Fresh Ideas and the People Who Bring Them to Life
Fresh Idea #3: A Village of Tiny Houses
Maybe, like me, your idea of the perfect house is small and super-efficient. Well, if there’s anyone we ought to thank for making our “tiny” dreams more possible, it’s architect Jay Shafer, who pretty much started the tiny house movement. I say movement because there are now about 1,000 people living in tiny homes less than 320 square feet—HUD’s minimum size for manufactured housing.
In 1999, Jay built himself a tiny house then wrote his first article against legislated bans on wee houses. Jay’s tiny message had a huge ripple effect. This year, the International Residential Council, which historically has written housing codes to benefit the building and insurance industries, eliminated the primary size restriction, which for the past century has dictated to states and municipalities everywhere that at least one room in a house had to be 120 square feet. Why did they remove it? The IRC couldn’t find proof that larger rooms and larger houses are better for our health and well-being.
As tiny houses become more and more popular, local governments are seeing the light—or in the case of Sebastopol, California—four lights. Today, Jay’s, company, Four Lights Tiny Houses, offers do-it-yourself workshops and designs and sells a variety of home models, all less than 320 square feet. But it’s Jay Shafer’s latest endeavor—a village of 50 to 60 mini houses on the outskirts of Sebastopol—that’s got me excited this morning.
Not only will the design of the individual houses have what Jay calls archetypal appeal, but the village also will have human proportions, winding walkways and shared gathering space.
Cars, for instance, won’t be parked in front of houses but behind the village, and residents will walk not drive around the village. Like Jay’s housing designs, the plans also adhere to nature’s number one rule: efficiency. For instance, people will share amenities such as lawnmowers and washers & dryers. Four Lights’ intention is not housing built for resale but to “create a contagious model for responsible, affordable, desirable housing.”
Similar enclaves of tiny houses have happened in the U.S. before. Jay points to the colony of Oak Bluff on Martha’s Vineyard: 300 bright Victorian-style houses smaller than 320 square feet. Four Lights expects to break ground on the Tiny Houses’ village by the end of the year. So if you’re ready to cash out and get yourself an Airstream, you might want to wait a few months.
Note: The description at www.fourlightshouses.com: “This village will be structured as something like a co-op. Folks will own their own portable house and the small parcel it sits on, and they’ll pay a set amount per month to maintain the common facilities. There will be some rules established by the community to, presumably, keep anyone from turning their stereos up to eleven without earphones, conducting gang warfare on the streets and/or barking incessantly all night-and-day.”