Housing Redux

Every small rebound in the number of new houses built is followed by a flurry of articles about how the housing industry is poised to make a comeback. But if my developer friend Joe Duckworth is right, the U.S. housing market is not experiencing a correction but a major restructuring. With college graduates heavily in debt—and high school graduates without well-paying jobs—the first-time buyer market is stalled, and existing homeowners, who might have “moved up,” are stalled, too. The future, according to Joe, is likely to include many more renters than in the last several decades, and so-called starter homes are likely to become permanent homes, as they were in the 1950s when a Levittown house would last a family’s lifetime. Twenty-two years ago, Avi Friedman and I designed the Grow Home, a 14-foot wide row house only 896 square feet in area. Over the next decade they were built in large numbers in the Montreal suburbs with a price tag of  around C$60,000 ($95,000 in present day U.S. dollars). We intended the Grow Home as a lower rung for young families beginning their climb up the housing ladder. Today, that ladder appears considerably less tall, and what was  designed as an “affordable home” looks like it may be the new normal.

Grow Homes, Montreal, 1992.


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