Tract Housing: The Levittown Legacy

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The years following World War II were extremely prosperous in the United States. Incomes increased from coast to coast, existing industries flourished and new ones thrived. Economic opportunity seemed limitless.

Homeownership was within reach for millions. After the Great Depression and years of war, suburban peace was attractive to many Americans.  Levittown, New York was the most prominent example of this suburban lifestyle.

Levittown was associated with cookie-cutter housing developments that maximized space by subdividing large tracts (areas) of land into smaller sections. Today, it is known as “tract housing.”

Benefits and drawbacks of tract housing include:

Benefits

  • Lower cost production makes it cheaper for developers and homeowners.
  • Property value is steady.
  • Great for homeowners looking to stay in one place for a while or a solution for first time homebuyers.

Drawbacks

  • Size and layout options are limited
  • Paint, flooring and cabinetry can be lower in quality.
  • Poor investment value since resale value can be lower than initial price.

Homogeneity, or sameness of design, is one of the main arguments against tract housing. It was difficult to create a unique home when purchasing from tract housing. Each home was nearly identical in size and design to its neighbors. These characteristics were necessary to save costs, but came at the expense of individuality.

Modern tract housing developers have moved to reverse this impression. Materials and labor are purchased and managed in an assembly line like process, and lot sizes hardly differ from one to the next.

Tract housing communities often feature several distinctive floor plans and unit variations.  Interested buyers can choose from a selection of styles, designs, and layouts. Interior and exterior aesthetics may differ from unit to unit.

The legacy of Levittown lives on in modern tract housing, but the “sameness stereotype” is being challenged by developers.  They are trying to offer individuality in their homes. The “cookie-cutter” model is still present in production, but the end result is closer to offering unique homes for the homeowners.

Contact an OnQ Financial mortgage consultant with questions about local tract developments or any real estate topic on your mind.

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