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In L.A., Homes Grow As Apartments Shrink

In Los Angeles, single-family homes are getting bigger as apartment life shrinks. According to research from Yardi’s Storage Café, the average size of a single-family house increased to 3,296 square feet, an increase of 196 square feet over the last decade. On the flip side, apartments have decreased in size during the same time period. The average apartment in Los Angeles is 808 square feet, a decrease of 41 square feet over the last decade.

“Living large has always been regarded as one of the perks associated with the California lifestyle,” Francis Chantree of Storage Café, tells GlobeSt.com. “Many people look for space in their home choices—especially under the current circumstances when homes need to fulfill multiple roles, including work spaces and entertainment—and demand is what dictates building trends.”

While home size have continued to grow, they are growing at a slower pace in the last decade, partly due to local building restrictions. “Single-family home sizes have continued to grow larger over the last decade, although at a much slower pace than in the previous decades,” says Chantree. The city passed regulations in 2008 to restrict their size, and in 2017 maximum house size was restricted further from 50% to 45% of the total lot.”

However, the growth of single-family homes is outpacing the nationwide home size increase. “This is actually only slightly larger than the nationwide increase of 5.7% over the same time period, with an average of 143 square feet added to reach an average of 2,611 square feet,” says Chantree. “Building larger single-family housing is a trend across the country, and L.A. tends to always be ahead of the trend.”

On the flip side, smaller apartments have been a strategy to squeeze more housing into a tight and under-supplied market. “Housing types such as duplexes, multiplexes and bungalow courts are common in some cities but less so in L.A.,” says Chantree. “With a limited inventory of low-rise, multi-unit housing, the multifamily sector has tried to respond to the need for more housing as the area continues to attract more people, many of whom prefer living in apartments close to work and entertainment options. To accommodate all these newcomers who look for walkability and livability, apartments have been built smaller and in taller buildings. McMansions are still popular with Angelinos who can afford them, but those valuing location and amenities over space have also got plenty of options in L.A.”

The larger size of single-family homes, however, have put homeownership out of reach for many L.A. residents. “The increase in single-family home sizes in L.A. has made homeownership there more difficult for a number of people. You would now need a salary of somewhat over $100,000, assuming a down payment of 20% percent, to be able to afford a single-family house in LA, which is similar to the situation in most of the rest of California,” says Chantree.

The pandemic could make larger homes even more desirable. “Despite economic restrictions, home buyers’ aspirations might well increase due to the pandemic—they have had to stay at home so much that they will surely be valuing extra space—and this may not diminish demand for large houses, albeit at affordable prices,” says Chantree. “Crucially, the changes caused by the pandemic might boost the number of housing units that fall in the so-called ‘missing middle’ category, so residents can have a good alternative to the big home or tiny apartment lifestyle.”

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