All the single families (all the single families)

For the better part of 80 years, the dominant type of new construction in the U.S. has been suburban, single-family housing. In a CityLab article from a couple years ago, Richard Florida wrote:

  • 60-70% of existing homes are in low-density, suburban areas (less than four homes per acre). Assuming an average household size of 2.54 people, that’s around 10 people/acre. For comparison sake, Manhattan has 112 people/acre.
  • 90% of homes built since the 1940s have been in low-density areas.
  • In the 2000s, 23.3% of new homes were built in undeveloped areas (aka “greenfield”), 33.2% were in areas with a prior density below one home per acre, and 31.9% were in areas with a prior density between one and four homes per acre.

This development trend is as much a function of the regulatory difficulties of building in cities and their immediate outskirts as it is a viable business model for the suburbs—conditions like high infrastructural costs and taxes, high (personal autos) transit costs, and limited economic opportunity plague many suburbs.  

The above are some reasons why suburban poverty growth is far outpacing cities and rural areas. And despite a median sales price of an existing single-family home being a modest $257k, factors like flatlining wages and high rates of debt for both school and auto loans have led to a suburban affordability crisis—evidenced by record low homeownership rates.

This is why any housing solution in America that excludes the suburban, single-family home is incomplete. Here are a couple such solutions that are rocking the suburbs. Continue reading “All the single families (all the single families)”

Much ADU about something

Around 76% of American housing is single family. One solution to adding affordability and density to this commodious architectural form is accessory dwelling units, aka granny flats (because grandpa, you know, lives underground). ADUs are basically little houses you can toss in your backyard—they can be used by family, a tenant, or Airbnb. They’ve been gaining popularity particularly in California and Oregon, each state lending crucial legislative support.

But a lot of folks paying a mortgage can’t necessarily afford to build a second home, which can easily run $100K+.

Portland-based startup dubbed Dweller has a solution for this shortfall. According to the CityLab, “Dweller fronts the cost of purchasing and installing one-size-fits-all prefabricated ADUs in backyards. Third-party property managers rent out the unit to long-term tenants, and Dweller splits the revenues 70-30 with the homeowner, almost as if the company is leasing the land.” Homeowners can buy back ADU at any time or can purchase one of the prefabs outright.  

Continue reading “Much ADU about something”