Traditional buildings prefered, rarely built

There’s an interesting report out from the Adam Smith Institute that finds that traditional houses are much more popular than contemporary ones, a preference expressed in their prices.

They find that, even controlling for a wide range of features, fully neo-traditional houses sell for 15% more than fully non-traditional houses. Houses with references to tradition sell for 5% more. We might speculate that actually traditional houses sell for yet more.

The fact that we aren’t talking about actual pre-war housing, but housing built to resemble pre-war housing is signifigant. Pre-war housing tends to be found in pre-war neighborhoods, which thanks to their architecture and their urbanism — walkability, potential of living, working and shopping in one place — are very popular and very expensive, but the study the Adam Smith Institute references suggests that the architecture itself is a major selling point.

Certainly one of the more common complaints regarding new development in Boston is the quality of the architecture. The complaints are partially contextual and partially aesthetic, but contemporary styles are usually prevalent.

The reasons why contemporary styles prevail are similar as well. According to Nicholas Boys Smith of Create Streets (in a paper referenced by the Institute’s post), London’s planning regulations prevent traditional urban patterns from being utilized.

The situation is similar in Boaston, where minimum parking requirements, maximum floor-area-ratios, minimum lot sizes and a general resistance to anything “out of character” has stymied infill development.

Happily, Chicago seems to be immune from this problem, as Max Grinnell discovered recently.

Those aren’t the most traditional buildings, but they’re better than many.




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