By Brian Clark Howard
When the housing market is booming, the temptation is high for developers to rip down older homes and replace them with big new McMansions. Homes as small as 1,200 square feet are routinely replaced with behemoths of 6,000 square feet or more. While there can be a lot of money to be made in such strategies, neighbors often complain that it carries a high price, as USA Today reports. The historic, charming character and flavor of neighborhoods gets eroded when older homes are replaced by new construction. Big homes overshadow their neighbors, both literally and figuratively, and raise area taxes. They have a much bigger footprint in terms of eating up wildlife habitat and greenspace. They contribute to the heat island effect and stormwater run off. New, bigger homes can also put more strain on infrastructure, such as sewer, water and electricity services, and may add to population density and congestion if several homes are squeezed into lots. Building new also requires more resources than using what is already on the site. The Atlanta City Council recently approved a zoning ordinance that links the size of a home to the size of the lot. Austin, Texas has a law that restricts the size of a new home in the case of a teardown. Outside Minneapolis, a community now requires larger setbacks on narrow lots to limit home sizes. The battle over the built environment continues, as preservationists and greens hope to serve as checks and balances on developers and status-seeking homeowners.