We’ve Got Some Big Houses—That We Could Share

Just 60 years ago, the average American had 291 square feet of living space. Now it’s close to 1,000 square feet. Have we changed our needs that much? Or just our wants?
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For many people, “doubling up”—moving in with family or friends—is the last step on the way to homelessness.  But doubling up has benefits for people and for the planet.

1. Less Poverty

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In 2010, that 3.1% difference could have meant 1.4 million people kept out of poverty.

2. Security and Independence for Elders

Consider this: 79 million baby boomers will be entering their elder years in the next two decades. Where will they live? Elders who live with others are healthier, by 15%. For older men, rates of depression are more than double for those living alone (30% vs. 12%).

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Piggy Bank3. More Sustainable

One of the biggest costs of housing—both monetary and ecological—is heating and cooling. If you put four people in the space that used to be occupied by two, it changes the heating and cooling requirements for that space hardly at all. But it means you’re heating and cooling half the space you were before.


  • With 5 million houses in foreclosure, we are rediscovering that living sustainably includes living affordably.

  • Cooperative financing and community land trusts keep rents affordable and homeownership within reach.

  • The challenge: build the greenest houses on earth—and make them affordable.
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