Tiny Houses: Are We Missing the Point?

Tiny Houses: Are We Missing the Point?

Nancy Mitchell
Nov 24, 2014

Who does small work for? In an editorial over at Citylab, Kriston Capps argues that the true purpose of microhousing is to provide affordable housing in dense, urban spaces — and that anything else is missing the point.

Capps takes a look at a couple of different small space projects: a 425 square foot apartment in Manhattan, transformed by a team of architects into a hyper-efficient mini-loft (and featured here on Apartment Therapy a couple of weeks ago); and a 650 square foot prefabricated dwelling, called the zeroHouse, that is entirely off the grid and can be located pretty much anywhere your heart desires.

Both of these projects, Capps argues, are missing the true point of microhousing: providing affordable housing for people living in dense urban areas. The New York loft is too expensive for anyone on an average salary, and the zeroHouse isn't suitable for an urban context. Tiny houses located on huge swaths of land, Capps says, are "fetish objects" that appeal to us with their novelty but don't solve any real problems. "Nobody needs micro-housing in places where plots of prairie, mountain, and sea (!) are available in plenty."

Obviously reading this rankled a bit, since I work for a site that's all about the kind of "fetish objects" Capps describes. I agree with part of his premise: that multifamily, small-space projects can be a longterm solution for affordable housing in dense urban areas, and by supporting these projects we're working to make our cities better, more diverse places for everyone. But I think the other assumption the article makes — that small housing isn't valuable outside an affordable, urban context — is dead wrong. It ignores the fact that many people want to live in smaller spaces, regardless of what they can afford.

Here at Apartment Therapy we see small-space living not just as a necessary evil: this was all the apartment I could afford! — but as the foundation for a simpler, more considered (and more sustainable) life. The idea that having less space and less stuff might actually make you happier is pretty countercultural, but we write every day about people who, by choice or necessity, have embraced small-space living and found that thinking less about stuff freed them up to concentrate on the things that are really important. And whether you live in midtown Manhattan or in the mountains of Colorado, that's a win.

You can read the original article from Citylab here.

Find more of Apartment Therapy's small space coverage here.

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