Tiny Houses

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Something about tiny houses makes intelligent people go weak in the knees. But what issue does the miniaturization of housing actually solve?

I like tiny houses same way I once liked the Betty Crocker Easy-Bake Oven. But one 264 square foot micro-unit hit the San Francisco market this past December for the "affordable" price of $425,000. Developers who capitalize on the housing crisis are no more likely to be motivated by community needs than the college students who compete for annual prizes with tiny house designs in which they have no plans to actually live.

The suggestions that tiny houses are part of a solution to homelessness seem especially bizarre since the issue isn't the size of the house or tent; it's the unwillingness of your public official to allow them to exist at all in public spaces. Tiny house misconceptions are passed around like cookies, especially the misconception that there is not enough land or money to address the housing crisis. This is nonsense. We are a wealthy nation capable of housing the poor. One should never confuse an absence of resources with an absence of political will.

But the misconception that poor people (and apparently nobody else) should start living their lives in miniature is not just nonsense, it is offensive. Do poor people somehow need less room to cook or have friends over for a meal? Do people who have survived grinding poverty need less light, less space, less access to computers, art supplies, pianos, or room for their children? I would argue the opposite.

Live in a teacup if you like, I would say to tiny house proponents, those who aren't frankly capitalizing on the housing crisis or jousting for some academic design prize. But think before requesting the miniaturization of someone else's life. It's cynical to arrange companionship-free living for others while the developers, happily living in large houses, periodically dust the environmental prize hanging by the mantel.


With a Perspective, this is Carol Denney.

Carol Denney is a freelance writer and human rights editor for Street Spirit newspaper.