the mother does all her own work.' The idea of the wage-earner being in special need of our philanthropic assistance causes a
smile as I look out of my study window. Lined up at the curb are four automobiles belonging to the plumbers, carpenters, and electricians who, with their own skilful hands and understanding, are building an addition to our house. Every one of these cars is a more expensive one than that driven by the professional man who will pay them. This suggested that if I were a man and wanted to lead a literary life, I would finish college and then learn a good trade, like the carpenter's trade. I would earn my bread, and perhaps think up my 'situations,' in my regular forty-four hours a week. Then I would have another forty-four hours, more or less, for writing my books with some eighty hours left for sleeping and eating and the other concerns of life. Also, I wouldn't have anybody continually exhorting me to 'take exercise.' My exercise would be 'velvet' from my carpentering, with no waste of literary time. And some day I would up with hammer and--and ax and build me that Little House I'd always wanted; and then I would sit down in it and write a perfectly lovely book about it.
We did not, then, build our house especially
as an example for the wage-earner, forgetting the difficulties and struggles of the business man and the professional man who has no day's wages or fixed income to count upon.
'But,' says someone, 'you have, after all, built a home far past the possibilities of the great masses of the people. The unskilled day-labourer could never hope to achieve a home like that.'
To this we do not in the least agree, if what is meant is, that the fundamental plan of Everyman's House is beyond the reach of a healthy, ordinarily intelligent, industrious, frugal day-labourer who has a wife with the same qualities and the same desires for a home. Why, it is only a five-room-and-bath-story-and-a-half house! It is absurd to pronounce that beyond the possibilities of such a man. Oak floors, choice lumber, built-in bathtub, perhaps. Perhaps, indeed, none but the most necessary of plumbing fixtures, at first. Perhaps no built-in cupboards now, but just the place for them and temporary shelves.
But you may have noted already that these things are not essential to our plan. The essentials of the plan are: the arrangement and
relation of the rooms, one to the other; and the utilization to the best possible advantage of every inch of space under that roof. If a day-labourer can ever hope to own any kind of a five-room house--and hosts of them do now own five-room houses--then Everyman's House is a plan for him, as much as it is for the man with an assured income of $3,000 or more.
But a day-labourer thus aspiring must not be casual or peripatetic. He must be both able and willing to anchor in a home of some sort and become a part of the community. When he wants a building loan, he must have, not only some savings to begin with, but a record of personal character and sustained industry. He can build up this record in Kalamazoo or any other place; but he can't build it up in short shifts in a half-dozen places in succession. If it is his own fault that he is a 'casual' and wanderer, then it is the plan of him, and not of the house, that needs to be revised. If it is owing to industrial or other conditions over which he has no control, then society must find a way out. We must never rest satisfied with any scheme of things which
assumes that there is any class or cross-section of our people who 'of course' cannot hope to be 'home-owners'--at least, not owners of decent, attractive, convenient little homes!
So the Everymans mean, about 90 per cent.[sic] of all of us; folks who aren't concerned with the 'grand houses,' but who are vitally interested in the little home they have--or hope to have.
How dear that hope is to the hearts of people we were made to feel from the questions showered upon us during Demonstration Week. 'How much would it cost to build such a house?' and 'How can we get the money to build?' That is indeed the crucial question. For if a man had money enough to pay for a home out-of-hand, he would hardly answer to the name of 'Everyman.'
We were greatly surprised at the lack of information along this line displayed by hundreds of people who consulted us during 'Better Homes' Week. Thinking this lack probably not local, I shall here repeat some of the things that were told to applicants for information. I realize, however, that popular methods of financing home-building differ
somewhat in different localities, though the chief agency, the building and loan association, is a fairly nationwide institution. I am informed that its principles and methods have a similarity, whether it be the Michigan Plan or the Ohio Plan or the Pennsylvania Plan to name those I have heard most about.
Here is an anxious questioner who is meditating a loan from another source, and upon difficult terms; for not only interest, but also a bonus, is charged. We would say to him:
'Let us suppose that the lot for this prospective house of yours cost $1,000, as ours did, because of the singularly fine location already described. (Your own lot may perhaps cost only half that.) But suppose you have paid $1,000 for a lot and you want to build a $5,000 house. Well, the answer to your crucial question is the building and loan association.
To this man and to many others our committee explained how it was possible (if their building plans and personal credentials proved satisfactory) to borrow two thirds of the prospective value of the house and lot combined, [footnote 1]
[footnote 1] Sixty per cent.[sic] if beyond the city limits.
securing the loan by first mortgage on the property. That would mean, in their case, a loan of $4,000. They would have about twelve years (140 months) in which to pay this back in monthly instalments[sic] with interest at 6.96 per cent. This, I am informed, is about the average over the country.
But he would also acquire stock in the association. (The Michigan law requires a borrower to be a stockholder.) This stock is acquired through the monthly instalments[sic] paid back by him as a borrowing member, and this money (in our leading building and loan association here) draws interest at the same rate he is paying on his four-thousand-dollar loan. These monthly payments are continued till the stock matures, and at that time the shares are cancelled, and the mortgage also, and his home is his, free of debt; though, to be sure, he and his family have been enjoying that home as theirs during all this twelve or thirteen years. They have paid for their own home instead of merely paying rent.
But suppose the prospective home-builder has not the necessary one third in order to borrow the other two thirds for building a
home? The answer to that, in Kalamazoo, is the new Home Owning Clubs which were formed during the progress of our campaign by our leading building and loan association. People are invited to deposit weekly or monthly amounts on a savings account with the building and loan association, on which they receive interest of from 5 to 6 per cent.
If, for example, a man paid twenty dollars a month for five years, he would then find himself in possession, principal and interest, of about fourteen hundred dollars toward building a home--or for any other purpose, for that matter. You don't have to use it for building. It is a splendid investment, anyhow.
This last fact was one that we urged upon the people of our city and vicinity who had no need to borrow. Invest your money in the building and loan association. It will pay you handsomely, and it will provide the association with the needed capital to lend to people who want to build homes. In fact, we are still telling people that to buy investment shares in the building and loan association is one of the best public services they can render. Also, it is an indirect but valuable service to
their own prosperity. It helps powerfully to make up that deficit of 500,000 homes in America with which 'Better Homes in America' is struggling. The greatest need of almost every city is to increase the precious quota of its steady, responsible, home-owning citizens. So we entreat citizens of good public spirit to become investment shareholders in their local building and loan associations.[footnote 1]
The National Retail Lumber Dealer for May, 1924, contained an article on 'The Second Mortgage Plan' which interested our committee. Briefly, it is this: In order to enable home-builders to borrow a sum additional to that which will be loaned upon the prospective value of house and lot, the business men of a city subscribe a fund to secure the private notes of these borrowers at the bank. These notes are paid off, in monthly instalments[sic], in from five to nine years. Schenectady, New York, Davenport, Iowa, and
[footnote 1]However, be sure that your local building and loan association is under adequate state control, and that it does not lend money at a distance from its base of operations. Many associations which do that have failed. The World's Work of October, 1924, has this warn-ing for both borrowing and investment shareholders, in an article entitled 'Investing in Building and Loan Associations.'
Gardner, Massachusetts, are named as the cities which have done most in this line. In Gardner, the local endorsement committee can go on bankable paper to the extent of $102,000, each of 102 men having assumed a liability of $1,000, which, however, is not binding upon their heirs or estate. In Gardner, during the three years the plan has been in operation under auspices of the Chamber of Commerce, home-building to the value of more than two hundred and fifty thousand dollars has been thus financed, and not a penny has been lost, according to the manager of the Gardner Chamber of Commerce. He adds:
'We believe that by encouraging people to own their own homes, and having a plan by which we can assist them, we have been responsible for one of the biggest building booms this community has ever seen.'
I wrote those pages about interest and stock and dividends and mortgages and things yesterday. I find I don't understand them very well this morning. I have a way of looking highly intelligent while the thing is being
explained to me and promptly forgetting it overnight. But let that not shake your confidence. I submitted these pages to an expert of the building and loan association and he gave them his unqualified O. K. And, furthermore, this is all highly important--as important, indeed, as the family budget, without which you may never be able to save enough to build your house at all!
That, too, is a dark subject I evade whenever possible. However, as I was lecturing recently upon some household topic, I came without any premonition, plump upon the budget in such a manner that it couldn't be decently dodged. So I discoursed upon it, extemporaneously but eloquently, I am sure--for my serious-faced audience hung upon my words. Then, in the middle of my most inflated period, I caught the amused eye of my husband. Plunk--my soaring Zeppelin crashed to earth! But with this parachute I rescued my self-respect:
'Now, I may say that, personally, I'd rather go to the poor house than keep any kind of a budget at all. Or any kind of an expense account, either, beyond bank stubs--when I
don't forget to fill ?em out. All the same, what I am telling you is for your own good. And, for that matter'--with a haughty stare toward a certain auditor in the third row--'I've even known physicians who balked at taking their own medicine!'
There! I feel less like a hypocrite in putting forth this financial chapter.