Why Tiny Homes?
We are in a housing crisis. People have to exist somewhere, and because there are no suitable options to access affordable housing if you work a low-wage job, are unable to work, or can’t find work we have to create options for ourselves and defend our right to exist in public space. Tiny Homes are an inexpensive, ecologically conscious, tangible and dignified alternative to living outside, or trying to hustle a spot in the overcrowded shelter system.
How Did We Get Here?
For over three decades, we have underfunded our federal affordable housing (HUD) and social safety net programs, relying on housing policies that favor free-market development and small amounts of Homeless Assistance Grants to cover the need. As a result, mass homelessness has become a national epidemic, and instead of fixing the problem at it’s root, local municipalities are turning to mean spirited criminalization measures to handle ‘the homeless problem’, evoking memories of Segregated Water Fountains, Anti-Okie Laws, Ugly Laws, Sundown Towns and resurrecting the Vagrancy Laws that courts have struck down in the past.
At present time, Denver’s local ordinances criminalize such survival activities as sitting, sleeping, lying down and resting in public spaces, despite the condemnation of such practices by civil rights groups, international and federal governments. Simultaneously, Denver’s rental market is rising faster than any other city, while wages remain stagnant.
In short, we need more housing options, and Tiny Homes are one solution that we – as a community – can create for ourselves.
Books Worth Reading:
Ten City Urbanism: From Self-Organized Camps to Tiny House Villages
By Andrew Heben
Tent City Urbanism explores the intersection of the “tiny house movement” and tent cities organized by the homeless to present an accessible and sustainable housing paradigm that can improve the quality of life for everyone.
While tent cities tend to evoke either sympathy or disgust, the author finds such informal settlements actually address many of the shortfalls of more formal responses to homelessness. Tent cities often exemplify self-management, direct democracy, tolerance, mutual aid, and resourceful strategies for living with less. This book presents a vision for how cities can constructively build upon these positive dynamics rather than continuing to seek evictions and pay the high costs of policing homelessness.
The tiny house village provides a path forward to transitional and affordable housing within the grasp of a local community. It offers a bottom-up approach to the provision of shelter that is economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable—both for the individual and the city. The concept was first pioneered by Portland’s Dignity Village, and has since been re-imagined by Eugene’s Opportunity Village and Olympia’s Quixote Village. Now this innovative model has emerged from the Northwest to inspire projects in Madison, Austin, and Ithaca, and is being pursued by advocacy groups throughout the country.
This 252-page book compiles four years of research on the topic and includes 37 photographs, 16 illustrations, and 7 case studies. Along with documenting and articulating the roots of this budding movement, the book provides a practical guide to help catalyze new and existing initiatives in other areas.
Andrew Heben is an urban planner, writer, and tiny house builder based in Eugene, Oregon. He has visited over a dozen tent cities and tiny house villages throughout the country, and spent time living in an unsanctioned, self-governed tent city known as Camp Take Notice in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Heben has since helped co-found Opportunity Village Eugene, a non-profit organization that puts many of the ideas within this book into action.
Alan Durning takes a hard look at urban housing and sees what many others have missed. Hidden in city regulations is a set of simple but powerful barriers to affordable housing for all. These rules criminalize history’s answers to affordable dwellings: the rooming house, the roommate, the in-law apartment, and the backyard cottage. In effect, cities have banned what used to be the bottom end of the private housing market. They’ve made urban quarters expensive and scarce, especially for low-income people such as students, seniors, blue-collar workers, artists, and others who make our cities diverse and vibrant.
In Unlocking Home: Three Keys to Affordable Communities, Durning details how to revive inexpensive housing in walkable neighborhoods—at no cost to the public—by striking a few lines from municipal law books. The three keys, Durning argues, are re-legalizing rooming houses, uncapping the number of roommates who may share a dwelling, and welcoming accessory dwellings such as granny flats and garden cottages. If adopted, these keys would reap valuable benefits for cities far and wide.
Each would step up residential concentration organically, without big changes to architectural character, and would create new income-generating opportunities for property owners, especially in sought-after neighborhoods. These keys would alleviate the outward pressure of sprawl into our forests and farmland, while fostering the benefits of density for local prosperity, vibrancy, and sustainability. Above all else, each of these strategies would generate thousands and thousands of units of inexpensive housing across metropolitan areas, unlocking homes for the many people in our communities who need them.
by Don Mitchell
In the wake of recent terrorist attacks, efforts to secure the American city have life-or-death implications. Yet demands for heightened surveillance and security throw into sharp relief timeless questions about the nature of public space, how it is to be used, and under what conditions. Blending historical and geographical analysis, this book examines the vital relationship between struggles over public space and movements for social justice in the United States. Presented are a series of linked cases that explore the judicial response to public demonstrations by early twentieth-century workers, and comparable legal issues surrounding anti-abortion protests today; the Free Speech Movement and the history of People’s Park in Berkeley; and the plight of homeless people facing new laws against their presence in urban streets. The central focus is how political dissent gains meaning and momentum–and is regulated and policed–in the real, physical spaces of the city.
Movement growing toward legalizing tiny houses—
120 square foot requirement eliminated from building code!
According to Tom Meyer, a building official active in the revision of modern building codes that inhibit affordable and sustainable residential construction, the requirement that each dwelling have at least one habitable room of 120 square feet has been eliminated in the 2015 International Residential Code. Below we see a view of the new 2015 IRC, courtesy of Meyer:
Walsenburg, Colorado and Spur, Texas legalized Tiny Homes
First “Tiny House” Friendly City! – TinyHouseBuild.com
Churches and Religious Institutions can get leniency around zoning issues to allow for Tiny Home Villages because of the following law:
The land use provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc, et seq., protect individuals, houses of worship, and other religious institutions from discrimination in zoning and landmarking laws (for information on RLUIPA’s institutionalized persons provisions, please refer to the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section )
Other Cities Have Used Specific Ordinances to Allow Tiny Home Villages
The following is the Municipal Ordinance used in Eugene, OR to allow Opportunity Village
Eugene – 130916-Permitted Sleeping Pilot Program_201308291042197673
Cottage Housing Ordinance – Seattle, WA:
Oregon Campground Statute – per Dignity Village
Kirkland Ordinance Allowing for “Innovative Housing Demonstration Projects”