Cleveland: Keeping Christmas at Home
Ramona: The War on Happy Holidays
With my plantar muscles feeling better, I've been running a two mile route past a few apartment complexes and through a new development of 3,000 SF single family houses—perhaps 300 of them. A sign indicates that they sell in the $500,000s, but asking prices actually range from $544,990 to $619,990. There are no full-grown trees yet, but down in the hollows are hundreds of saplings tied to stakes and protected from deer with plastic netting. Once grown they should buffer the community from the main thoroughfare. There are a few more houses complete every time I run through, a few more families settled in, a few more kids riding bikes and scooters on the sidewalks. One owner has added, or opted for, a full complement of photovoltaic panels on his South-facing roof.
Back at home I read articles like Real Homes: Small, frugal, and green, in which, "Recent college graduate Ella Jenkins lives with her parents while she builds her 103-square-foot home in their yard."
The average size of a new house peaked in 2007 and has gone down since. But so far that only replicates what happened during past recessions—although the decrease is larger this time. The question is whether we return to the pattern of ever-increasing house size if the current recession ends for everyone, not just the rich.
The people I run past do not look rich, but they don't seem bothered by the recession. Many little girls are wearing the white shirts and tartan skirts of a nearby private school. Driveways feature as many late model SUVs as Accords or Priuses.
With 5 million houses in foreclosure, we are rediscovering that living sustainably includes living affordably. ... Small is beautiful.
It’s not a deep concept. Smaller houses cost less to build. It takes less furniture to fill them. They cost less to heat and cool. ... Jason McLennan, who developed the Living Building Challenge, proposes that, regardless of “green” features, large houses simply cannot be environmentally sound. He says that, on average, 450 square feet per person is as big as we should go-—and smaller is better.
You'd have to put six or seven people into each of these houses to reach that goal. A lot of blogs and MSM articles have been advising us that people just can't afford McMansions any more, but as with automobiles, people do buy larger when times are good. Amidst a sluggish economy, NE Baltimore is comparatively prosperous, but for how long?
According to the Wall Street Journal, Big Homes Are Back in Business:
Jamie and Ashley Mengle spent the past four years in a 1,920-square-foot, three-bedroom town house. In July, they will upgrade to a 3,200-square-foot single-family home with four bedrooms here in this suburb of Harrisburg.
The Mengles are at the forefront of a surprising trend in a number of new subdivisions across the nation: Bigger homes are making a comeback.
"There's no doubt we're a lot larger than we were a few years ago," said Steve Ruffner, president of the Southern California division of KB Home, one of the nation's largest builders.
KB Home says the average square footage of houses currently under contract is 2,079, an increase of 13% from last year. And more KB buyers are picking models that exceed 3,500 square feet.
And in The Low-Emissions Estate, the Journal profiles an otherwise socially-conscious house that averages over one thousand SF per bedroom:
Set in an upscale suburban neighborhood around a country club, their 6,800-square-foot, five-bedroom, six-bathroom home is visually dramatic. From the street, visitors see two large walls of stacked stone, with a curved wall of wood-framed windows slung between them.
The couple declined to say how much they paid to build the home. Their architect said the project, completed in 2009, cost roughly $500 a square foot, or about $3.4 million.
The new owners and their families seem happy in their new digs, but it's becoming clear that building more and more large houses is too demanding for the environment as well as too financially risky for many owners. Where I wonder, are the market forces that will encourage people to buy the smaller footprint houses that we can afford? Do we need CAFE ratings for houses?
To change the subject a bit, the Detroit News reports that Mitt Romney is making noises about bypassing CAFE:
On another issue, Romney said he would reconsider what Obama has called one of his key domestic achievements: nearly doubling fuel-efficiency requirements to 54.5 mpg by 2025.
The Obama administration won the support of most automakers — including Detroit's Big Three — for the 2017-2025 rules that will cost the industry $157.3 billion and add about $2,000 to the price of an average car. But it will save drivers $1.7 trillion at the pump.
Romney said he'd seek "a better way of encouraging fuel economy" than corporate average fuel efficiency (CAFE) mileage requirements "as the sole or primary vehicle," he said.
"The best approach is to try and build vehicles that people want, rather than having the government telling the companies what they must make," he said.