Monday, November 29, 2010

Tiny House Movement Thrives Amid Real Estate Bust

From Yahoo News. I've read about these houses before, but didn't post it because I think these houses aren't practical unless you're single and broke. They could be used as emergency housing (think Haiti), or nomadic housing (since they're on wheels). Most zoning boards won't approve them because they're on wheels, making them a vehicle rather than a house--no property taxes. Also, hooking up utilities (like sewer) is a non-starter with many models, so they aren't fit for standard city/suburban zoning compliance.

"To save money or simplify their lives, a small but growing number of Americans are buying or building homes that could fit inside many people's living rooms, according to entrepreneurs in the small house industry.

Some put these wheeled homes in their backyards to use as offices, studios or extra bedrooms. Others use them as mobile vacation homes they can park in the woods. But the most intrepid of the tiny house owners live in them full-time, paring down their possessions and often living off the grid."

Many have no proper toilet, sink, or shower facilities. They're more for camping--a place to sleep and a place to sit. Cooking is questionable, given the elbow room. Think club house for the kids, only with adult height.

"Living in a small house like this really entails knowing what you need to be happy and getting rid of everything else."

Shafer, author of "The Small House Book," built the 89-square-foot house himself a decade ago and lived in it full-time until his son was born last year. Inside a space the size of an ice cream truck, he has a kitchen with gas stove and sink, bathroom with shower, two-seater porch, bedroom loft and a "great room" where he can work and entertain — as long as he doesn't invite more than a couple guests."

God help you if you're claustrophobic.

"People's reasons for living small vary a lot, but there seems to be a common thread of sustainability," Shafer said. "A lot people don't want to use many more resources or put out more emissions than they have to."

Compared to trailers, these little houses are built with higher-quality materials, better insulation and eye-catching design. But they still have wheels that make them portable — and allow owners to get around housing regulations for stationary homes."


"...his small houses, which sell for $20,000 to $50,000, are much cheaper than building a home addition and can be resold when the extra space is no longer needed. His company has sold 16 houses this year and aims to sell 20 next year.

"The business is growing as the public becomes aware of this possibility," Marshall said. "A lot of families are moving in with one another. A lot of young people can't afford to move out. There's just a lot of economic pressure to find an alternative way to provide for people's housing needs."

This is the modern-day equivalent to the "back to the land" movement from the 60's and 70's, when hippies lived in trees and homemade shacks in the woods (no utilities) because they wanted to escape the wrath of a polite-yet-judgmental society. That lasted until they realized they needed medical and dental care, and had no way to get it. Jobs were in order, and the government came up with the CETA program to lure hippies out of the woods and back into society. CETA graduates eventually went on to graduate from college, and many now infest our colleges---from teachers to administration.

To me, this tiny house movement is just another representation of a coming re-infestation of today's hippie losers. These houses just aren't practical for anyone else, besides the bum in my blog photo. I need somewhere between 700-1000 square feet to be content (including pantry space, if you please), and yes, I'd like a flush toilet, a full tub/shower, and full utilities...oh, and a 4-burner stove.


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