Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Our Homes Are Becoming Our Castles

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Our Homes Are Becoming Our Castles

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Coach-class airplane seats are more cramped than ever. Freeways are packed, and restaurants are squeezing in more tables. Offices have been downsized into cubicles.

But at least there's one place where the elbow room is growing: home sweet home.

Despite the shrinking size of families and the aging of the population, homes are getting more spacious. Now home builders are watching consumers closely, trying to figure out whether the demand for floor space will keep growing as rapidly as it did in the final decades of the 20th century. At this century's midpoint, the average household size was 3.5 people. The typical home built in America's new suburbs in the 1950s was a one-story box with about 1,300 square feet. The average veteran returning from World War II was delighted to get his family into a home, even if it had just one bathroom and three tiny bedrooms. But in the 1960s and early 1970s, as affluence rose, so did square footage. By the mid-1970s, the average new home had about 1,700 square feet and enough garage space for two cars. At that point, an economist might have predicted that home sizes would start to shrink. After all, baby boomers were moving into adulthood and striking out on their own, so their parents no longer needed multiple bedrooms. And when they started their own families, boomers had relatively few children. So why would they want homes bigger than their parents had? "Because they could afford it," said Gopal Ahluwalia, director of research for the National Association of Home Builders. Even though the average household size has decreased to 2.6 people and the bulk of the population is moving into middle or old age, square footage is still rising because of two-income families, better-paying jobs and lower interest rates. In the mid-1970s, one new house in five had four or more bedrooms. …

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