In the 1950s a new and fantastic way of living emerged in the enthusiasm of post war United States. They were designed to be shifted, to meet the needs of people who might only need to live somewhere for a few years or possibly even up to decades if they chose. They could be transported from place to place and were an affordable form of housing. Some were advertised for their “spartan living” aesthetic, others sold as futuristic and forward thinking.
They were called mobile homes.
Now when we envision a manufactured or mobile home we see a media fueled nightmare. The excitement of mobile homes long buried under decades of conditioning toward the American Dream. We think of men and women sitting in a double wide with a pitbull milling around, missed by prosperity, a terrible product of their failure to succeed. Their hobbies are hunting, fishing and drinking well whiskey at their local bar. This bar has barred windows and is considered a blight on a busy road.
Their diets consist of the cheapest food they can they can buy, which is usually quick and not always nutritious. Their mobile homes are relentlessly portrayed as being dens of poverty, alcoholism and any number of things hardworking Protestant children avoid. They are the archetypes of our fear of failure.
I live in a city where being a hardworking American no longer entitles you to buy a house. Somewhere among the trees, bike paths and breweries the dream of having your own property got lost and is out of reach for so many. Instead of finding ways to assist people to have a traditional house or even an affordable apartment, the city government of Portland and some of its citizens decided to make the most of the existing lots.
“Surely, with their new authentic lifestyle, these people living in Portland would be willing to simply do with less?” “Why can’t a couple live in 200 sq feet of space? Why can’t a family share that?”
The Tiny House movement gathered momentum and even spawned its own DIY show. Advocates, city officials and the general public lauded these little structures. ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) are a great way to solve this housing crisis! How to deal with the permits, the planning, the zoning seemed to puzzle them all. How do you deal with a Tiny House on wheels?
My perception of someone who lives in a Tiny House is of a couple, probably heterosexual and white, who own a designer dog and will tell you with straight faces they love kale. They grow their own produce on a small plot because the farmer’s market is getting kind of expensive and they really like fresh vegetables (especially kale.)
They spend their Sundays in line for brunch, their Saturdays hiking and feeling #blessed to live in the beauty of The PNW. One of them owns a business that’s a noun with a period that sells terrariums or designer dog biscuits that’s not really doing that well. They’re struggling but really living out their dreams and trying to make it. They might be from Portland, they might not but they have wholly adopted the brand.
They’re also one fire or broken leg away from a financial crisis. No one really wants to insure a Tiny House, they find. The property won’t appreciate so they don’t really have a good investment. They also don’t own the land so they’re at the mercy of whoever let them park. On the weekends they drink at a micro micro brewery and enjoy a ton of local beers served at $6 a pint. This local bar is pivotal for reinvigorating the neighborhood.
When they visit their few fortunate friends who either work in high paying jobs or were fortunate enough to buy before 2012, they’re met with curiosity. The local papers bemoan the unfair attitude of the city toward these Tiny Home residents. “The city zoning laws are so regressive! They don’t know how to handle this new trend!”
“The solution,” they say, “is to find a community where they can hook these all together.” They look around to where a plot of land is zoned for multiple mobile dwellings. Little Tiny House villages where all the houses can be moved if needed. A progressive, forward thinking solution to the housing crisis. They’re an example of minimalist living for all of us to consider as we look at our cars and clothes and square footage.
In the 2010s a new and fantastic way of living emerged after multiple wars and severe economic depression. They are designed to be shifted, to meet the needs of people who might only need to live somewhere for a few years or possibly even up to decades. They can be transported from place to place and are an affordable form of housing. Some are advertised for their “spartan living” aesthetic, others selling as futuristic and forward thinking.
They are called Tiny Houses.