Wednesday, March 4, 2009
When Times Get Tough, Small Gets Big
UPDATE I just spotted this story on the renaissance of post-war housing on househunting.ca
There's a story in the current issue of Businessweek magazine about KB Homes, one of the largest builders in the U.S. offering 880-square-foot homes in Houston for the bargain price of $64,000. That buys you two bedrooms and 1.5 baths.
It's a return to roots for KB, which got its start building homes for World War II veterans in places like Levittown, NY.
If you know folk music, or have watched the TV show Weeds, you might be familiar with the song "Little Boxes". Songwriter Malvina Reynolds was inspired by a photo of Levittown she saw in Life magazine.
Little boxes on the hillside/Little boxes made of ticky-tacky/Little boxes, all the same.
The 880-square-foot "mini-houses", as Businessweek calls them, are direct descendants of those post-war homes.
KB Homes' chief exec says the cottages are the right house for a troubled U.S. market. Buyers today are asking themselves "What do I need?" not "What do I want?"
Montreal has its share of Levittown style cottages. Crawford Park, the so-called "Westmount of Verdun" is made up almost exclusively these peak-roofed houses on big lots. You'll also find them in western NDG, Rosemont and Ville Emard. Over the years, people have added dormers to the slope-roofed second storeys or extensions to gain extra living space. They're small, about 950 to 1,000 square feet of living space, but hardly what I'd call mini.
They've become hot commodites locally over the last decade, with the average price of a Crawford Park cottage leaping from about $95,000 in 1998 to in the range of $275,000 today.
It isn't about economic necessity, either. The houses are solidly built and, as mentioned sit on big ol' lots - typically between 4,000 and 5,000 square feet. There's lots of room to expand. Besides, they are all located in mature neighbohoods with big trees, quiet streets and a real sense of community.
We've just come through the era of the McMansion, all looming double-wide garages, pretentious porticos and fake turret. Excess houses for excess times. Maybe it's time for smaller,simpler homes to make a big comeback.