Sign up FAST! Login

When Micro-Housing Misses the Point - CityLab


Stashed in: Homeless, Design, Cities

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

This 700-square-foot tiny house in Portland, for example, occupies a plot of land that's 5,000 square feet, making this home more precious than urbanist.Dwell founder Karrie Jacobs is right to describe a 550-square-foot house that sits on 194 acres of farmland as a "fetish object." It certainly isn't micro-housing. Renzo Piano's micro-housing design is at root a single-family home; so are the even tinier houses built by Portland Alternative Dwellings

All three of those micro houses pictured look ridiculous.

They are the same silly house.

It doesn't look good anywhere!

Seems to me that there's two different questions here: whether it's wrong per se to have a small house on a big piece of land; and whether the tiny house movement has shit to say about actual everyday living for the masses.

The former issue is easy to dismiss: I have plenty of friends who own property and enjoy the country while wanting to live as lightly as they can on the land that they love. They are also makers and enjoy building things! The particular house shown here is ridiculously fetishistic, there is no doubt about it, but I'm down with small, easy to remove fetishes rather than large, quasi-permanent ones.

The latter point is far more interesting. Like everyone else in the Bay Area I have been very interested in our housing crunch, particularly as it impacts the most vulnerable among us. I'm encouraged to see that my county is meeting its goal of housing 1000 chronically homeless citizens by the end of 2014:

http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-news/ci_26032097/local-homeless-campaign-reaches-6-year-goal?source=rss&cid=dlvr.it

despite one of the tightest, most expensive real estate markets in America. But it's quite discouraging to read other stories like these about San Francisco:

http://www.sfchronicle.com/archive/item/A-decade-of-homelessness-Thousands-in-S-F-30431.php

http://www.sfchronicle.com/archive/item/What-S-F-can-learn-from-Salt-Lake-City-30428.php

http://www.sfchronicle.com/archive/item/A-return-to-S-F-Homeless-Island-10-years-later-30343.php

TL;DR -- despite spending more than $1.5 BILLION in the past 10 years, $165mm per year, there has been no net reduction in homelessness in SF. By contrast San Jose spends $8mm per year. 39% of homeless people in San Francisco (~8000 over the past 10 years) are not from the area and have accepted a bus ticket home; and almost 11,500 people have been moved into assistive housing -- but there is no next rung in the ladder of housing for them to move to, so they mostly just stay in assistive housing year after year while new citizens become homeless in the city every day.

So as a former historian my biggest question is this: are current housing codes causing homelessness? Did you know that until fairly recently it was ASSUMED BY ALL that many city dwellers did not require their own kitchens because they would be eating communally or in restaurants for every meal? And they did not require full private baths because how much time do you spend showering anyway, and also there were public bathhouses? Some of the swankiest apartment buildings in New York City, Tokyo, and Paris were originally built on these understandings. Today that would be impossible! Even the many tiny apartments we have featured on PandaWhale assume that you will want to cook, bathe, exercise, have dinner parties, and host overnight guests in your apartment!

Also, what happened to boardinghouses? Not only did this used to be a common housing solution for single people, but it also was a common way for a homeowning female to make a living:

http://www.citylab.com/housing/2013/07/it-time-bring-back-boarding-house/6236/

And don't even get me started on the restrictive zoning laws in the suburbs. For instance, I am legally required to maintain a 2-car garage AND a 2-car driveway on my property!!! The funny thing is that most of my neighbors still have more vehicles than that -- largely due to multiple generations of a family sharing a large "single-family" home -- and have to park on the street.

You May Also Like: