A half-dozen TV shows. A hundred companies that build your house for you on a custom trailer. Tiny houses as second homes, rental properties, hotels, for-profit developments. Meanwhile, Jay Shafer, the man who first preached the tiny-house gospel and has lived in one for 18 years, struggles to pay his debts.
Mark Sundeen, in this Outside Online article, recounts his visit to last summer’s Tiny House Jamboree and realizes the movement has lost its soul. Of the hundreds of tiny houses on display at the Colorado Springs festival, exactly one was a person’s real-life primary dwelling. Many of them cost over $80,000, enough to buy a conventional house – plus the land it’s built on – in many parts of the country.
“This is not just a movement; it’s becoming an industry,” Sundeen laments. The values of simplicity, environmental conscience, and upward mobility have been co-opted and corrupted by commercial interests. In Sundeen’s eye, tiny houses began trending during the recession, sparking hope that Americans were beginning to recognize how their footprint on the Earth intertwined with their money and happiness. It’s now clear, in the truest of American spirit, that most of them were just looking to make a buck.
Sundeen’s essay is a long one, but a must-read for those who genuinely admire tiny houses and don’t just think they’re cute. And while most people will never downsize to tiny-house proportions, please ask yourself what you can do personally to live lighter. (Think of it as a New Year’s Resolution if you like.) My vehicle of choice at the moment is political activism. Watch this blog for a weekly action you can take – a petition to sign, a call to a Congressional committee or the incoming White House – in support of zoning reform, reducing building emissions, and other environmental causes. I also intend to eliminate one item from my possessions for every gift I received this holiday season.