Do You Have a McMansion in Your Neighborhood?

A new research study is showing that in more than 65% of America’s largest cities the appearance of “McMansions,” defined as new, much larger houses built on lots that once contained more modest homes, is exploding.

If you live or lived in the suburbs you may be used to see big houses all over with well-cared lawns and nice cars parked in front of them. But if live or have lived in cities and older suburbs you know that houses in those neighborhoods are modest in size and much smaller. Welcome to a new phenomenon that is happening in cities and older suburbs: the appearance of Super-Sized “McMansions”

“McMansions” are defined as new, larger houses built on lots that once contained more modest homes. Some cities have seen an explosion (more than 20% of the largest cities surveyed reported 30 or more McMansions within their boundaries) in such construction practices that It is starting to worry neighbors and city lawmakers alike because of the implications of such big house constructions may have on the neighborhood.

According to the new study, residents with more money may be moving from the suburbs to cities and older suburbs instead of building new houses in traditional faraway suburbs. There may be a “let’s go back to our old neighborhood” movement in new constructions.

Jack Nasar, professor of city and regional planning at Ohio State University, led the study. The Mc Mansions phenomenon is occurring also in suburban communities where it may be larger than in older cities.

The study was based on surveys made to officials from 29 of the 50 largest U.S. cities, and from other 30 other cities (mostly big-city suburbs). The surveys tried to explore about this new phenomenon, how prevalent is, and what cities are doing to regulate McMansions.

Almost 80 percent of these surveyed cities reported the presence of McMansions, and 22 percent of then reported to having 30 or more such oversized homes.

The study also shows that the appearance of McMansions has motivated cities to adopt new regulations (50% of the surveyed official report having adopted new regulations) to accommodate the construction of oversized homes.

The questions remain as if Mc Mansions are good for the neighborhood. Some people believe that McMansions clash with the character of a neighborhood. In the eyes of certain people it is great because having a Mc Mansion in your neighborhood may increase the market value of your home. This may be true if you live let say 2-3 blocs from the Mc Mansion but would you like to have a house 10 times bigger overlooking your small house?

The study seems to imply that people do not like McMansion if it is too close to your house but if it is within a few blocks it is OK.

Regarding city officials feelings about McMansions are mixed. For an inner small suburb area with a small tax base, a larger house brings in additional monies in the form of tax revenue, which any city administrator would certainly appreciate.

How do cities regulate this McMansions? The study reports a variety of regulations but the most common seem to be limiting building height as a way to control oversized houses (14% of surveyed cities). Also, design review boards to approve plans for new homes (about 8 %t of cities) and limits on floor-area ratios (about 7 % of cities) are common regulations schemes for McMansions


Nasar et al. 2007. McMansions: The Extent and Regulation of Super-sized Houses. Journal of Urban Design, Volume 12, Issue 3 October 2007 , pages 339 – 358. URL:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 + = six