Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tiny House Insanity

All The Tiny House Talk is Driving This Green Advocate Mad

by Paul E. McGinniss

Art by Thomas Doyle

OK. I've had it. The ongoing PR Blitz about living in miniscule structures to save the planet, which is apparently coming from some secret cabal of Tiny Home forces, has driven me to come out and say: ENOUGH! The straw bale that broke the camel's back for me about Tiny House insanity was the recent Forbes article, "The Tiniest Homes For Sale", which touted: "....homes the size of walk-in closets are fast becoming a more appealing, money-saving alternative."

I can tell you straight up that homes the size of walk-in closets are not popular. None of the real estate buyers we work with, no matter how much money they have or how green they are, ever want a Tiny Home. (The Tiny House crowd raves about the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company which offers homes as small as 65 square feet up to the "huge" 777 square feet model.)

Sorry, Forbes. No one wants to live in a walk in closet. In fact, buyers who want modest homes prefer their walk-in closet, albeit a small one, in a master bedroom with a private bath. And, most desire a couple of extra bedrooms for kids, extended family and guests that might come visit or, even, move in. The days of your friends crashing on a sofa or floor are best left to the scrappy days of college dorm rentals.

Art by Thomas Doyle

Granted, the median home size decreased from a high between 2,300-2,500 square feet (statistics vary) in 2006 to about 2,100 square feet in 2009. However, a recent article, Houses Getting Bigger, Not Smaller, highlights new data reporting median home size for new construction is rising back to the 2006 levels.

And, there is one statistical reason why home sizes will not go down too much and why it is not such a bad thing for the environment. More people are living together. Pew Research Center analysis of census data concludes: "The multi-generational American family household is staging a comeback — driven in part by the job losses and home foreclosures of recent years, but more so by demographic changes that have been gathering steam for decades. As of 2008, a record 49 million Americans, or 16.1% of the total U.S. population, lived in a family household that contained at least two adult generations or a grandparent and at least one other generation."

Good Night John Boy! Thank God Our Comfy House Is Big Enough to Fit Everyone In!

Plus, it's not just Walton Family-like multi generations that are sharing a home. There seems to be a trend whereby people with varied relationships are living together: The Friends, The Will and Graces. Interestingly, along with increased household diversification, the average number of bedrooms in homes has remained constant. A NAHB report in 2010 stated: "While both median size and median sales price have been declining, the average numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms per house have shown little change." Thus, home dwellers, despite living more together than alone, sensibly have cut back on wasted space in homes and are living in unison more efficiently and economically.

The notion of "Small as The New Big" will only go so far. Another factor to consider regarding house size is that more of us work from the home. The Cyber Revolution has certainly made that a 21st Century phenomenon. Homes of the future will need dedicated work space included in the design. (Not to mention space to grow food year round, but that's another post.)

One more thing. Can we give the much-maligned suburbs a break? "The suburbs" and excessively-sized suburban homes did not single handedly ruin America. (Yes, Fossil-Fueled transportation and living is not good. And, obviously, thoughtless sprawl and imperfect town planning still needs to be addressed.)

James Howard Kunstler wrote the book, "The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape", heralding the death of the suburbs. But, in "The Geography of Home Size and Occupancy" the NAHB says: "This analysis of the 2009 American Housing Survey data suggests that the stereotype of the large suburban home is misleading and criticisms of larger homes are misguided......data indicate that while there are some regional differences on a per-person basis, the size of owner-occupied homes is in part determined by the number of people a home contains. And, larger homes contain more people."

Squawk Squawk! I really love my tiny home!!! Picture of chicken coop Courtesy Urbanhens.com

So, let's agree Tiny House secret cabal. We don't need McMansions. We do need net zero energy, sustainable design and construction. Smart building and living is essential. But size, after all is said and done, does matter. Living in a house the size of a chicken coop is not the answer. I mean, if urban chickens can live a DWELL-like existence, I sure as heck ain't moving in with the Old Woman Living in a Shoe!

Copyright Paul E. McGiniss 2012

1 comment:

  1. I want to know what's the mental health status of these people who live in these chicken coops after a nice long winter cooped up with their 2.5 toddlers. How long do they last before they drive their gas guzzling V8 dully, which hauls their expensive, non-aerodynamic, and uninsured cracker box, into the parking lot of the nearest mental health hospital because they went crackers?