The new issue of Mother Jones looks at current trends in American housing and asks just how long it’ll be until we make the jump from McMansions to fortified exurban castles complete with moats and turrets. Here are some of the numbers, which I found absolutely fascinating:

* 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 Builders’ “showcase home” for 2005 is 5,950 sq. ft. That’s 15% bigger than last year’s model.

* The Unabomber’s legal defense team cited the size of his shack–10′ x 12′–to buttress his insanity plea.

* Since 1982, 35 million acres–an area the equivalent of New York state–have 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.

* Extreme Makeover: Home Edition recently gave a 6-bedroom, 7-bath, 7-television house to a family of 4.

* 1 in 5 new homes is larger than 3,000 sq. ft.–the size at which it becomes unmanageable to clean without hired help.

* The average cost of a luxury kitchen remodel is $57,000. That’s $10,000 more than it costs to build a typical Habitat for Humanity home.

* People who live in cities use half as much energy as suburbanites.

* If Americans bought only appliances with an”Energy Star” 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 home’s 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 Francisco’s teachers, 5.7% of its cops, and 4.2% of its nurses can afford to buy a home there.

* 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%.

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  1. Posted April 11, 2005 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    * 1 in 5 new homes is larger than 3,000 sq. ft.

  2. Kristin
    Posted April 12, 2005 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    In the county where I work with Habitat it costs $100,000 to build a home because of land costs. Habitat families don’t get given a house, they make their down payment through volunteer work and then assume an interest-free mortgage. That means our partner families have to take on a $100,000 mortgage, despite the fact they are at 70% or less of median county income.

    As far as exurban lots, that stuff is regulated by local politicians who think they are keeping the character of an area by dictating large lot sizes. You will never replicate farmland that way, but people will keep building new homes. Developments with small lot sizes and designated undeveloped areas help to decrease the impact. Not that it doesn’t suck, but you can’t force people to move back to cities. I tried. They waived their fists at me.

  3. dorothy
    Posted April 12, 2005 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    to anyone who is concerned about the gated communities, pollution etc., i very highly recommend the book “the sheep look up,” by john brunner. it was written in the 70’s (i think) and almost everything in it has come true. perhaps mark’s book club would consider it for discussion.

  4. Teddy Glass
    Posted April 12, 2005 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    It would be wrong of me to suggest that we each burn down a gated community, wouldn’t it? What if we used termites to do the trick though?

    Here’s a bumper sticker idea for Collin to steal: “Jesus loves gated communities.”

  5. Teddy Glass
    Posted April 12, 2005 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Has anyone ever done the math and figured out how much gas would cost per gallon if it weren’t subsidized by the US taxpayers, our military, etc? It seems to me that a lot of these people living in the exurbs who seem to so love the free market when it comes to almost everything else (education, healthcare, etc), might whistle a different tune if it were extended into the realm of energy. You might find a few people moving closer to cities if they had to pay what it really cost to heat a 5,000 square foot home, and commute 90 miles each way to work in a Cadillac Escelade.

  6. Posted April 12, 2005 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    What’s so bad about gated communities? It keeps those elitist jerks away from the rest of us.

  7. Posted April 12, 2005 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Extreme Generosity
    Here’s the whole story:…

  8. Felix
    Posted April 12, 2005 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    It irritates me that people pay perfectly good money for flimsy, pretentious, badly-designed plywood McMansions when, for just a little more, they could terrify their neighbors into abject submission with a real castle.

  9. mark
    Posted April 13, 2005 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    I used to pass a real castle every once in a while when visiting relatives in Kentucky. I can’t remember where exactly it is… According to the story I heard, the guy moved it over from Europe and wen’t bankrupt in the process. Now, it sits empty. At least that’s what I’ve heard.

  10. mark
    Posted April 13, 2005 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    OK, I found it

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