Saturday, October 7, 2017

Appropriating the Small Home

The tiny home movement was not just discovered by hipsters.
Mobile home parks have been around for decades.
Click for photo credit.
The New York Times has a cringe-worthy article by Lisa Prevost in today's edition about the difficulty owners of small homes have in finding a place to park their structure. It is worth a read. I have largely rolled my eyes at the small house movement over the last several years as it was uncomfortably embraced by the sustainability movement. While I applaud the intent, the movement is so embedded in class-based sustainability that it is difficult for me to take it seriously.

Why?

The small house movement has always been present. Just ask poor people. 

The small house movement is appropriating the idea of small homes from the poor by turning them into something for the elite. Small home owners demand access to space in places that were not developed for small homes. They want to take the small homes out of mobile home courts and apartment buildings where there is abundant infrastructure for small homes and put them into places that were never designed for them.

Many people live in studio apartments, another form of
small home. However, they are not appropriating space and
live in buildings with appropriate infrastructure.
Click for photo credit.
There are an estimated 20 million Americans who live in mobile homes and millions more that live in small apartments. Yet we somehow focus on the middle and upper class as they try to forge new lives in small homes in articles like today's Times piece or in the HGTV show Tiny Luxury. Many of these structures come from unique design shoppes. To quote the article, "....[a student] starts graduate school at the University of Vermont in January, and hopes to move from her Bronx apartment to the Burlington area in a 340-square-foot tiny house being built by Craft & Sprout." Craft and Sprout is a small home builder in Connecticut.

Also, tiny home owners tend to focus on moving to the country where there are loose environmental and zoning rules. They lead to an odd form of suburbanization which is normally anathema to sustainability advocates. 

In my mind, those truly interested in sustainable living would move to studio apartments or mobile home parks where there is an efficiency of space and infrastructure. While the tiny home movement is cute, it is elitist and marginally sustainable. Many people have to live in tiny homes. By making them a luxury item, we appropriate the very spaces of the poor.

1 comment:

dalanium said...

Very interesting piece- thank you for writing on it.