Monday, February 23, 2009

Small and for Rent.

In 2006 we wrote a post on the now-famous derogatory term McMansions and how the size of American homes had more then "doubled since 1950 with a median single-family home at 2,349 square feet (218 sq meters) against 1,570 square feet in 1980."
This increase in house size is also true in Europe but to a lesser extent (927.85 square feet or 86.2 m² in 2000- a rise from the 731.9 square feet or 68 m2 in 1970).

Well, it looks like the current economic crisis is taking its toll on big houses. According to this week's Economist, "Small is now Beautiful".
The trend is to scale back. According to the Census Bureau, the median size of home starts dropped to 2,114 square feet in the fourth quarter of 2008, down more than 100 square feet from the first quarter of the year. And 100 square feet is a significant slice of space.
The other trend in housing may be to favor renting over owning homes.

Here the word "reshape" should be taken literally in its physical and geographical sense for Mr Florida makes a link between the economy and geography :
To a surprising degree, the causes of this crash are geographic in nature, and they point out a whole system of economic organization and growth that has reached its limit. Positioning the economy to grow strongly in the coming decades will require not just fiscal stimulus or industrial reform; it will require a new kind of geography as well, a new spatial fix for the next chapter of American economic history.
He even sees the end of suburbanization and low-density sprawl and because "the economy is driven by key urban areas; a different geography is required".
Mr Florida also sort of debunks the myth of ownership as part of the "American Dream":
If anything, our government policies should encourage renting, not buying. Homeownership occupies a central place in the American Dream primarily because decades of policy have put it there.
I don't necessarily agree with him on this. I think it has been part of the American Dream since the Letters of an American Farmer and Jefferson's dream of an ownership society. However, faced with this crisis, the Americans may have to reshape their Dream indeed and be a bit more creative and flexible with regard to their "pursuit of happinness" .

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