Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, the built environment, planning adjacent topics, and anything else that comes to mind. No ads, no spam, and it's free. It's easy to join!
some of the smaller cities within Ada County, Idaho have been debating the idea of a minimum dwelling size. I am concerned this would violate the Fair Housing Act. Has anyone had experience with a minimum dwelling size requirement?
The city I'm in now has a lot of deed restrictions that give minimum square footage. In my last job they has a minimum square footage for residential and for apartments the residential was 900 square feet latter raised to 1000 I believe to eliminate single wides being able to locate outside of in mobil home parks. I believe that they created a manufactured home ordiance and then lowered it to 900 again. On the whole the more expensive part of building a home are the kitchens and bathrooms so minimum square footage as long as it's not really high doesn't have too much impact that I've noticed on affordable housing. New homes I fear are never really affordable anyway unless they are building under a special program.
If you want to really stir people up and make them think you might ask if they also want a maximum size. How big should a house really be? Should it be allowed to dominate the surroundings? Last year we permitted a house of 6177 square feet and more than 20 over 5000 who lives in those things??? How big does a house really need to be?
I'm not sure there has actually been a Fair Housing Act case on minimum house size, but you need to consult an attorney who specializes in these issues. A minimum size is both discrimination based on wealth, and illogical. I am looking at some plans right now for a 985 sq. ft. house that would cost, conservatively, $150,000 -- not cheap! But it would be prohibited in several jurisdictions I have worked with.
Most of the things planners do are bound to be illogical and discriminatory to someone or other. (we as planners should rise above this and look out for what is best for the community as a whole.) I believe there are certain circumstances where cities should have a minimum building size. ........ We as planners often tend to think in one dimension (Advocacy/equity planning....we must help the poor) This is the way it should be in most circumstances, however, just as planners should push for inclusionary zoning in order to accomplish mixed income developments by pushing for and helping the poor get in with the wealthier crowd, Planners sometimes have to take the other rout (granted, not as often) of pushing for the wealthier crowd to mix in with the poorer crowd in order for you to get your mixed income communities.
Take for example two cities, close to each other, of similar size and character. City (A) has a higher minimum building size than city (B). As we know, developers and builders tend to follow the minimums to a T, so city (B) gets more of the smaller, affordable homes. If the planner in city (B) is doing his/her job, they will realize that their community is providing an abundance of the affordable, low income housing in the region.......that in order to get there mixed income developments and provide for the lifecycle housing they have stated as a goal in their comp plan, they need to raise the minimum building size..........another negative that could happen in city B if they don't is that people will move into there smaller homes and move to city A when they have a few kids (you aren't getting more than two bedroom in a house under 1,000 sq. ft. finished) Therefore the school loses out too...........If you can't tell, I am a planner in City B.
The situation described in the previous post reflects issues of livability reather than house size. People tend to choose the community where they want to live and find a home within that community, rather than the other way around. I am not aware that a minmum house size is an adequate tool for growth management. It doesn't seem to address the underlying issues of why people are leaving the community. Empirical evidence should be utilized to determine if the assumptions are correct.
My experience is: absent any other code, your building code defines the housijng unit size (and occupancy limits). There is case law on that somewhere. And an efficiency apartment is quite small.
The issue is not as clear cut as what is the optimum house size. If we want to encourage infill development, think about what size house will fit on a vacant 40x100 lot near the town center. As a soon to be empty nester, I find small housing on passed over urban lots enticing. (But not at the level Lee N described)
Thanks for your second post 13..., yes it does take empircal evidence specific to the individual community to ascertain what is best. Remember that one of our first planning tasks is to find out what the community really wants.