What’s Old Europe is New

Via Eschaton, an article called McMansions no More about one place in Pennsylvania that’s considering changing building regulations to discourage developers from building and selling McMansions. The new model will encourage

cottage housing, clustered housing that preserves green space, zoning that encourages businesses and homes to occupy the same neighborhoods and incentives to developers to preserve open space.

If you’re reading this in Europe, it probably sounds like where you already live. North Americans excuse their energy consumption by pointing to the sheer vastness of the country they live in, but that only gets you so far. The fact that you’ve got lots of space between places where people live doesn’t mean those places themselves have to contain giant, energy-intensive, detached single-family homes surrounded by chemical-soaked eternally-green lawns, all clustered in isolated, limited-access suburbs reachable only by 18-lane highways.

The fuel price spike and the mortgage meltdown are two Bogartian open-hand face slaps administered to the hysterical blond of the American consumer.

2 thoughts on “What’s Old Europe is New

  1. I thought the builders made an interesting point, that zoning was what driving the McMansion boom in the first place. That is zoning was mandating a minimum 1 or 2 acre lot in these townships, and they were not going to put a small house on a large lot. Land costs a lot of money in these areas, so much so that the cost of a one acre lot might be as much as $100,000 or $150,000, or more.

    If they built a small house (say 1100 sq ft) on a one acre lot they might have to charge $300,000 for it, while the McMansion next door on the same size lot might sell for $375,000 or $400,000. Which would you buy – 1100 sqft for 300K or 3000 sqft for 380?

    Smaller houses go with smaller lots, and the ‘clustered’ housing might enable them to be built in more of a ‘white picket fence’ kind of neighborhood. That is if the zoners don’t mandate huge green areas (paid for by the builder) and drive the price right back up again. Narrower streets are a good idea also.

    It’s good news for single folk & those of us who make a smaller paycheck.


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