The Growing Blight of "Infill" McMansions: Their awful ugliness exemplifies the unbalanced economy that spawned them.

AuthorLofgren, Mike

Most of us remember the atmosphere of pre-2008 America. One of its signature features was the jerrybuilt McMansion, usually constructed in isolated developments miles outside cities on hitherto perfectly serviceable farmland, heaving up in eczematous patches that scarred the rural landscape.

Loudoun County, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C., is one such place, notable for possibly being the McMansion headquarters of America--at least insofar as it has managed to sustain itself over time. When the 2008 crash descended on America, other developments across the country were abandoned like Machu Picchu, their pools filling with algae and mosquito larvae, or turning into crime-ridden hellholes like Victorville, California.

The country is now emerging from another deep recession, albeit with a twist. The Great Depression of 1929, like almost all economic downturns, featured a rise in income equality. Thanks to the dubious economic "innovations" that have structurally changed the economy, income inequality has accelerated, and one sees it in the booming real estate market.

The truly rich, of course, are not a part of the new McMansion phenomenon, except perhaps as investors in real estate investment trusts. Below them are the aspirational rich, whose peculiar bureaucratic and networking talents as coat holders of the genuinely wealthy served them very well during the COVID recession--certainly better than hamburger flippers or production line workers. The aspirational rich seek houses suitable to their station, and thus the new McMansion craze.

Geographical tastes seem to have changed. Perhaps the commute from Loudoun County to K Street was getting too much, or living in a raw, undeveloped place without wine bars and outdoor cafes became unappealing. For whatever reason, we now see the fad of the infill McMansion in long-established neighborhoods in large cities or their inner suburbs.

The modus operandi is always the same: Take a totally usable older house that is the same style and size as neighboring dwellings, though perhaps needing a rehab, and knock it flat, along with every mature tree on the property--there will be no room for them, owing to the enormous footprint of the planned structure. Then construct a particle-board chateau that has at least 75 percent more square footage than the neighbors, complete with a quarter-acre driveway for the obligatory Range Rover.

One needn't worry about zoning regulations. In Fairfax County, Virginia...

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