This New House
The American Dream just keeps growing. Since 1970 the size of the average new home has ballooned by 50 percent. âGreat rooms,â Viking ranges, 10-acre lotsâcan moats and turrets be far behind?
Mother Jones Magazine March/April 2005
This New House
By: Nathan Fox
News: The American Dream just keeps growing. Since 1970 the size of the average new home has ballooned by 50 percent. âGreat rooms,â Viking ranges, 10-acre lotsâcan moats and turrets be far behind?
To view this article with Nathan Fox's illustration, as it appeared in the March/April 2005 issue of Mother Jones magazine, download the following PDFs:MJ026.pdf (7.6 MB)
MJ027.pdf (8.4 MB)
- Since 1950, the average new house has increased by 1,247 sq. ft. Meanwhile, the average household has shrunk by 1 person.
- The National Association of Home Buildersâ âshowcase homeâ for 2005 is 5,950 sq. ft. Thatâs 15% bigger than last yearâs model.
- The Unabomberâs legal defense team cited the size of his shackâ10â x 12ââto buttress his insanity plea.
- 1 in 4 Americans want at least a 3-car garage.
- 88% of American commuters drive to work.
- 76% of those drivers commute alone.
- The number of Americans with commutes of longer than 90 minutes each way has increased 95% since 1990.
- Since 1982, 35 million acresâan area the equivalent of New York stateâhave been developed.
- More than 50% of exurban lots are 10 acres or larger. Exurban homes account for 80% of residential development since 1994.
- In 1950, 1 in 100 homes had 2.5 baths or more. Today, 1 in 2 do.
- 14 million households own 4 or more TVs.
- Americans spend more to power home audio and video equipment that is âoffâ but still plugged in than they do to power such devices while actually in use.
- Such âenergy vampiresâ consume 5% of the nationâs electricity.
- Extreme Makeover: Home Edition recently gave a 6-bedroom, 7-bath, 7-television house to a family of 4.
- Americans with cable TV have 30 hours of home-improvement programming available to them each day.
- Sales of Sub-Zero and other âpremiumâ and âsuperpremiumâ refrigerators have been rising by 15% a year.
- 1 in 5 new homes is larger than 3,000 sq. ft.âthe size at which it becomes unmanageable to clean without hired help.
- The average cost of a luxury kitchen remodel is $57,000. Thatâs $10,000 more than it costs to build a typical Habitat for Humanity home.
- Suburban and urban kids use illegal drugs, have sex, fight, and steal at the same rates, but suburban kids are more likely to drink and smoke.
- 0.03% of U.S. homes are fueled by solar energy. 0.4% lack complete plumbing facilities.
- People who live in cities use half as much energy as suburbanites.
- If Americans bought only appliances with anâEnergy Starâ rating over the next 15 years, the reduction in greenhouse gases would equate to taking 17 million cars off the road.
- 1/3 of a homeâs heating oil is used for hot water. Multiple-head shower systems can drain a 40-gallon tank in less than 4 minutes.
- The average new home requires 13,837 board feet of lumber and 19 tons of cement.
- Since 1976, federal housing assistance has been slashed by 48%.
- Last spring, the Bush administration proposed an additional $1 billion cut to the Section 8 housing subsidy.
- 87% of homeowners are white.
- Overall, blacks receive subprime loans 2.83 times more often than whites. The disparity increases when affluent blacks are compared to affluent whites.
- If it were a state, New York City would rank 51st in energy use per capita.
- Suburban white men weigh 10 pounds more than men in cities.
- Only 2.7% of San Franciscoâs teachers, 5.7% of its cops, and 4.2% of its nurses can afford to buy a home there.
- 1 in 4 Californians are considering moving out of state to reduce their housing costs.
- Rush Limbaughâs Palm Beach estate is worth 15 times the value of Bill and Hillary Clintonâs Chappaqua, N.Y., home.
- 7% of all homes are in gated communities.
- 7% of all homes are mobile homes.
- Since 2001, the number of Americans who have bought second homes has increased by 24%.
Size of the average new home: U.S. Bureau of the Census, cited by National Association of Home Builders, "Housing Facts, Figures & Trends 2004."
"Showcase home" 2004 vs. 2005: National Association of Home Builders and The National Council of the Housing Industry, "2005 New American Home" and "2004 New American Home."
Average household size: U.S. Census Bureau, "Average Population Per Household and Family: 1940 to Present."
Unabomber hut: Court transcripts at unabombertrial.com; "In fits and starts: Kaczynski throws the Unabomb trial into disarray," Time, January 19, 1998.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition: "Kingston cheers as winners of TV show see new home," Seattle Times, November 18, 2004; "Fancy digs provide new lease on life," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 10, 2005.
Home-improvement programming: calculation based on recent TV and cable listings.
Suburban and urban teens: Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, "Sex, Drugs, and Delinquency in Urban and Suburban Public Schools," January 2004.
Solar energy and plumbing: U.S. Census Bureau, "American Community Survey, 2003 Multi-Year Profile."
Cities, energy and New York: "Green Manhattan: Everywhere should be more like New York," The New Yorker, October 18, 2004; "More Bang for the B.T.U.; New York Ranks Near the Top for Efficient Use of Energy," The New York Times, October 21, 2000.
Materials for new home: National Association of Home Builders, "Housing Facts, Figures & Trends 2004"; NAHB Research Center, "2001 Builders Practices Survey."
Housing in San Francisco. National Association of Home Builders, "Where is Workforce Housing Located? A Study of the Geography of Housing Affordability," December 8, 2004.
Californians considering moving: Public Policy Institute of California, "Special Survey on Californians and Their Housing," November 2004.
Federal housing assistance: National Low Income Housing Coalition, "Changing Priorities: The Federal Budget and Housing Assistance, 1976-2005," October 2004.
Proposed Section 8 cuts: "Big Spending Bill Makes a Winner of Mars Program but Many Losers Elsewhere," The New York Times, November 23, 2004.
Second homes: National Association of Realtors, "Profile of Second Homes: 2004 Update."
Suburban white men: "Obesity Relationships with Community Design, Physical Activity and Time Spent in Cars," American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2004.
Limbaugh and Clinton homes: Forbes.com, "Celebrity 100: Celebrity Homes."
White homeowners: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Census Bureau, "American Housing Survey for the United States: 2003."
Blacks and subprime loans: Center for Community Change, "Risk or Race? Racial Disparities and the Subprime Refinance Market," May 2002.
Gated communities: U.S. Census Bureau, "American Housing Survey for the United States: 2001."
Mobile homes: U.S. Census Bureau, "American Community Survey: 2003 Multi-Year Profile."
Heating oil and hot water: National Oilheat Research Alliance, "Efficient Oilheat: An Energy Conservation Guide."
Multiple head showers: On The House with the Carey Brothers, "Tip of the Day: Shower Tower Luxury."
Energy Star: Federal Citizen Information Center, "Too âPlugged Inâ"
Size of new homes and cleaning: "Maid to Order: The Politics of Other Womenâs Work," Harperâs Magazine, April 2000; "Monster Houses? âYesâ," Planning, May 2002.
Luxury kitchen vs. Habitat for Humanity: The Boston Consulting Group, "The New Luxury: Why the Middle Market American Consumer Wants Premium Goods and How Companies Create Them," November 2002; U.S. Habitat for Humanity, "What are Habitat Houses Like in North America?"
Sub-Zero refrigerators: "Trading Up (or Down?)," Appliance Magazine, July 2003.
TV ownership: The American Marketplace: Demographics and Spending Patterns, Sixth Edition, New Strategist Publications, Inc., 2003; Energy Information Administration, "2001 Survey Methods: The Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS)."
"Off" power vs. "On" power: Federal Citizen Information Center, "Too âPlugged Inâ"
"Energy vampires": "Snazzier houses bring energy crisis home to middle class," Christian Science Monitor, October 28, 2004; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, standby.lbnl.gov.
Three-car garages: National Association of Home Builders, "What 21st Century Home Buyers Want," in "Housing Facts, Figures & Trends 2004."
Commuting: U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Commerce, "Journey to Work: 2000," March 2004.
Exurban homes: Economic Research Service/Department of Agriculture,"Development at the Urban Fringe and Beyond/AER-803."
Developed land size: National Resources Conservation Services, Department of Agriculture, "National Resources Inventory: 2002 Annual NRI."