A better place

Like a car wreck, I’m fascinated by this house.  Its one of two show houses at the National Builders Show in Orlando this week.  The other is a 7,700 foot monstrosity that many would call a McMansion.Cottageview  The small house was built by the New Urbanist design firm Duany Plater-Zyberk.

It’s not the answer to the housing crisis, since the underlying cost of land is really important.  A $25,000 house in Cleveland Park has to be set down somewhere, and I’ll bet you the cost of the lot is still $600,000.   

It also doesn’t solve the density crisis.  You still need to build vertically to get the benefit of building things like Metro stations and pedestrian communities.

What does it mean then, that the housing industry has produced a 300 s.f. house, when a 12 story condo building would in fact be a far more practical and efficient use of land and infrastructure?

It means that Fannie Mae’s "American Dream" marketing campaign has succeeded in duping us all. Showhouses1 The concept that a home is a detached free-standing structure has done more to damage Smart Growth than all the suburbs combined.  Condos and apartments have been cast in such a negative light that people don’t talk about them like a home.  In the world of Fannie Mae, only a standalone building could be a home.    Such marketing has produced the sprawl we experience today.

And you can hear it echoed in your parents comments when you tell them you’re thinking of raising children in a 2 or 3 bedroom condo.  It’s always a silence, followed by a question about a yard.

You can learn more about the mini-house at the Washington Post or the Sentinel.


  1. josephgrossberg on January 21, 2006 at 9:41 am

    “The concept that a home is a detached free-standing structure has done more to damage Smart Growth than all the suburbs combined.”

    Worst of all are the building-height restrictions in DC. Letting people build *up* would go a long way to fighting sprawl *and* a shortage of unaffordable housing.

  2. Chad Day on January 24, 2006 at 8:51 am

    I don’t know if it’s so much the *detachment* as it is the size of the house. Large condos in NY and LA are still seen as desireable and not looked upon with the scorn you mention. According to the American Dream, bigger is better.

    Hell, see that Wachovia commercial that’s been running .. shows a pretty large house, then says “If you come to Wachovia, you could have had this hugely oversized house instead! That is better!”

    Having a Big House means you are more successful, more prestigious, more American(tm).