“The term “affordable housing” has come to be associated with social programs and government subsidies, but it once meant commercially built houses that ordinary working people could afford. A pioneer of affordability was the builder Levitt and Sons, whose famous “Levittowns” were the first postwar examples of large, ­master-­planned communities. The story is ­well ­known…
unlike many architectural experiments that have been dealt with harshly by the passage of time — ­the ­high-­rise public-housing projects of the 1960s come to mind — Levittowns have remained desirable places to live. Even the names of the house models have survived. “Fabulous expanded Levittowner,” reads a recent Internet real estate ad for a house in the Bucks County community, “3 bedrooms, one bath, custom ­eat-­in kitchen.” It’s listed as sold…
Would it be possible to build a modern version of the affordable Levittowner? It would probably be a small house, closer to the 1,000 square feet of Alfred Levitt’s design than the 2,469 square feet that is today’s national average for new houses. Building smaller houses not only reduces construction costs, it is also good for the environment, saving materials and ­energy — ­and land. The house would still have three bedrooms, but it would also have at least ­one ­and ­a ­half bathrooms, since people have come to expect a powder room, even in small houses. Closets would be bigger, and there would be more of them. There would probably not be a living room, but the house would include a family room facing the backyard…
So what’s keeping housing prices high? It’s not the size, and it’s not the construction costs, either… The other reason that serviced lots cost more is that there are fewer of them than the market demands. This is a result of widespread resistance to growth, the infamous not-in-my-backyard phenomenon, which is strongest in the Northeast, California, and the Northwest. Communities in growing metropolitan areas contend with increased urbanization, encroachment on open space, more neighbors, more traffic, and more ­school-­age children. Roads have to be widened, traffic lights added, and schools expanded, all of which lead to higher taxes. Voters commonly respond to these ill effects of growth by demanding restrictions on the number of new houses that can be built.”


How has this thought never occurred to me?

Also, “slow-growth” is practically its own political party in my Bay Area hometown. It’s such a problem.

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