From the Atlantic:
The American house is growing. These days, the average new home encompasses 2,500 square feet, about 50 percent more area than the average house in the late 1970s, according to Census data. Compared to the typical house of 40 years ago, today’s likely has another bathroom and an extra bedroom, making it about the same size as the Brady Bunch house, which famously fit two families.
This expansion has come at a cost: the American lawn.
As homes have grown larger, the lots they’re built on have actually gotten smaller—average area is down 13 percent since 1978, to 0.19 acres. That might not seem like a lot, but after adjusting for houses’ bigger footprints, it appears the median yard has shrunk by more than 26 percent, and now stands at just 0.14 acres. The actual value lies somewhere between those two numbers, since a house’s square footage could include a second (or third) floor. Either way, it’s a substantial reduction.
And this is data on new homes. No one is going door-to-door and lopping off front lawns (well, except for where they are). The truth is far more sinister: Americans are voluntarily buying houses with smaller yards. What does the United States stand for, if not the right to a fertile, springy carpet of turf thicker than the Bradys’ wall-to-wall shag?
Forced to choose between having a bigger lawn and a bigger house, Americans who live near economic hubs are picking the house.
The cultural primacy of the lawn has other enemies, too. As my colleague Megan Garber noted last year in “The Life and Death of the American Lawn,” a mix of drought-conscious environmentalism and shift in social mores has made spending money and effort on perfectly tufted turfgrass seem a bit simpering, even selfish. “Maybe, as the billboards dotting California’s highways cheerily insist, ‘Brown Is the New Green,’” she wrote. Witness the rise in rock gardens and drought-resistant yards.
An inflection point approaches. For now, a lawn is still an end in itself, a place to play and garden and stick pink flamingos. But if the shrinkage continues, the lawn is in danger of becoming merely symbolic. That’s nothing new to city dwellers, who count themselves lucky to have a patch of grass and have made public parks their front yards for centuries. But it would signal a profound change in suburbia, and not an altogether attractive one, as McMansions squeeze ever tighter together, hulking and lonely.