This Could Be the Start of Something Good

Recently released data from the Census Bureau indicates after 35 years of increasing average new single-family house size, there has been slight, yet noticeable drop in the average new house size in each of the past four years. It is important to note that average new house sizes have been growing at the same time the average number of persons living in each house has been dropping. These contrarian trends are a big factor in creating sprawl.

Whether the drop in the past four years is due to the economic downturn, common sense rearing its ugly head, tighter lending, stricter zoning regulations, all of the above, or some other factor(s) is unknown. Below is the new house data from the Census Bureau:


1970   1,500 square feet

1976   1,700 square feet

1980   1,740 square feet

1990   2,080 square feet

1996   2,120 square feet

2006   2,569 square feet

2007   2,521 square feet

2008   2,519 square feet

2009   2,438 square feet

These results do not mean there aren’t plenty of McMansions and starter castles still popping up across the American landscape, if that is your thing. But, hopefully the data is correctly suggesting that sprawl is abating and more efficient land use patterns are beginning to emerge. Of course, it could simply be economics and a few years down the road, the trend towards gargantuan, over- sized single-family homes will re-emerge. For the good of this country, let’s hope it’s a signal of the former and not the latter.

Data also from:



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