How Minimum Size Requirements Hamper Housing Production

Minimum square footage requirements are preventing many property owners from building on their lots, despite no evidence that they bring any safety benefits or maintain high property values.

May 19, 2022, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

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Using examples from Utah, Alabama, and Georgia, Andrew Wimer, writing in Forbes, describes how minimum home size requirements are preventing many property owners from building their homes. “Minimum square footage requirements are a relatively new innovation and have nothing to do with health and safety. In fact, as recently as the mid-1980s the median square footage for American homes was 1,600 square feet.” 

However, “Those requirements have grown even as building a home becomes more expensive. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, construction costs shot up 17.5% from 2020 to 2021, the largest spike in 50 years.” For people like Chrissy Rochford, who has plans to build a 1,600 square foot home, her town’s 2,000 square foot minimum requirement price her out of construction. “In Calhoun, Georgia, nonprofit Tiny House Hand Up’s plans for an affordable tiny home village are on hold since the town has an 1,150 square foot minimum. The plans meet the building requirements in every other way, but the town refuses to consider reducing the minimum.”

Some activists have sued to challenge the laws. “Laws restricting how Americans use their private property have to be reasonable and serve legitimate government interests. Courts have struck down square footage minimums in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, finding that they had no connection to public safety or welfare.”

Tuesday, May 17, 2022 in Forbes

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