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Via Wikipedia “a single-family (home, house, or dwelling) means that the building is usually occupied by just one household or family, and consists of just one dwelling unit or suite. In some jurisdictions allowances are made for basement suites or mother-in-law suites without changing the description from “single family”. It does exclude, however, any short-term accommodation (hotel, motels, inns), large-scale rental accommodation (rooming or boarding houses, apartments), or condominia.
Most single-family homes are built on lots larger than the structure itself, adding an area surrounding the house, which is commonly called a yard in North American English or a garden in British English. Garages can also be found on most lots. Houses with an attached front entry garage that is closer to the street than any other part of the house is often derisively called a snout house.
Terms corresponding to single-family detached home in common use are single-family home (in the U.S. and Canada),single-detached dwelling (in Canada), detached house (in the United Kingdom and Canada), and separate house (in New Zealand).
In the United Kingdom, the term single-family home is almost unknown, except through Internet exposure to U.S. media. Whereas in the U.S., housing is commonly divided into “single-family homes”, “multi-family dwellings“, “Condo/Townhouse”, etc., the primary division of residential property in British terminology is between “houses” (including “detached”, “semi-detached“, and “terraced” houses and bungalows) and “flats” (i.e., “apartments” or “condominia” in American English).
History and distribution
In pre-industrial societies most people live in multi-family dwelling for most of their lives. A child will live with their parents from birth until marriage, and then generally move in with the parents of the man (patrilocal) or the woman (matrilocal), so that the grandparents can help raise the young children and so the middle generation can care for their aging parents. This type of arrangement also saves on the effort and materials used for construction and, in colder climates, heating. If people had to move to a new place or were wealthy enough, they could build or buy a home for their own family, of course but this was not the norm.
The idea of a nuclear family living separately from their relatives as the norm, is a relatively recent development related to rising living standards in North America and Europe during the early modern and modern eras. In the New World where land was plentiful settlement patterns were quite different from the close-knit villages of Europe, meaning many more people lived in large farms separated from their neighbors. This has produced a cultural preference in settler societies for privacy and space. A countervailing trend has been industrialization and urbanization, which as seen more and more people around the world move into multi-story apartment blocks. In the New World, this type of densification was halted and reversed following the Second World War when increased automobile ownership and cheaper building and heating costs produced suburbanization instead.
Single-family homes are now common in rural and suburban and even some urban areas across the New World and Europe, as well as wealthier enclaves within the Third World. They are most common in low-density, high-income regions. For example, in Canada according to the 2006 Census 55.3% of the population lived single-detached houses but this varied substantially by region. In the Ville (city) of Montreal, Canada’s second most populous municipality, only 7.5% of the population lived in a single-detached house, while in the city of Calgary, the third most populous, 57.8% did. Note that this includes the “city limits” populations only, not the wider region.
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