“Tiny Homes” have been big in America for a while now. There’s even a Netflix series ‘Tiny House Nation’, in which ‘experts’ help families prepare to downsize.
Tiny Homes are small houses (under 400sqft), normally on wheels to evade planning regulations. They are essentially like trailers or caravans but designed and crafted by their owners or by ‘bespoke’ Tiny Home companies.
The social media narratives around Tiny Homes construct their appeal as to do with a lust for adventure and a concern for environmental footprint. Less discussed, is the fact that most people have financial motivations for moving into Tiny Homes too, either downsizing to save money or resorting to a Tiny Home as the only way to live independently.
As well as the many individual Tiny Homes dotted around the USA, there are now an increasing amount of tiny housing communities, mostly in rural locations. Green Bridge Farm, for example, is a country side community of Tiny Homes in Georgia, with access to a four-acre community garden. Spur Freedom, in Texas, is even more remote, out on the prairies, and open to anyone who can secure a permit from City Hall for their Tiny House plans. In Colorado, Escalante Village is a grouping of Tiny Homes along the Animas River, complete with self-storage units for all the possessions people aren’t able to fit in their Tiny Homes.
The list of alleged benefits to ‘tiny living’ is long; higher quality of life, more time, greater sense of community, enhanced connection to nature, etc. etc. However, even a brief thought experiment about what life in such small spaces would be like gives a clear sense of its drawbacks and there have been suggestions that Tiny Home communities are just Trailer Parks for the middle classes.
Certainly, all that seems to separate Tiny Home communities from Trailer parks is their self-representation as crafted and bespoke. Yet even this differentiation is not straightforward. Many Tiny Home communities are now actually developments of custom built units, such as Habitat’s planned site near San Diego in California. What’s more, some Tiny Home owners have pitched up their mobile homes in long existing Trailer Parks, causing fears from Trailer Park inhabitants that their communities will be gentrified and they will be displaced.
Tiny Housing, then, seems like another example of the ‘squeezed’ middle classes being pushed into compensatory ways of living traditionally reserved for poorer communities, while narrating it as a choice rather than a necessity.