Smaller is Better

Written back in 1991 when housing prices were still growing, this Atlantic article argued that Americans should really think about living smaller.

The growth in the size of houses is also at odds with the shrinkage in the size of households. Why do families that are, on average, smaller require twice as much space? To some extent the expanding American house reflects a crude, bigger-is-better mentality. Homeownership is a sign of social accomplishment and status, and just as the most prestigious cars were once the Cadillac and the Continental, which served as models for cheaper (but equally bloated) Fords and Chevrolets, the houses of the wealthy—in particular, Hollywood celebrities, whose sprawling Beverly Hills villas were prominently featured in fan magazines—were what the average tract house strove to imitate.

The increase in the size of the average new house, and in the level of amenities it contained, naturally cost money, and prices rose accordingly. Of course, the homebuilding industry was propelled by the same economic imperatives that drove the automobile industry, and found it profitable to furnish the market with more-expensive houses. And like the automobile manufacturers, builders resisted reducing the size of their product dramatically—even when inflation, higher interest rates, and low household incomes (especially those of single-parent families headed by women) suggested that it might be reasonable to do so.

Of course, due to the fact that 80% of our housing stock is over 50 years-old, many Decaturites have already shown their preference to live in less space than the average American, in exchange for all the communal/environmental benefits.

Now if only we weren’t the exception to the rule.

h/t: The Daily Dish