Signs of the times: Empty homes find new uses as student rentals, marijuana greenhouses

From Animal McMansion: Students Trade Dorm for Suburban Luxury in today’s NYT:

Here in Merced, a city in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley and one of the country’s hardest hit by home foreclosures, the downturn in the real estate market has presented an unusual housing opportunity for thousands of college students. Facing a shortage of dorm space, they are moving into hundreds of luxurious homes in overbuilt planned communities.

Forget the off-to-college checklist of yesteryear (bedside lamp, laundry bag, under-the-bed storage trays). This is “Animal House” 2011.

Double-height Great Room? Check.

Five bedrooms? Check.

Chandeliers? Check.

Then there are the three-car garages, wall-to-wall carpeting, whirlpool baths, granite kitchen countertops, walk-in closets and inviting gas fireplaces.

“I mean, I have it all!” said Patricia Dugan, a senior majoring in management, who was reading Dario Fo’s “Accidental Death of an Anarchist” in her light-filled living room while soaking a silk caftan in one of two master bathroom sinks.

And from In foreclosure-plagued Vegas, empty homes go to pot in the LA Times (ht to Calculated Risk):

The home — with four bedrooms and 61 plants — was one of the smaller alleged grow operations authorities have dismantled this year. At another home, authorities seized 878 plants worth an estimated $2.6 million.

Las Vegas has a pot home problem. And like many of the region’s maladies, it’s tied to the housing slump.

Last year, authorities took down 153 indoor grow sites in Nevada and seized more than 13,000 plants, compared with 18 sites and 1,000 plants in 2005, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said. (By comparison, California busted 791 indoor sites last year.)

“You can’t have crime without opportunity,” said William Sousa, a criminologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “And all those empty homes present an opportunity for criminal activity.”

Major cultivators spend tens of thousands of dollars turning cheap homes into greenhouses.

Western states like Nevada and California seem to have overbuilt even more than we did here in Georgia, and many communities are now burdened with hundreds of extra homes. It’s hard to see demand for most of those picking up before a few more years have passed. Others — ones built in relatively remote areas requiring significant homeowners’ associations to be viable — might never be occupied by owners as intended.

It’s obviously going to be interesting to see what uses are found for them.