Charles Publishes Latest Paper on Mansionization

Photograph of a mansion next to a small house in a suburban neighborhood

Charles's recent paper focuses on the effect that "McMansions" have on adjacent house prices in the suburbs of Chicago. photo / provided

March 27, 2019

Suzanne Lanyi Charles, assistant professor in CRP, recently published an article titled "Assessing the Effect of Mansionization on Suburban Single-Family House Sales Prices," in the Journal of Planning Education and Research. The paper is based on her study of the effects of mansionization — a term used by Charles and other planning researchers to refer to an increase in the number of new, large, single-family houses — on house prices.

According to Charles, there is a general concern that mansionization negatively impacts neighborhood property values, but her research shows the contrary — that values increase, which, while beneficial to property owners in the short term, could potentially result in decreases in affordability and exclusionary displacement. "With this and my other work on this topic, my overarching aim is that my work will illuminate why we have the suburban built environment that we do and how as urban planners and policymakers we might foster more socially just and environmentally sustainable suburban places," she explains.

Charles's recent article is one in a series of several she has written on the topic of mansionization, and she is currently planning for another project with Dan Kuhlmann (Ph.D. CRP '18) that examines how housing operates in neighborhoods as "conspicuous consumption" — or as a symbol of wealth and prestige — and how this context affects relative resident satisfaction.

"The culmination of these projects will help planners to understand why households choose to remain or leave suburban neighborhoods undergoing gentrification pressures," says Charles. "This is an important yet understudied topic that is crucial to understand as neighborhoods undergo physical, as well as social and economic changes."

By Edith Fikes

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