We forget that our concept of scale and expectations of size has changed dramatically, for both homes and cars, over just the last 40 years. The popularity of tiny homes is a cry for help in an age where the price of land has exploded due to an antiquated feudal land system and easy money (debt), and house building costs are expensive as a result of long, frictional supply-chains and modernism which renders local craft, material and simple construction unfashionable.
Let’s not beat around the bush, tiny homes are challenging (awful) places to inhabit, particularly for those with kids. There is an ideal size for rooms and homes, and it is based on human-scale and ergonomics. That’s not to say that clever design can solve issues of storage, but we need to be very careful that key design principles of space and light are not sacrificed for the desire to downsize. There is plenty of evidence linking poor housing quality to mental health issues. I shudder to think of the impact of small, dark, vertical shoebox apartments in central Auckland which lack basic amenities including connection to community (who can argue that it feels good to be trapped in a small space, many metres above congested and noisy transport corridors?).
Many people think of ‘alternative living’ as growing your own food or being self-sufficiency. The paradox being that inner-city living is really the ‘alternative way’ – self-sufficient, community living is what we’ve being doing for thousands of years before we thought that centralising all essential services and building towns for cars was a good idea.
Which brings us to the important element of community. We rarely give much thought to how the house fits in the context of the community, with other private, business or civic structures. Communities of tiny homes simply serve to vilify the people who live in them, in the same way that aged care communities or social housing stigmatises the old and the poor. Variety is good, particularly if it is allowed to grow organically within a simple town-planning framework.
So, let’s promote ‘human-scale appropriate’ homes, which use local crafts, patterns and materials, and serve to bond communities.