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Small Homes Make Better Cities

There’s plenty of benefits to your closet-sized apartment, all you need is a shift in perspective

A rendering of a Heijmans ONE development, designed to make use of vacant lots temporarily. Image courtesy Heijmans.

How much space do we need to call our own? A bedroom? A tent on Skid Row? A palace with 100 rooms? The notion of “home” is a human universal but the spectrum of its definition is vast. Even within a single culture, people have different housing preferences and affordability issues.

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Build a Better Home with These Alternative Construction Methods

One summer during high school I worked a seasonal landscaping job. The crew was made up of unskilled lawnmower jockeys—like myself—and skilled tradesmen who, for one reason or another, found themselves temporarily unable to work in their trade. I once asked a new member of the team what he did for a living. He chuckled derisively and said, “I slap together toothpicks wrapped in plastic.”

One summer during high school I worked a seasonal landscaping job. The crew was made up of unskilled lawnmower jockeys—like myself—and skilled tradesmen who, for one reason or another, found themselves temporarily unable to work in their trade. I once asked a new member of the team what he did for a living. He chuckled derisively and said, “I slap together toothpicks wrapped in plastic.”

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Most Americans Want a Walkable Neighborhood, Not a Big House

It turns out most of us value nearby stores and parks rather than McMansions. Luckily, that's probably where we're headed.


The symbol of American success often involves having the biggest house possible, but our outsized fantasies seem to be shifting. According to a new survey, more than three quarters of us consider having sidewalks and places to take a walk one of our top priorities when deciding where to live. Six in 10 people also said they would sacrifice a bigger house to live in a neighborhood that featured a mix of houses, stores, and businesses within an easy walk.

For once, our preferences align with our impending reality; in the future, we may not have a choice whether or not to downsize our lifestyles. The housing bust exposed that the McMansion phenomenon is unsustainable, which has forced us to re-examine our priorities. In another study in 2010, the ideal number of square footage people desired for their houses dropped dramatically. It's becoming increasingly clear that the American dream of buying a big old house will need to be revised for the youngest generation.

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