So. I was watching HGTV yesterday and there’s one of those shows about a couple who wants to move somewhere (in this case it was Flagstaff or something). They show three different homes and the couple has to make a decision. The first house was described as ‘just’ 2800 square feet, and was considered almost too small for the needs of this couple and their baby.
Were they planning to have ten kids? Were they starting an indoor riding school? Nascar track? Paintball gallery?
Nah. He wanted space for his hobby, making electronic things. She wanted room to sew. They wanted separate rooms just for those things.
Now, I began fighting some of my own prejudices here, because they weren’t rich. They just weren’t in Vancouver. Or New York. Or another big city. But how dare they take up 2800 square feet? How dare they think it a little small when there are people who have so much less in square footage?
How wasteful! I raged to myself. People can live perfectly happily with so much less space. What the hell are they thinking? Imagine the carbon footprint as he drives to work every day. Imagine how much time they’ll spend cleaning a place that big. And God, the stuff! Think of the mindless consumer crap you could fill that place with! My Angry Inner Pinko was on full alert.
Part of the anger came because I type, eat, sew and paint at the same small table, and the equipment stays in storage if I’m not using it. E has a room for his music stuff, but that is my decision because I don’t want to live in his stuff, and it takes up a lot of room. We manage very well, albeit kidless, in about 800 square feet.
But I don’t have to live in this neighbourhood, in this city. I could live in the ‘burbs and have way more space. I could move to Flagstaff and have a giant house. Hell, ditto Regina. But I live where I live because I love it, and that is that.
But talking to my brother today (who lives in Philadelphia and knows from living cramped), I realized that a lot of government and housing policy is responsible for the fact that many North Americans see 2800 Square Feet as the only logical choice. There are tax breaks for first-time home buyers, but no tax breaks for renters, and most renters are in the denser areas of cities. Hayuuge money for highway projects but little, generally, is done to create swift commuting within a city. Here, anyway. Sure, there are frequent buses along main corridors, but what if you have to transfer, or, God forbid, get to South Van? Budget extra time and bring a snack, because you’ll be waiting/on the bus for a loooong time. The government will extend the power grid to Wyndsong Heights, or whatever the latest housing development is called, but it won’t spend money on greener practices in the cities.
Don’t even get me started on the socioeconomic ramifications of the government policies. It’s enough to make me want to stick a knife in my eye. Policy needs to change a lot, because 2800 Square Feet for everyone just isn’t going to cut it.