Trading lawns for square footage

From the Atlantic:

The Shrinking of the American Lawn

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.

This entry was posted in Demographics, Economics, National Real Estate, New Development. Bookmark the permalink.

57 Responses to Trading lawns for square footage

  1. Mike says:

    Good Morning New Jersey

  2. grim says:

    From the Record:

    Affordable housing ruling brings sigh of relief in suburban towns in N.J.

    New Jersey’s suburban towns got a big break Monday in the number of affordable housing units that must be built over the next decade, as a state appeals panel overturned a court order that could have added thousands of units to developers’ plans.

    State law continues to mandate that cities and suburbs allow the development of low-income housing. But Monday’s ruling by the appeals court means that municipalities may be able to build roughly 100,000 fewer units over the next decade than what some housing groups were advocating.

    At issue was a February decision by a state judge in Ocean County, Mark Troncone, who had ordered a group of municipalities to follow a special formula when calculating their affordable housing obligations. Municipalities were told to consider not only present and future conditions, but also the “unmet need” that accumulated from 1999 to 2015, a period during which New Jersey’s housing program was inactive.

    Rampant dysfunction and neglect by policymakers have plagued the state’s housing program since 1999, effectively shutting it down for more than a decade.

    In Monday’s ruling, the appellate judges acknowledged that the political morass had taken a toll on affordable housing construction, but they added that current laws and court precedents did not require Troncone to establish a “separate and discrete” obligation for towns to build low-cost homes covering the neglected period from 1999 to 2015.

    If the appeals court had ruled the other way and upheld Troncone’s ruling, it would have set a statewide precedent roughly doubling the number of affordable housing units to be built over the next 10 years, from an estimated 100,000 to nearly 200,000, according to experts following the case.

    The state Supreme Court ruled 6-0 last year that the delays in the housing program had gone on long enough. Instead of waiting for the governor and Legislature to act, the court enlisted state judges to oversee municipalities’ development plans and ensure that they meet affordable housing needs.

    But the three-judge panel of the Appellate Division on Monday indicated that although judges have more power to approve or reject development plans, they cannot tinker with the underlying affordable housing formula. That job still belongs to lawmakers and the governor, the appeals court said, reversing Troncone’s ruling and ordering more proceedings.

    “We discern no constitutional basis for the judiciary, much less this court, to intrude into the policy-making arena,” Superior Court Judge Douglas Fasciale wrote for the appellate panel, noting repeatedly that the state’s Fair Housing Act of 1985 speaks only of a “present and prospective need.”

    The appeals court, however, also seemed to accept the argument that towns must provide some accommodation for the unmet need that arose from 1999 to 2015, said Walsh, of the Fair Share Housing Center, a party to the case.

  3. grim says:

    From the WSJ:

    Appeals Court Rules Against Retroactive Affordable-Housing Requirements

    A New Jersey appeals court ruled Monday that towns and cities don’t have to meet affordable-housing requirements that accrued during 16 years when the state failed to adopt and enforce them.

    The unanimous decision, handed down by a panel of three judges with the appellate division of state Superior Court in Burlington County, marks a setback for affordable-housing advocates who argued municipalities should be forced to allow the building of tens of thousands of additional housing units.

    Instead, the judges ruled, towns and cities are responsible only for current and future affordable-housing needs, not the requirements that accrued from 1999 through 2015 when the state agency responsible for affordable-housing enforcement was mired in bureaucratic problems and legal challenges.

    In the decision, Judge Douglas Fasciale wrote that towns and cities will be held responsible only for “realistically affording opportunities for construction of a municipality’s fair share of present and prospective need for low- and moderate-income housing.”

    State housing law doesn’t require “the imposition of a new retrospective calculation,” Judge Fasciale wrote.

    Fair Share Housing Center, an advocacy group that promotes affordable housing, criticized the ruling.

    “The court today deviated from the course New Jersey has set for decades on how this [affordable-housing] need should be measured, raising the problem of continued delays for thousands of families who have waited years for homes in safe communities with access to good schools and employment opportunities,” Kevin Walsh, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

    A spokesman for Fair Share Housing Center said the group hasn’t decided whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

  4. D-FENS says:

    Facebook Puts Up Massive ‘Black Lives Matter’ Banner At HQ Following Dallas Shootings
    http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/07/11/facebook-hoists-massive-black-lives-matter-banner-hq-following-dallas-shootings/

  5. GOP's broken (the good one) says:

    economy’s on fire!

    @CNNMoney
    Starbucks baristas get big raises: 5% or more

    “The company has posted record profits in the first two quarters of the current fiscal”

  6. GOP's broken (the good one) says:

    @washingtonpost
    White N.C. man arrested after pulling gun on deputy,
    who wrestled it away, sheriff says

    “That motorist told Wake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Donnie Farmer that a man had a firearm, and he was pointing it at other drivers on the road. According to the newspaper, when Farmer located the man, he found him armed with a shotgun.

    The deputy tried to calm the armed man down, Sheriff Donnie Harrison told WRAL.

    “Next thing you know, he’s pointing the gun at him,” Harrison told the station.”

    “Deputy Farmer hit the man’s hand” as the gun fired and managed to wrestle the weapon away from him, according to Harrison.

  7. Comrade Nom Deplume, the Deplumiest. says:

    [6] twitiot

    I see what you did there. But that dog won’t hunt.

  8. Comrade Nom Deplume, the Deplumiest. says:

    Mainstream media is now literally putting Trump under a microscope. Real microscopes.

    http://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/08/donald-trumps-make-america-great-again-hats-fall-short-on-usa-made-tags.html

  9. Comrade Nom Deplume, the Deplumiest. says:

    [5] twitiot

    You got a raise. Congrats. You’re that much closer to being a maker instead of a taker

  10. main article – Like Van Buren Drive in Paramus? 4600 square foot houses on 1/4 acre lots. I think it was there or someplace near that I first noticed giant houses on small lots. The funny think is it made me feel sorry for the kids that would live there, but of course I was thinking about my youth. My next door neighbor and I used to play catch in our side yards, using our houses as backstops for errant throws and missed catches. Those houses in Paramus you would barely be able to play pepper in the side yard.

  11. grim says:

    We’ve all said, for years, standard of living in the US needs to decline.

    Fighting against that trend, we’ve made a decision that we can live with smaller yards, but we won’t live with smaller homes.

    I argued the point yesterday, building a small home is a foolish proposition. From an economic perspective, a financial perspective, a long-term perspective, building a home to the maximum the lot size permits is always the best strategy.

  12. grim says:

    The tiny house trend not included, because it’s a ridiculous (ly illegal) outlier.

    Maybe someone aught to buy the Moonachie trailer park, kick everyone out, and lease space as an upscale tinyhome park.

    Those idiots would pay $1500 a month land rent.

  13. grim says:

    Would like to say that my Brexit call is finally correct, just two weeks late.

  14. Hillary's Cankles are ground zero for Zika virus says:

    “Those idiots would pay $1500 a month land rent.”
    For a year or so. Then they would move to Montclair, buy a Subaru or Prius and rent a tiny apartment.

  15. Hillary's Cankles are ground zero for Zika virus says:

    What was your Brexit call? That they would leave the union or that it would help our market tremendously, which was my call.

  16. grim says:

    That the market would close at open price on the day of Brexit (quick recovery of the dip).

  17. Juice Box digging his own grave says:

    Brexit certainly didn’t help. It is guaranteed we will see intervention.

    “There is now $13 trillion of global negative-yielding debt, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. That compares with $11 trillion before the Brexit vote, and barely none with a negative yield in mid-2014.”

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/black-hole-of-negative-rates-is-dragging-down-yields-everywhere-1468174982

  18. Juice Box says:

    Lol – perjury referral for lying to Congress sent over to the US Attorney in DC. Check his bio.

  19. grim says:

    At the current rate of foreclosure, NY State will overtake NJ with the highest percentage of foreclosures in about 12 months.

  20. AG Lynch is taking the Sgt. Shultz defense. “I know nothing, I zee nothing.”

  21. That’s why you have to buy US blue chip dividend stocks. The yields are much higher and they are the same as bonds. You get yield and guaranteed return of principle. Oh, wait a minute;-)

    Brexit certainly didn’t help. It is guaranteed we will see intervention.

    “There is now $13 trillion of global negative-yielding debt, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. That compares with $11 trillion before the Brexit vote, and barely none with a negative yield in mid-2014.”

  22. We tease our kids with (true) stories of how Mommy and Daddy used to rent big houses and luxury condos with multiple bathrooms. They’ve only ever known (short of vacations and visits to grandparents) 900 square feet, 1 bath living. At least we have a fireplace and high ceilings;-)

    We’ve all said, for years, standard of living in the US needs to decline.

  23. grim says:

    I used two walk two miles, up stairs, through the cold AC, both ways, just to take a piss.

  24. chicagofinance says:

    Great review of Whole Foods in Wall on Google……
    Caitlyn Roslonski
    a month ago-
    Expensive. Rude ass rich people. Food tastes like garbage. If you’re a benny you’ll probably love it.

  25. Juice Box digging his own grave says:

    Whole Foods in Wall NJ? Time to short WFM.

  26. GOP's broken (the good one) says:

    @ESPN

    Unsealed court documents allege Joe Paterno was aware of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse as early as 1976.

  27. grim says:

    White N.C. man arrested after pulling gun on deputy,
    who wrestled it away, sheriff says

    White men fight back like sissies.

  28. Hillary's Cankles are ground zero for Zika virus says:

    “Time to short WFM”

    I would check the message board first and see what the CEO is doing.

  29. grim says:

    I like SBUX move of simultaneously raising prices and wages.

  30. Ben says:

    I started hanging out in Starbucks to do work whenever I had an hour prior to tutoring this past year. I am amazed at the amount of foot traffic that these places have.

  31. Ben says:

    Whole Food’s prepared food section is generally pretty awful. Their bakery is not as good as Wegmans. That being said, the one in Princeton, their meat and seafood departments are top notch. Top quality and as fresh as can be. What’s baffling to me is that they are priced competitively. Most cuts of beef there are cheaper than Shop Rite. The cuts of pork are the same. The chicken is more expensive though, but worth it.

  32. LOL – I was reading over the long list of presidential pardons that Obama has granted and I found one where the offense was a 1963 conviction for “coin mutilation”

    It tuns out that Obama helped put guns back on the street:

    http://www.post-gazette.com/local/west/2010/12/04/Obama-pardons-Beaver-Falls-coin-felon/stories/201012040202

  33. chicagofinance says:

    “I probably wouldn’t protest or complain, I would get involved and do something about it. Don’t be a part of the problem. We’re hiring. Get off that protest line and put an application in, and we’ll put you in your neighborhood, and we will help you resolve some of the problems you’re protesting about.”

    (African-American) Dallas Police Chief David Brown

  34. BTW, on balance, why is it that the various news articles don’t repeatedly refer to the recently deceased as “armed black man Alton Sterling”, “armed black man Philando Castile”, “armed black man Micah Johnson”?

  35. chicagofinance says:

    Too late……. Costco and Target have been ripping the insides out of Whole Foods for years……also not all Whole Foods price the same……I live almost equidistant from the Middletown and Marlboro ones……Marlboro is cheaper across the board, or at a minimum the same price…..although there are dramatic exceptions that are bigger, the typical difference is 5-15% less…..I can think of a soap we use for the kids’ bath that is 40% less ($10 versus $17)….same product/same store chain…..

    Juice Box digging his own grave says:
    July 12, 2016 at 12:01 pm
    Whole Foods in Wall NJ? Time to short WFM.

  36. Comrade Nom Deplume, the Deplumiest. says:

    The missus loves WF but if she ever bought things there one gets at other stores, I’d pitch a fit. Meat, produce, dairy, bread, fine. Everything else, nope

  37. grim says:

    Costco? I think Costco is overpriced.

    And I’m not even factoring in the food loss of having to throw half of it out, or are required freeze it, which IMHO devalues it’s worth.

  38. When it comes to super-market pricing I have a logistical questions about those nice glossy price tags on the shelves that show the price and cost per pound, etc. I imagine it’s very specific type of printer that not only prints, but also laminates.

    1. Do individual stores have the ability to print those or are the changed price tags delivered to the store from a central location?
    2. I know this will vary from chain to chain, but do the local managers have input on the pricing or do corporate bean counters do the pricing?

    We have several of the same chain (Star Market – think Shop-Rite) about equidistant from our home. If I happen into two different stores in the same week I notice that the same things are on sale, but at different prices. I like Wegman’s better than the rest, especially since they carry Taylor Pork Roll (do you know it does not say “Ham” anywhere on the label?).

  39. D-FENS says:

    Do you guys want me to get my wife to chime in? I haven’t been to a supermarket in years.

  40. Captain Nom Deplume, Besotted Rummy says:

    [34] Chifi,

    What the police chief suggests, hire more minorities and put them to work in minority communities, sounds good but do you know who complains? The minority cops assigned to the hood.

    http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F2/400/294/4/

    Note: very old case, uses a questionable no-longer PC term so probably NSFW. Also, this was a “hard” segregation case but in general, if you assigned minority cops to minority areas, you can expect a union grievance or EEOC complaint.

  41. Captain Nom Deplume, Besotted Rummy says:

    [39] expat

    1. yes/no
    2. yes

    There are still Star Markets around? My first real job in high school was in the local “Stah Mahket” in my north of Boston suburb.

  42. Juice Box digging his own grave says:

    These guys have been around a while, they are basically grocery circular search engine for deals.

    MyGroceryDeals.com

  43. Captain Nom Deplume, Besotted Rummy says:

    [41] redux

    EEOC complaint filed by black officers assigned to a BLM protest.

    http://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/2015/08/homewood_police_chief_accused.html

  44. homeboken says:

    I hit the whole foods for the butcher dept and fish market. The quality and selection available at the Columbus Circle location is excellent, blows the doors off what is available at the Stop n Shop at home. Their dry aged steaks are wonderful.

  45. Juice Box digging his own grave says:

    Hardly any movement in TESLA’s stock even with a headline like this.

    SEC Reportedly Investigating Tesla Motors

  46. The Great Pumpkin says:

    Yes, I pointed out in this blog that we need to pay teachers more or no one except losers are going to join their ranks. I was told by some members of this blog that they had a good compensation; now do you realize how out of touch you are(just a cheapo that would rather ruin our education system to save a few dollars). Pumpkin strikes again.

    http://www.nj.com/opinion/index.ssf/2016/07/sad_state_when_few_in_garden_state_want_to_be_teac.html

  47. The Great Pumpkin says:

    3b- Still think Christie didn’t use the teachers as a power grab? See little grass hopper, you were manipulated by what matters most to you….money. Damn those teachers, my taxes are insane. We need to do something about it. You ate it up, hook, line, and sinker.

    “Years ago, teaching was a revered profession, its practitioners held in the highest regard. But as that esteem began to erode, politicians like Gov. Chris Christie took full advantage, declaring open season on teachers and scapegoating them for the state’s financial woes.

    Rather than praising teachers for their dedication, Christie has repeatedly hurled invective during his famed town hall meetings, treating them and their unions with scorn and derision.

    And just like that, professionals who once were honored as givers of knowledge became, in the public’s eye, takers of the state’s limited resources.

    The ACT report recommends a series of changes designed to make teaching more attractive: programs to recruit more students, salaries commensurate with those of recent college graduates in other fields, more robust benefits.

    But we also need an attitude overhaul.

    That doesn’t mean going out and hugging the nearest teacher. It does mean treating the profession with the dignity and appreciation it deserves.”

  48. The Great Pumpkin says:

    Capitalism is not perfect. It destroyed our food supply with untamed greed. Who needs regulations, right?

    http://nypost.com/2016/07/10/the-truth-behind-how-were-scammed-into-eating-phony-food/

  49. D-FENS says:

    Fight the power!

    U.S. News ‏@usnews 24m24 minutes ago
    Bernie Sanders fans are staging a “fart-in” against Hillary Clinton. http://trib.al/fkStNIY

  50. Nom – yeah, Stah market merged with, or acquired/was acquired Shaw’s several years ago. They took a couple Stahs and renovated them as Shaw’s, then they changed their mind and then remodeled(one of our stores for the second time) and re-branded all the immediate Boston stores back to Star Market, including the ones that were always Shaw’s. The weird thing is that they stopped using the Shaw’s key-fob discount thing, so there is no “discount card” anymore. What was weirder still was that they gave you an 18 pack of a coke product if you handed your Shaw’s card back in. I have no idea why they would stop capturing all that buyer data. A private equity fund (Cerberus) acquired them about two years ago and that’s when they stopped with the discount cards. I guess now they are going to do an IPO now.

    An initial public offering by the owner of Shaw’s Super­markets and Star Market could allow the Massachusetts chains to regain their competitive standing, an industry expert said. Boise, Idaho-based Albert­­sons Cos. Inc., owned by Cerberus Capital Management, filed an IPO registration statement yesterday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission — five months after acquiring Safeway in an $8 billion deal. The second-largest U.S. grocery chain after Kroger Co., it owns 2,205 stores under ..

    [39] expat

    1. yes/no
    2. yes

    There are still Star Markets around? My first real job in high school was in the local “Stah Mahket” in my north of Boston suburb.

  51. Ben says:

    When it comes to super-market pricing I have a logistical questions about those nice glossy price tags on the shelves that show the price and cost per pound, etc. I imagine it’s very specific type of printer that not only prints, but also laminates.

    1. Do individual stores have the ability to print those or are the changed price tags delivered to the store from a central location?
    2. I know this will vary from chain to chain, but do the local managers have input on the pricing or do corporate bean counters do the pricing?

    We have several of the same chain (Star Market – think Shop-Rite) about equidistant from our home. If I happen into two different stores in the same week I notice that the same things are on sale, but at different prices. I like Wegman’s better than the rest, especially since they carry Taylor Pork Roll (do you know it does not say “Ham” anywhere on the label?).

    I have a friend that works in the central office that sets the prices. Not sure about the diff prices thing because I hit up 4 to 5 different shop rites and always see the same price.

    Fun fact, Taylor used to call their product “Ham” until a pure food act passed in the early 1900s required them to rebrand it.

  52. Thanks Ben! Next time you talk to your friend ask him how the price tags get printed and put out to the sales floor. This is not my area at all, but I think if I did the price setting for a chain of stores I would want some confirmation that all of the correct prices had made it to the shopping area. Ideally I would think something like a handheld scanner would remove the old tag and scan it (some sort of bar or other code on the back), then scan the new tag before it gets slid into the holder.

    As for “Taylor Ham” (I never knew until a month or two ago that it doesn’t actually say that on the product) that must be a multi-generational oral tradition passed down from great-great grandparents in NJ, I guess?

    I have a friend that works in the central office that sets the prices. Not sure about the diff prices thing because I hit up 4 to 5 different shop rites and always see the same price.

    Fun fact, Taylor used to call their product “Ham” until a pure food act passed in the early 1900s required them to rebrand it.

  53. Captain Nom Deplume, Besotted Rummy says:

    [52] expat,

    When I first went to DC with the wife, who went to a large firm as an associate, I worked on a project as a staff (read, temp) attorney, doing document review on a Hart-Scott-Rodino Second Request for documents.

    The deal was Albertson’s takeover of US Stores, the then-parent company of Star Market.

    Small world.

    It was noteworthy because they noticed my apparent familiarity with the subject matter and wanted to promote me. I not only turned down the promotion, I gave them notice because the 60 hours per week was keeping me from looking for career work.

  54. Hi,

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