Examining Minimum Home Size and Affordability

Housing Affordability Institute released a new white paper today examining how minimum standards for home size and affordability. The white paper is part of the Institute’s Affordability Roadblocks series highlighting housing policy issues adversely impacting housing affordability and access.

Adopted under the guise of “health, safety, and welfare,” square footage minimums can be used to prevent smaller starter homes from being built, thereby limiting housing access based on purchasing power.


  • When builders increase living spaces to reach the locally imposed square foot minimum, this adds roughly $100 per square foot. Mandating an 1,800-square-foot home instead of 1,400-square-foot home costs buyers approximately $40,000. 
  • As early as the 1950s, planners shared concerns that this housing policy could be used as a form of economic exclusion. 
  • The Connecticut Supreme Court, in a 1988 opinion, found these policies are a form of economic segregation.

As accessory dwelling units have increased in popularity over the past decade, and new starter home production in some markets has all but ceased, the topic of mandating a minimum structure size is becoming more relevant. 

Read: Square Footage Minimums