Evidence is beginning to surface that the toxic fallout from the homebuilding boom is extending beyond the financial crisis. Beneath the glitzy exteriors, some builders were cutting corners in their haste to sell as many homes as quickly as possible. Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that Chinese drywall used by some builders is creating toxic conditions in some Florida homes, corroding copper wiring and emitting odors that are creating health problems for their occupants.
Pluto is the planetary energy relating to toxic conditions. Pluto also rules debt and lending. The era of Pluto in Sagittarius (1995-2008) witnessed a major homebuilding boom, fueled by inexpensive debt and lax lending standards. True to the expansive nature of Sagittarius, homes grew ever larger and were built on land further away from cities and their surrounding suburbs in what became known as the “exburbs.” Buyers didn’t examine or question how well the homes were constructed because in a rapidly rising property market most never intended to occupy the homes. Pluto in Sagittarius ushered in the era of globalization as Sagittarius rules anything foreign. Even if disclosed by builders it is doubtful that many buyers of new construction during the boom would have objected that the homes they purchased were built by illegal immigrants and constructed with substandard and potentially toxic foreign materials. As long as the home had all the glitzy touches as seen on TV, it didn’t much matter what lied beneath the surface.
Now the cycle of Pluto in Capricorn (2008-2024) is bringing to light what was neglected during the instant gratification cycle of Pluto in Sagittarius, as Capricorn and its planetary ruler Saturn represent a home’s foundation and structure. Capricorn and Saturn represent contraction and tight economic conditions. Virgo and Pisces energies relate to health, specifically the body’s immune and respiratory systems. The opposition of Saturn in Virgo and Uranus in Pisces (2008-2010) is working in concert with Pluto in Capricorn to expose the health risks (Virgo) that the levels of sulfur-based gases (Pisces) are emitting from the Chinese drywall. Saturn and Capricorn rule cold conditions, and Uranus in Pisces relates to breakdowns and electrical malfunctions (Uranus) that are hard to determine (Pisces). Homes with Chinese drywall were experiencing frequent air conditioning breakdowns and other electrical problems as the gases emitted from the drywall corroded the home’s copper wiring.
Besides exposing the house hazards, these planetary energies emphasize the cleanup required for these homes and the economy. Saturn and Capricorn rule the government, and the Florida Health Department has not yet determined whether the Chinese drywall is “a causal or coincidental association.” Since the homebuilding industry is a major component of Florida’s economy, the department is probably dragging its feet in reaching a conclusion. According to the Journal, Lennar (LEN) “has tested the air quality in at least 50 houses and has relocated several homeowners in order to rip out the drywall.” Even if Lennar or any other homebuilder who used substandard materials and labor is willing to correct the defect, the homeowner will still have to disclose it in order to sell the home.
Owners of homes constructed during the boom years should understand that beyond the financial risk of a depreciating asset lies construction risk. It is doubtful that Chinese drywall in some homes mostly built by Lennar in Florida will be the only toxic fallout from the building boom. Homebuilders need to understand that the planetary cycle trends emphasize much smaller size homes constructed by skilled contractors using quality and energy efficient materials that are able to maintain the home’s structural integrity through the most severe weather conditions. Gone are the days when builders could sell homes starting at $500,000 constructed on top of a landfill. Only land that is convenient to work, shopping, leisure activities, and public transportation will be worth developing. Since Pluto represents transformation and Capricorn represents what is old, many builders will likely have to buy and gut or tear down sections of neighborhoods to meet the old “location, location, location” mantra that’s back in vogue. Homeowners can redecorate and remodel, but fixing structural defects or moving a home’s location is just about impossible.