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The Flip Side of Single-Family Housing

Much of the debate about housing shortages and rising housing costs focuses on single-family housing as the main culprit. But could it also be part of the solution?
December 30, 2019, 7am PST | Camille Fink
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Kate Wagner considers whether single-family homes really deserve all the blame they receive for the housing crisis in many American cities. Discussions about solutions focus on upzoning and increasing housing supply or instituting policies to ensure affordable housing.

"But the debate also raises larger questions about single-family homes: What is their value in this current political moment? And is it immoral for us to keep building them?" asks Wagner.

She argues that the diversity of single-family homes makes it difficult to understand them as one category, housing for one family or household. "Some single-family houses have history, but little economic value; some have economic value but little history," notes Wagner.

Wagner also believes that these homes are not solely the cause of crises like gentrification and climate change. "That many existing single-family homes could be densified by adding accessory dwelling units or by breaking them up into apartments makes it impossible to see single-family homes as either purely good or purely bad—or to ignore their potential to address some of the problems we face."

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Published on Wednesday, December 11, 2019 in Curbed
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