Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

The New Starter Home

Somewhere between now and 1950 (or thereabouts) something went wrong with American housing. Back then, car-fueled sprawl hadn’t yet driven people so far from city centers. At 983 sq ft, the average home was just about right sized for the average household size of 3.54 people (277 sq ft/person). Architect Jonathan Tate told Fast CO.Design said this is what went wrong:

Houses morphed from a consumer good into an investment commodity, which in turn led to developers building cookie-cutter starter homes based on what they deemed to be the most likely to appreciate in value. Houses became more expensive to purchase and maintain, their sizes ballooned, and they were increasingly located in areas far removed from established neighborhoods since it was less expensive to buy greenfield land.

This morph made homes prohibitively expensive to large swaths of the population, evidenced by a 48 year low in homeownership rates in 2015. Tate and developer Charles Rutledge recently launched the Starter Home* project as a response to the commodification of homes, designing and developing housing around how people live.


The first Starter Home* recently went up in New Orleans. It’s 975 sq ft, but its actual footprint is only 473 sq ft. Even with setbacks and some outdoor space, it can fit onto a very small 16.5’ x 55’ lot. The compact proportions make the house ideal for urban infill development, using lots that might not support conventional homes. This has the benefit of allowing the developer to purchase centrally located land at a discount, which in turn creates a lower purchase price. The first starter home cost $339K, which is about $35K more than the average New Orleans listing. Tate believeshe can drive that price down with scale. Tate has 15-20 projects in the pipeline and is planning on making Oakland, CA the next stop for the Starter Home*.  

The basic tenets of the Starter Home* are great: reduce the size and price of single family homes; bring more housing into our city centers; bring sanity back to American housing. With the average new single family home size hovering around 2700 sq ft, we need this now more than ever. 

For more information and images head over to CO.Design

  • Tereza

    Super concept but the tiny home concept does little to address the needs of the upcoming Boomer generation, many of whom are seeking to downsize. Thinking ahead, what are needed are smaller homes, 2 bedrooms, double sink bath on one level to address the inevitable decrease in mobility We need to be near services (mass transit is a noble aspiration in most communities) and medical care. My husband and I have been searching for several years, being ready to move out of our oversized home and having decluttered and minimized our belongings in preparation. There is nothing in our community but overpriced luxury condos, large homes and two story residences that give more bang for the buck for space hungry younger families. The story seems to be that there is not the profit in small homes that a developer makes with the 4-6K square footage behemoths. Currently, we are stuck in a large home with lots of maintenance and but can’t sell until we find a small, efficient, equally well located place to live.

  • Lori Taylor-Schulte

    This is a great concept, albeit still a wee bit pricey. Designing homes with sustainability while the owner ages, is a critical component for homes with a future, for without it, the cycle of having to leave ones home as one’s mobility decreases will keep pushing the aged right out the door and out of the communities they have come to know, build, and love.

  • CTR

    In what alternative universe is $300K+ for a <1000 sf home aimed at the "middle class"?

  • CTR

    I’m still waiting for LifeEdited to show how we can build TRULY affordable, beautiful spaces that are green and space efficient, and which can be priced for many more entry points. I am solidly middle class, but all the concepts posted here are well beyond my means, even though we do well.

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  • Ani

    Sounds good, except for the price which is nuts. My townhouse is just over 1,000 sq ft(smallest I could find), but cost $134,000 just a few years ago. We need smaller, well built homes that aren’t just for the rich!

  • John From NY

    This is not the solution… The solution is pretty simple actually. Mandate income verification for all buyers domestic and foreign. Mathematically there aren’t enough legitimate rich people that can drive prices high. Just look at the average household income and then the house prices. Does it make any sense to you? Can an official tell us why it is allowed for people with undeclared money to buy houses? Maybe I’m wrong and everyone is making 150k+