Claim: having too many big homes contribute to the housing market downturn

Several experts suggest that one contributor to the downturn in the housing market is a lack of demand for large houses:

America has too many big houses — 40 million, to be exact — because consumers are shifting preferences to condos, apartments and small homes, experts told the New Partners for Smart Growth Thursday, holding its 11th annual conference in San Diego through Sunday.

Relying on developers’ surveys, Chris Nelson, who heads the Metropolitan Research Center at the University of Utah, said 43 percent of Americans prefer traditional big, suburban homes but the rest don’t.

“That means we are out of balance in terms of where the market is right now, let alone trending toward the future,” he said.

He estimated that this demand suggests a need for 10 million more attached homes and 30 million more small homes on 4,000-square-foot lots or less. By contrast, demand for large-lot homes is 40 million less than currently available.

These experts suggest that older adults and the younger generations are looking for smaller, more urban homes. But how does this line up with recent figures that suggest big homes are being built and sold?

While this sounds like an interesting conference, I wonder how this group might be spinning the recent data and trends. What do you do if 43% of Americans do want “big, suburban homes” but you personally are committed to building and pushing for smaller and denser housing? Presumably you leave the building of those larger structures to others but 43% is still a large number. It would be interesting to see how this group and its experts speak as they see some light at the end of the tunnel (several demographic groups who want smaller homes) versus time periods when it may have seemed more Americans prefer big houses and sprawl (1980s through roughly 2006).

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