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How regulations shape our houses

Most of us live with the illusion of a market economy, and "choice" of housing product.  New Urbanists know that when offered a true side-by-side choice, home buyers will often choose something quite different than what most builders have to offer. 

Through the ages, many forces besides consumer choice have shaped our buildings, including government regulations.

dutch.jpgIn Amsterdam, tall narrow houses sprung up along canals because they were taxed based on their width.


camelback shotgun.jpgIn New Orleans, the local vernacular came to include the "camelback shotgun house."  Shotgun houses were common, and suited to the available lot shapes, but the "camelback" design, with a low front facade and a taller rear section, was a result of tax based on the height at the street. 


Even the ubiquitous suburban McMansion is caused, to an extent, by regulations.  Many towns require a certain number of separately identifiable ridgelines on each house, in an effort to avoid the monotony of an endless sea of vinyl boxes.  The result, however, is added cost, visual clutter, and a remarkable amount of . . . monotony.




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