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The new American condo

Every year since 1984, the National Association of Home Builders (in the United States) has commissioned a home with the goal of showcasing new trends and technologies in the industry. At the same time, it also serves as a kind of dream home. This is what one should aspire to achieve. The initiative is called the New American Home (TNAH).

The first home was built in Houston by Village Builders. The architect was Booth/Hansen & Associates and the home was about 1,500 square feet. It cost $80,000. Last year the home was in Montverde, Florida and was about 10,690 square feet (6,676 square feet of air-conditioned space). Not surprisingly, these homes have grown over the decades.

According to a recent New York Times opinion piece by Allison Arieff — called, The New ‘Dream Home’ Should be a Condo — the square footage of this New American Home has been steadily rising:

This is, of course, reflective of what has been happening in the market as a whole. According to Arieff, the average size of a new U.S. home today is about 1,000 square feet larger than it was in 1973. The average space per human has increased from 507 to about 971 square feet. As our wealth has grown we have naturally become more consumptive.

But as Arieff asks in her article:

What if the next New American Home was a condo? And what if there was a new American dream, not of auto-dependent suburbia, but walkable urbanism?

She then contrasts last year’s 10,000 square foot “Tuscan style” New American Home against this 6 unit urban infill condo project in Los Angeles, where the average home is about 1,800 square feet and the building in its entirety is around 11,000 square feet.

Which one would you prefer?

Charts: New York Times


  1. Paul Ching Lee

    Arieff is spot on. The LA project is the way of the future. We lived in the Strathcona neighbourhood in a tenant-in-common arrangement until our second child came along. Then we moved to Port Moody and settled in a 1,800 sq ft single family home and raised our two daughters there. Now we’re empty nesters and we’ve opened the floor plan and the house feels even more spacious. We are now thinking of moving down to the Commercial Drive neighbourhood akin to Arieff’s walkable urbanism. The point is very few of us needs 10,000 sq ft to live a meaningful and sustainable life-style.


  2. I don’t need any convincing that Arieff is right. But why doesn’t everyone fall in line? I find that more so even than the general stigma associated with condos, the monthly fees are really a sticking point for many, especially with boomers. Which brings up the whole legal relationship wrapped up in the condo. A friend recently purchased a flat in London and I was shocked that they have a simple, pay as needed basis for common costs. Perhaps this only works on a certain scale, but the uncertainty of rising condo costs is a barrier to many – how can we make it more complimentary?


    • It is certainly a consideration, but condo fees aren’t a black box. They are based on a detailed budget. One of the biggest costs is utilities, which will of course increase over time, just as it does with freehold ownership. It is important to look at the services you’re getting for the money being spent.


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