If my house were a car, I think it would be a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air. Not huge, suitable for a small family, and modestly stylish for the time. At 1207 square feet, it was a common three bedroom bungalow with one bath, sitting on a bare sixty foot wide lot in suburbia. It was the Canadian dream with hardwood floors, blonde fir woodwork, and linoleum in the kitchen.
Over the years our homes have come to be more like stretch limos and service van fleet vehicles as we scramble to build bigger and fancier, to showcase our bigger and fancier lives. There’s nothing really wrong with that. I have worked hard over the years to provide designs for clients who need more space but also want their home to be attractive and suitable to their needs.
Recently, however, I have encountered a growing number of people who picture their home as more like a sub-compact, or perhaps to some even a SMART car. Just as there are many sizes of cars on the road, there are homeowners with varying requirements for finely tuned homes. Can you imagine shopping for your dream compact car only to be confronted with a car lot full of mini vans and F-150’s? What if you could not afford them or their fuel, insurance and warranty package? Currently, there are many municipalities who will not allow a home of less than 800 sq. ft. (in some cases 1000 sq. ft. or more). Yet there are many people who do not require that much space in a home.
As homeowners, we need to see the creative equivalent of a Toyota Yaris, with its stylish looks, energy saving features and small footprint. We want housing sized to suit our lifestyles, budgets and the reality of what it is we really need. To some it could be as little as 200 square feet, for others it might be 500 square feet or more. But the choice needs to be available to developers, home builders and most importantly home owners. Just as family situations vary widely, home requirements do as well, and zoning bylaws and building regulations need to start addressing this diversity. Voicing your concern to your municipality officials is important so that rules for the sizes of homes can be changed to allow for this diversity. The same options that are available to car shoppers need to be available to home owners. If affordable housing is ever going to be truly affordable, we need to design, build and sell houses like we do cars.