28 October 2008

More Tiny Houses - for $1,500

The problem with a Tumbleweed house is that even the 65 square foot model is over $36,000, plus shipping.

Well now I learn that early this year students at the University of British Columbia's Emily Carr Institute designed and built four houses, each unique, each 64 square feet, and none more than $1,500.

Unlike the Tumbleweed models, these little houses don't have their own toilet or shower facility. Instead, they're designed with communal living in mind. For example, a cluster of them might be built around a central bathroom and laundry facility.

Michael Johnson, one of the students who worked on [one of the houses], was surprised how fiercely the homeless citizens he met wanted to maintain their autonomy.

"Some of them weren't homeless because of a drug addiction, they weren't homeless because of anything. They just ran completely out of luck and out of money and out of all of the normal safety nets that catch people," he said. "A number of the people, while they appreciated what the shelters were doing, they felt that, to some extent, their individuality was lost. And speaking to some of the social workers, it was the loss of individuality that proved to be the biggest hurdle to overcome toward rehabilitation."

The portion I highlighted cannot be emphasized enough. It only surprises me how much most people don't get that those who are homeless desire their autonomy as much as anyone. Shelters deprive them of that.

As for the little $1,500 houses designed by the students, the problem comes down again to land. And because they are so low cost and residents would share bathroom facilities, very likely NIMBYism too would rear its ugly head.

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