Tiny Homes, Big Impact. An Environmental Health Win.

Imagine for a moment, if you will, that you are a migrant seeking the American Dream.  You’ve been on the wait list for your green card for several years now, and your time has finally come to dig into the metaphorical pie of sweet, juicy, delicious American trickle down economics.  There’s one problem though, you’re short on money because General Arsewipe from some backwards township raided your village and basically took whatever he could before he went home to the bae for Netflix and chill.  So you have to turn to government housing projects for a place to stay at an affordable rate to help you get you on your feet.   There’s only one problem, the government that just gave you that house also admits it’s killing you.  No seriously, they even admit that it’s not really good for the environment either.   So to make this clear.  Your new home is killing you, killing the trees outside of your house indirectly, and you’re not one of the lucky 50% of residents that has high speed internet.  What can you do?

The thought of it keeps me up at night. No wait it doesn’t, I have nothing else better to do than to sleep.

Tiny Homes 

Now, there isn’t really a universally agreed upon definition for “tiny homes” simply because there really hasn’t existed a reason to.  There’s no specific policy in our government that affects these houses, as they’d typically fall under other categories of housing first.  These homes came about from the Tiny House Movement, a part of a larger social movement to redefine what it is exactly to live in a home.

The ultimate variable to consider is size.  A tiny home would have to be below 400 square feet and mobile like an RV, though each manufacturer would have their own set of standards.  Contrary to what those pesky male enhancement or breast implant internet popups will tell you, size isn’t everything.   Just look at this wonderful infographic these tiny house people cooked up.

“I’m jealous of Jim’s 4000 sq foot mansion, sure. But at least I can rub this infographic in his multi-million dollar face!” – Anonymous Tiny Home owner

Point is, this stuff is pretty affordable, and all the eco-conscious braniacs (more like EGO-conscious, am I right?) seem to be hopping on this trend.   But like I said, this isn’t about them.  This is about the migrant worker in the beginning of the story – whom by now is probably frustrated the no internet thing is ruining his/her chances of binge watching Breaking Bad all day.

Benefits to the Low Income Class 

According to this handy dandy US. Department of Housing and Urban Development Report, (of Q1 2015 too! Bless you American statisticians, bless you) not only do we have an increase in housing demand over these last 5 years, but we are also doling out a lot more mortgages and public housing.  We know this because homes that originally had to wait 11 months in the market now only have to wait 5.1 within this 5 year span.   Slightly over 1 million families rely on these public housing units and with this quick home buying market, these are becoming a scarcity.

So you can imagine how big of a deal it would be if these Tiny Homes were all of a sudden produced at a rate fast enough to meet this new demand.  The press has been about this for quite a while now.  They highlight how affordable, easy to maintain, and flexible they are as tiny homes are mobile homes as well.  All you really have to do is take your home to a parcel of land and park it there for a fee that’s much less than a 30 year mortgage.

Oh wait that last part, is actually kind of a problem.  It is in fact the center of a legal battle  in Los Angeles, as the homeless typically park their tiny homes on curbs, which need to be cleaned periodically.  That’s not to say, that curbsides are their most popular setting, as most owners typically like to park it in suburban lots or around nature.  But you can imagine the logistical challenge of directing some of these new found home owners back to a place where its legal and safe to live.

I heard the Playboy Mansion has plenty of parking.

However, this still shouldn’t be swept under the rug.  Not when states like Utah have seen such great success with a very simple concept.  Want to get rid of the homeless and spend less tax dollars on police to regulate them?  Give them homes.  Turns out its far cheaper ($7,800 compared to $19,000) to just give them homes than all of the ER visits and jail costs.  Tiny Homes could fill this niche by being built on the cheap, on the quick, and on recycled materials.

Tiny Homes, Healthy Homes 

Okay, I’ll come clean.  Tiny Homes is the greatest name ever and I hope we call everything under 300 feet tiny from now on.  Tiny Shaq, Tiny Bentley, Tiny Air Force One.

I digress.  Like I’ve mentioned before, the current quality of low income housing, from their construction  to their proximity to sources of pollution leaves those living within them very vulnerable.  From lead paint to asbestos and mold, these homes are often built in the past, on a budget, or just in a bad area.    Considering these factors, it is no wonder that it has been hinted that income inequality is one of the main causes in the difference in life expectancy among American citizens. At this point, our migrant is more likely to end up with the same cancer Walter White had on Breaking Bad than he/she is to actually live long enough to finish the show.

And Walter at least gets the hat

Can our hero, Tiny Homes, address this issue?  Duh.  Like, d’Doyyy (readers I’m not quite sure where that last phrase came from).  New homes are often made with new material, and quite frankly that’s all you really need to do to curb the environmental impact, right?  I lied, these homes are also very mobile, able to move away from pollution from nearby factories. There’s that too.  My bad.

Let’s not forget that one of the main drivers behind this movement is also its potential in subduing urban sprawl.  While it may be a bit difficult to imagine that in the US given our penchant for raising houses on the double, this could be incredibly viable for countries such as China, Brazil, and India.  Instead of getting quartered off to fringe slums or building additional housing, just set up a lot that’s connected to the grid and fill it with tiny homes.

So overall, Tiny Homes can effectively end a public health issue, curb an environmental issue (less materials, recycling, blah blah), and a social one.   There really has to be a catch though, right?   And there is.

Policy and Politics 

This part is a bit cheating for me, because another blog went ahead and did all the work for me.  But if Kanye can remix 60’s gospel into Jay Z’s fire albums (see the black album), then I’ll be damned if I can’t give blogging the Yeezy treatment.

First and foremost, is LAND.   Now if you’re out in the midwest, pacific north east, or anywhere that isn’t near a metropolis.  You should be fine, as land is affordable. However, if you’re a low income immigrant, migrants, or just someone trying to start a family on a budget, you are more likely to be near an American metropolis.

This guy loves immigrants too

I looked at a trailer park in Los Angeles, a city famous for random vacant lots.  There really aren’t that many.  Sure, there are a bunch of vacant lots here, but they don’t really offer water and power the moment you sit your home down. It is going to be tough to scout out a nice piece of land, but once you do, the tiny home should pay for itself.

*Kanye grabs the figurative mic*  Hold up Alex.  I’mma let you finish.  But Mortgages is the greatest obstacle to Tiny Homes of all time! *mic drop*.

Why thank you…Thank you Yeesus.

Yeezy did it again.  But, he has a point.  Despite the Tiny Homes affordability, lets say you still find yourself digging at the bottom of the barrel for money.  You think maybe you want to go through a loan officer and snap up a cheap mortgage for your home.  The problem is, they don’t really have good resale value.  I would cite that statement, but resale value is entirely a social construction and depends on the general attitude of the public. If you’ve never heard of tiny homes before then you’re pretty much like every other citizen out there.  There just isn’t enough presence to spur home buyer confidence.

Also, if your house is too darn tiny, then you could be considered a slum dweller by law.  Just kidding, but you could very well not be considered a house.  You have to double check municipal laws to see if you comply.

The Gist of It 

Thus far, a tiny home makes sense if you’re a hipster who has parent money to throw into a cheap first home near a city in a decent area.  Or maybe as a millionare who wants a little shack next to the beach.  However, the utility and convenience behind this concept seems to bear the most fruit when applied to those who need it most.

Oh Portlandia, sometimes you just do the work for me, don’t you?

There aren’t studies directly looking at the socio-economic impact of tiny homes, nor their health or environmental impact.  A scientific niche needs to be filled to get these bad boys ready for the market, and more importantly, within the reach of low income families or migrants who need it most.

I’m done.  Now where’s that metaphorical Kanye?  I have a mixtape he needs to hear.

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