Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dream Homes Are Made of This

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman. Above photo originally appeared on Johnny Northside.

About six years ago, Paul Koenig and David Kohlenberger concocted a plan to build hundreds of "Dream Homes" throughout the Twin Cities, but primarily in north Minneapolis. Approximately 80 such homes were built before a moratorium on new construction in north Minneapolis was put into place. For once, I can say, "Thank GOD they were committing fraud and lying to each other and their investors about the income streams associated with the properties." That helped put a stop to these housing atrocities.

As the Eurythmics song referenced in the tile says, "I've traveled the world and the seven seas." I've shoveled out homes that were filled with dirt in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch. I've been in huts made entirely out of cow dung in Tanzania. Don't even get me started on El Salvador. And never ONCE have I been inside a dwelling as dreary as a Dream Home. Pictures are after the link, if you dare...

Just off of the kitchen, we have a dining room/living room area.  Note the baseboard heat.  That's the only heat source in the house.
Off of the "dining room" is a small (okay, ALL the rooms are small) area that supposedly serves as both the living room and a place where you can go when you want to hate your life.
In the night, parts of the kitchen cabinetry sneak away out of shame.
Pictures do not adequately describe how cheaply made just about every single item in this house really is.
My camera went out of focus here.  Its software couldn't conceive of a bedroom this small.  This is what Obama wanted to outlaw, calling it "cramped confinement torture," where one is placed in such a small box that they cannot fully stand, sit, or lay down.  Seriously, isn't there something in the Geneva Convention about this?
The closets aren't much better.
All of the "wood" doors in the house are made of the same compressed wood material as the cupboards.  I asked what the primary construction materials were for this house and was told, "Particle board and misery."
I've also noticed a pattern in many poorly-kept rental houses, where the area around the door handle is covered in smudges, dents, and even shoe marks.  This is the first time I've seen this on the INSIDE of a property though.
The listing says there are six bedrooms, which is misleading.  Harry Potter could stay here, making it seven bedrooms and even MORE rental income!
Psychological studies have shown a direct correlation between staring down such hallways and deep, crippling depression.
I know this is minor, but the door frames are covered in poor paint jobs like this.  If the people BUILDING the place couldn't be bothered with basic pride in their craftsmanship, then what do you expect from the renters?
Back to Harry Potter's room:  Dream Homes have no basement, but apparently there was a crawl space.  I had to peek around.  If I were in a horror movie, you'd all be yelling at the screen, "Don't go in there!  The monster's going to get you!"
Photo taken from the opening; I didn't go all the way down.
Aaaand this is when I decided that there was a rather high likelihood that something that looked like Gollum but could crawl on the ceiling would come scampering towards me and drag me into the abyss, never to be seen again.

Let's contrast that with how the previous listing, back in 2007 described this property:

"Great Single Family Home W/6 Bedrooms 2 Baths- Formal Dining Room- Light woodwork and neutral decor- Laundry and bedroom in main level, recent and immaculate THE HOUSE IS A TEN!." (Both the exclamation point AND period were in the original text.) This was apparently done with no level of sarcasm, because the house was listed at...wait for it...$323,000. Man, why didn't anyone BUY it?

The current listing is still overpriced, seeing as how they are not offering you cash money or their daughter's hand in marriage if you just please take this property from them. Even more insulting, part of the slideshow has pictures of various Minneapolis landmarks and parks that aren't anywhere NEAR the house. On these grounds, why not add photos of the Basilica, the famous cherry and spoon, or a Prince concert at First Ave?

I have a proposal that makes some money off of the sale of these houses AND gets them demolished. Remember those college fraternity fundraisers where someone bought a clunker of a car and charged $5 for a few swings of the sledgehammer on the piece of junk? We could do that here. And no worries; if you miss out on this one, there's still 79 more to go.


  1. It doesn't really look that bad from your pictures. I know you like old houses and hate how homes in the suburbs look and are made but camon, it looks alot better than most of the housing stock in NOMI

  2. Pics have snow on outside? Place looks fine to me.

  3. The previous anons that posted sound like slumlords to me. Or maybe just people with really bad taste.

    How is a crawl space for a basement a good example of "better than most of the housing stock in NOMI"?

    Did you see that uber cheap, Home Depot, cabinetry and sink? That stuff isn't built to last. It falls a part within a couple years, sometimes even months!

    Seriously you guys...

  4. Anon 3:03, I seriously doubt you know anything about the housing stock in NoMi if you're making a statement like that.

    Anon 4:11, I used a stock photo of the exterior of a Dream Home, seeing as how there is quite literally no difference between one Dream Home and the next from the outside.

    I.I., the "second generation" of Dream Homes were built with basements and garages, and (I think) better heating systems. Anyway, some of those ones are of a high enough quality that GMHC and other non-profits have rehabbed them. Still, overall you're correct. A 30-year mortgage will long outlive the Dream Home structures.

  5. Ya right. All the slumlords read these blogs. Like they care.

  6. At least one slumlord is believed to write another blog, and the property rights group with McGaughey et al have their own websites too, so yeah, whether they care or not, I wouldn't be surprised if they read this blog.

    But perhaps I failed to articulate my point of view fully. Every single person I've met who is truly invested - financially, emotionally, or otherwise - in making this community better, even those who disagree with me on other issues, EVERY SINGLE ONE that I've talked to about these homes believes they ought to be torn down.

    So maybe you do indeed live here, anon, but you haven't swayed me that the Dream Homes (1st generation at least) are worthy of anything but the backhoe.

  7. It's not unusual at all for homes in the suburbs to have a crawl space and not a basement. Many crawlspaces are even (Gasp! Dirt) and those people don't seem to be harmed. In fact in many states basements are completely unusual and those people seem to be doing ok.

  8. Anon 10:39, the key here is "suburbs" and especially "other states."

    Furthermore, the first-generation Dream Homes such as this one have six bedrooms, no basement, and no garage. There is quite literally no place to store a lawn mower, snowblower, tools, etc.

    I've said it before and I'll repeat it: My issue with houses like this vs. older homes is not (at least primarily) about what I personally find aesthetically pleasing. It's about what kind of community gets created when substandard housing like Dream Homes gets built.

    A house like this is destined to be bought by a landlord. There is simply no space for homeowners to put all of the necessities that come along with owning and maintaining a home - all of that has to be stored at a property manager's place. I've already mentioned how the materials themselves won't last 30 years either. So even with long-term financing, the only type of buyer a home like this appeals to is one with relatively little commitment to the property or area.

  9. a) I hate these homes, but now that they're here, I don't think they should be torn down. (Maybe convicted mortgage-fraudsters can be forced to live in them???)

    b) Of course slumlords read this and similar blogs.

  10. In Oregon the only homes with basements are older homes (ie 1900's) where the basements were used for storage of food before fridges, and we have many daylight basements on homes with slopes.

    Otherwise it is too expensive to dig and pour all that concrete and our water table/moisture out here is too high that many of our basements would have continually running sumps pumps. Basement "seepage" where water literally eeks through the walls of the basement is really common. It makes many basements useless for storage unless you want fuzzy mold and mildew growing on things.

    We do have some dry basements, and you can always tell by the smell.

    Read more:

  11. Jeff aren't you a renter? Why are you trying to deny other renters housing by demanding potential homes be torn down?

  12. Ariadne, thanks for the first idea I've heard other than demolition that could be a good use of these structures (I won't go so far as to call them "houses.") I'd support Balko, Helgason, Maxwell, Koenig, Kohlenberger, and other slumlords/mortgage fraudsters being sentenced to live in these places.

    Anon 9:41, can you point to similar homes in the Twin Cities metro area? I don't think a house absolutely needs a basement if there is a solid foundation of some sort AND a space on the property for storing maintenance items and doing other tinkering that most homeowners do.

    Anon 10:19, whether I rent, own, or live in a hippie commune has no bearing on the devastating impact that these structures have had across my neighborhood.

  13. Jeff I can see quite clearly that this home has a poured foundation so don't try and make the case that this home is going to collapse or be otherwise unstable it's just not true. There are many other homes without garages and while this property could use one that doesn't mean it should be torn down. Most renters actually aren't that good at lawn maintenance anyway, they usually store all their boxes from many previous moves. That could be done in one of the many bedrooms in his home quite well. As for kids, NOMI has a great network of playgrounds to utilize. When I was a kid we played stickball in the street and did quite well. I suspect you'd be making the same post if on every vacant lot we put up what is regularly built in suburbs for around $175k. Stick built homes with vinyl siding and windows. Cabinets from a big box store and builder grade lighting and faucets. Those persons who move in to homes like that don't seem to wreck their neighborhoods. I think you need to focus less on the materials and astethic and more on the behavior and culture of NOMI. Even if we put brick mansions in NOMI it's the people that are living there that make the impact on the neighborhood. The fact that yo chose to move to an area where the culture has a general disregard for life and property is not the fault of that particular house or it's design or choice of materials. If you had moved to Big Lake you'd see many similar constructed homes but you would not have the slew of complaints I see here about inconvenience stores, white t-shirts, phonebooks, littering etc.

  14. Anon 1:24, I see your point. I'm still of the opinion that if we demolished every single Dream Home tomorrow, our community would be the better for it. But I do like what you have to say.

    I would contend, however, that the stuff that gets built and sells for $175k in the suburbs may be similar but still of a better quality than what we've seen here.

    But let's say for a moment that you are more or less correct. For one, I'd still say that knowing what kind of owners and occupants these kinds of structures attract in NoMi should be a factor that we consider when building, demolishing, or rehabbing housing. And yes, let's ask those questions about why it is that similar houses in Wayzata don't have the same problems. (Or do they, but we just don't hear about it?) Let's keep the discussion going.

  15. Jeff if you check out the billions of split level homes in the suburbs like Brooklyn Park, Maple Grove etc you'll notice only two floors. The lower level usually a 1/2 basement type with windows at ground level. So what is the difference between a two level home which is a split or a two story home with no basement? The level count and sq footage is both likley 1500-2000 sq foot.

  16. Anon 7:52, I'd like to see a specific house, address, and/or floor plan. Aside from the level of quality of the materials used in construction, one issue with the Dream Homes is that they have six bedrooms, five of which are pitifully small. The rest of the layout is quite unappealing as well.

    Those split-level homes in the suburbs probably have smarter floor plans. If we continue this back-and-forth, I really would like to see some houses you're referring to so that we can figure out if we're comparing apples to apples.

  17. I completely agree that these houses are AWFUL but have you ever been in a MPHA tower unit? After seeing the inside of one those depressing, soul sucking units these houses look like mansions. Again these homes suck but in comparison...

  18. In response to Mysterious 1:24 i have a couple of thoughts and questions that have me confused.First off i'll just call you Stick since you grew up playing stickball in the streets in,i guess,Minneapolis.Where you played i cannot even guess since i have never seen stickball being played on any street by any kids in the last,oh, forty freakin' years.Anyhow, you mention that any old material will do when it comes to building low-income pre- fabricated housing strikes me as being a liitle on the giveme a break and let me breathe because you are fouling the fucking air.Tell the people down in Mississippi and Louisiana that the toxic trailers that the fucking government constructed for them to be DUMPED in after KATRINA struck were okay for habitability.Hey Stick, you talk like there were no parks in Minneapolis when you grew up.I got news for you helmet breath, the parkboard system and programs for kids were around and we genererally had alot more brother and sisterhood mentalities towards each other.I have more news also,asshole.Your racist innuendo about culture reeks like the brown liquid dripping from your diseased mouth. Hey,No-Dick Stick, do me a favor and shit me a different flavor.If Big Lake is where you reside then i would have to say you are the lakes biggest bottom feeder since that's where your shell is, so clam up. Boathead wishes all racists to consume each others completely full mucus and pucus wastebags with a vengeance. Au Revoir Everybody!!


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