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DoNotKnowMuch's avatar

Should housing square feet be regulated?

Asked by DoNotKnowMuch (2979points) April 12th, 2016

What if there was a maximum square feet per resident rule? Would you support this? For example, if you wanted to buy a 2000 square foot house, you’d have to show that 5 people are going to live there (assuming a 400 sq ft per person max). Or maybe there is a base square footage for a single person plus extra space per person.

Would this cut down on the absurd housing sizes and costs? Would housing be more affordable or help solve affordable housing problems in certain towns?

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15 Answers

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Do I get accommodation for being tall? Otherwise it sounds like a good idea. Have you stayed in a capsule hotel? They cut down on space.

JLeslie's avatar

No! Housing prices mostly have to do with supply, demand, availability of credit, and what people are willing to pay. A small house in San Francisco can cost the same as a house triple the size in Tennessee.

I would love to see housing prices not be so ridiculously high. For that I think you need to flatten incomes and stop letting people borrow in credit so much. Also, better urban planning so housing, workplaces, and other needs are in balance.

Jaxk's avatar

The size of the lot has more impact on how many dwellings you get in an area and the price of land has more impact on the price of the house. Let people do what they want and stop trying to regulate everything. If you want a small house, buy a small house. If I want a big house stop trying to place your requirements on me.

JLeslie's avatar

I want to add the size of lots and houses is controlled to some extent in many places. But, not based on quantity of people per household. Although, there are limits in some circumstances regarding how many people can live in a home.

Seek's avatar

I’m a member of a quasi-historical recreation group. One of the biggest events of the year is known as Pennsic. 10,000+ of us converge each year on a farm in Pennsylvania. By necessity, space is allotted on a by-person basis. When you reserve space, you’re granted 100 square feet per person.

This does two things: 1: assures everyone gets some space, and the one guy who owns four Marquee pavillions doesn’t take up the space of 30 people, and 2: it encourages people to camp together. If you get 5–10 people together you can put up bigger individual tents, and even have space left over for communal sitting space, campfires, etc. If four people sleep in one 10X10 tent, that’s another 30X30 space you can use for whatever, including accommodating people who couldn’t pre-register (guests, last minute friends-dragged-along, etc.)

It’s a good system, for what it is. There are always people who complain that they really really want to set up their 5-person-sized tents, but those people are always more than welcome to pay five site fees to do it. However, there are limits placed on over-buying land, and if they predict an overselling of land during land-grab week, people who overbuy will be refunded and instructed to take their smaller space.

It’s a system that works for the self-selecting community.

It wouldn’t work in society as a whole, I’m afraid. There’s always going to be someone with the means to buy their way into more space than they need.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

If this question isn’t a joke:

I NEVER CEASE TO BE STUNNED by the public’s insatiable hunger to have limits placed on itself.

You all are completely batshit nuts.


“Do you know why I detained you sir?”

“Umm, no?...”

“You were observed taking too deep a breath, please come with us.”

DoNotKnowMuch's avatar

Not a joke.

Obviously, I haven’t thought this out, and I am in no way pretending this would ever happen (especially in the U.S.). It was motivated by my current search for a new house. In my town, the current median listed price is $695k or $230/sq ft, which means that the median size is 3021 sq ft. My family of 5 has been living in this 1100 sq ft house for many years, and we are only wanting to move because we have outgrown the 1 bathroom, and are unable to add a second bath because we’re on an aging septic.

Overall, Eastern Massachusetts has been suffering from a dearth of reasonably-sized homes for years. What happens in my town is the norm – the older, reasonable size houses are purchased and torn down and replaced with a mansion. Whole neighborhoods that were once 1000–1200 sq ft ranches and capes have been replaced with 3500 sq ft monstrosities.

And many people in our modest (by this town’s standards) neighborhood have been building on or moving because their 2000+ sq ft houses are “too small” for their family of 3.

Anyway, I’m not a free-market person, and I’m a socialist, so I guess if you’re offended by my question, you could decide to call me names….or just refuse to answer it. :)

Seek's avatar

I vehemently loathe the McMansion.

Eleventy kabillion square feet of mostly-unusable space taking up the largest footprint possible with incredibly inefficient vaulted ceilings that can never be cleaned without a cherry-picker truck.

Doesn’t anyone just build a house anymore?

JLeslie's avatar

@Seek High ceilings aren’t very inefficient in hot cities like Miami, but I couldn’t agree with you more about high vaulted ceilings in cold places! Such a waste of energy.

As far as cleaning. I’ve had houses much bigger than I needed, and the rooms you never use you don’t have to clean much. It’s still easier to keep a small place clean, although sometimes it’s not easier to have a place to put everything.

CWOTUS's avatar

I grew up in Massachusetts, and I understand some of the reasoning behind what is often perceived as “snob zoning”. (Sometimes that’s all it is: Regulate lot size to be “X” so that “only the right people” will be able to afford a house here. It might be dressed up in different ways, but a lot of times it is pretty much exactly that.)

But that’s not all it is, all of the time. Most of Massachusetts was built up in a pre-industrial age. The state (commonwealth) did not have massive developments with integral town water and sewer. That meant that a lot of folks got their water from a drilled well on the property … and also had to arrange for a septic system to drain on the same property. Anyone with an elementary knowledge of biology, physics and public health can recognize a potential for disaster there: your septic system must not foul your water supply (obviously!) but it also must not foul your neighbors’ supply, either.

Even after towns started putting in municipal water supply lines, municipal sewers took much longer to install (because there’s a lot more disruption, construction cost and planning to be done, since most sewer systems rely much more on topographical geography than most water systems – and the piping is much larger). The small town that I grew up in more than 50 years ago still has no municipal sewer system, and may never.

The lot sizes there had to be large enough to permit sufficient drainage of the household’s entire septic needs. In addition, soils in much of New England are typically thin, clayey and bad for drainage. Hence, large lots to accommodate larger septic systems and leach fields.

Seek's avatar

@JLeslie Honestly, love, you and I come from completely different universes. You are used to having garages bigger than any home I’ve ever lived in.

chyna's avatar

@JLeslie If you don’t need all that room except for your stuff, then you have too much stuff. Get rid of it.

JLeslie's avatar

@chyna and @Seek I’ve lived in 850 sq ft and up to 5,000 sq ft. If you count my dorm room, that was probably 12×12 with the bathroom down the hall. My parents still live in the townhouse I grew up in ages 9–18. I think it’s 1200 or 1400sq ft? Plus, there is a basement for storage. It had 1.5 bathrooms for us 4 and no garage. My parents still dig out their cars from the snow.

I’ve lived in all sorts of houses, apartments, shapes and sizes.

@chyna I agree wholeheartedly I have more stuff than I need, but I also have enough stuff I really do need that I still want reasonable room for it. Then there are things I want, like I want to keep my grandmother’s menorah and the silver plated dish with her wedding invitation engraved. Those things are not even always on display (depends on the house) but I really don’t want to part with them. I already deeply regret not taking her dishes. Having 2 guest rooms isn’t really extra stuff. I don’t have to have even one guest room, but the one has my mom and dad’s clothing for when they visit. It’s not much different than a parent keeping a bed in their adult child’s room when they come back and visit. Not to mention other people who visit.

Right now I’m living in a 10×12 bedroom at my inlaws, because as you know my husband lost his job and I had quit mine for his job and we sold our house. Not that we can’t be in the rest of the house, but we confine most of our things in a small space and some garage space and it’s a pain in the neck not having enough space to put everything away, and it adds to the stress level. We took over their dining room for paperwork. I feel badly about it. Crazy times. My tax paperwork, plus I started doing some self contract work so I have the computer there and some files. The majority of my household things are in storage.

One good thing about FL is it’s not too difficult to find houses with a decent sized great room and only 3 or 4 bedrooms. Up north as you go bigger in the common living spaces everything in size and quantity goes up in the house.

Seek's avatar

I think the biggest home I’ve ever had was 800 square feet. It was the mobile home we lost in the recession.

Different universes.

jca's avatar

Where I live, in a rural area, the houses all used to be small summer houses in a development where you were once only allowed to come to stay between Memorial Day and Labor Day. There was septic, which kept the house sizes small, too. Then the septic was done away with and they put in a wastewater treatment system for this and neighboring developments. Now the small houses are getting redone and ballooning into large houses. Of course the lot sizes are the same. The look of the whole neighborhood is changing. Some don’t like it. The ones who are rebuilding and having new, huge houses I’m sure are thrilled.

What I have is a small house and it’s quite difficult to maintain an orderly space with very limited closet space. Friends who live in the area tell me the same thing about their houses, and many are doing what I described above, raising the roof and adding rooms because of being tired of having clothing in piles on the bureau because it doesn’t fit in the drawers, having towels and sheets that are too many to fit in the closet, and having all kinds of stuff that we all need now and it doesn’t fit anywhere.

When my house was built decades ago, and people were just living here 3 months a year, they probably had five pairs of pants, five shirts, a few bathing suits, a few sheets and towels and that was it. No coats, no boots, no desk for school work needed. Living in a small house is a challenge.

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