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    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Living room
September 6, 2011 - 5:45am

I was reading about some real estate in Italy. A bit north of Rome, including the southern portion of Tuscany. Reasonable price per square foot, so long as you don't need to be on the Mediterranean. And, to be honest, not unreasonable on a comparison basis even if you do.

What struck me was the size of the properties being discussed. Mostly older apartments and small houses, they ranged from 500 to 700 square feet. The article spoke of this as acceptable since, after all, it was proposing them as vacation or second homes. Not someplace you'd live year-round.

But, of course, these properties were built originally as someplace to live year-round. And probably not for empty-nesters like the folks at whom the article was targeted. Probably for families. And since we're talking Italy here, probably for fairly large families by modern US standards.

Which shouldn't surprise anyone. The average new house built in the USA in 2010 was over 2400 square feet, up from about 1800 feet in 1980. And smaller before that.

I was one of three, and we were raised in a house of about 1400 square feet. My wife, also one of three, grew up in a house of about the same size. Her mother's family (5 kids) had about 1200 square feet after they moved to "the good neighborhood". Her dad's parents lived in a house of probably less than 900 feet. My grandmother was one of 12, and her family's farmhouse was under 2000 square feet -- less than 85% as big as the average new home built last year, and occupied full time by 14 people. My grandfather -- one of 8 -- was raised in a 720-square foot apartment above the hardware store. Ten people living in a space not noticeably bigger than the places now being considered of acceptable sized because (after all) the two of you aren't really going to be living there.

Sometimes it's important to realize just how spoiled our society has become. And how recently.


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