The cover of this week’s Time, the Sept. 6 issue that says “Rethinking Homeownership” in very big letters, shows a nice yellow suburban American house against a deep blue sky. If you’re the type to spend a lot of time in the magazine’s nifty cover archives, it will remind you of something.
In September of 1977, there was also a Time cover featuring a blue sky with a nice yellow house, except the thing was floating upwards. The cover story was called, gorgeously, Housing: It’s Outasight. This week’s was called The Case Against Homeownership; for an additional take on that case, try David Leonhardt’s excellent column in the Times.
The ’77 story is worth pouring over, too, if only because it reads like an ancient manuscript from a long-lost land. “Some wives feel forced to go to work, not because they want to have careers or earn their own spending money, but because buying that dream house nowadays usually requires two incomes,” Time explained. It has quotes from a bounty of Americans annoyed by high home prices. How quaint life was! “If anybody had told me six months ago that I would spend $115,000 for a house, I would have laughed out loud,” says an executive at a Florida medical-equipment manufacturer. He sold all his bonds and cashed in his savings account to get the $40,000 for a down payment.
And California? A “housing Oz unto itself,” the magazine marvels. “And these absurd numbers, $100,000,” moans a high school principal there. “It’s some kind of fantasy world.”
But that’s not all the archives offer. “Inside the New American Home,” was on Time‘s cover in 2002. “Chef’s kitchens, giant master suites, home theaters,” the magazine said. “People are turning their houses into luxurious escapes. Come take our guided tour.” The house, again, was yellow. “Home Sweet Home: Why we’re going gaga over real estate,” was the cover line in June 2005, over a cartoon of a man bear-hugging a yellow house. Some things don’t change.