The Future of Single-Family Homes

There are forces tugging and pushing the American landscape of home ownership in different directions, including demographic shifts, concern over the impact of climate change, and gentrification in urban areas, causing some to speculate the era of the single family home with a cat in the yard and a white picket fence is gone.

Not so fast, says Joel Kotkin, founder of the Houston-based think tank The Center for Opportunity Urbanism, who says a larger supply of traditional housing is “a good thing,” and favors building 900 new homes on the old Pine Crest Golf Course two miles from the Addicks Reservoir, a plan approved by the Houston City Council last week.

“I don’t know how many more of these kinds of opportunities are going to exist.  Many of the new regulations that have been passed by the city may not make it possible for housing to be affordable in the future,” he tells KTRH News Radio 740.

Multi-family starts grew in popularity following the housing crisis in 2008, but the issuance of single family home building permits has been growing in the recent years.  The question is whether American cities will grow on a model more like Portland, Oregon, which tends toward tight urbanization with mass transit opportunities and walkways, or Houston, which is a hub-and-spoke collection of suburban cities connected by interstates that sprawls wherever it can grow.  Houston has half the population of London but takes up three times as much space.

“Houston has the opportunity to be a real innovator,” says Kotkin.  “It has been in the past and I think the future of the American city is not going to be how can we become more like Portland it’s going to be how can we become a better Houston.”

Houston and Dallas lead the nation in the number of single-family house permits.

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