The stipulated concept of comfort and luxury has long been associated with the space you, and yours occupies. Since time immemorial, people have defined their stature over others, by holding larger lands, building larger palaces, and constructing taller buildings. While this line of thought continues to hold prominence, a niche has been carved out, for those not conforming these ideals, and recognizing the trials and tribulations which are associated with the ideology of ‘having more, and keeping more’. There is acknowledgment of the fact that the idea of a ‘good life’ is not synonymous with more objects, or more space to hold them.
The recent economic situation gripping the society has presented to us a sobering reality check, and more and more people are steadily growing aware of a required alteration of the modes of living and habitation. Within the tenet of this lies the ever-incrementing issue of housing. With skyrocketing costs of real estate and land prevalent in almost all parts of the world, predominantly depending upon the crux of rising populations, especially in metropolitan cities and developed regions, the generalised minimum standards of housing have become unaffordable for the average family in many areas. Moreover, it is significantly aligned with the awareness of necessity of reducing our carbon footprint, while adapting and adhering to sustainable alternatives in our lifestyles.
Within this scenario, defined by a general sense of confusion regarding the future of housing, and a definite sense of recognition of our need to opt for sustainability, there evolved the Tiny House Movement. The Tiny House is a contradiction to our established notion of attaching luxury to largesse, as it propagates the achievement of freedom, in ‘tiny’ homes, which have smaller confines, but more comfort, efficiency, the added benefit of being possibly portable, and a significantly lesser strain on finances.
It would not be incorrect to say that the United States of America has been a major perpetrator in the propagation of Tiny Houses. The present generation, or millennials, as they have been informally dubbed, have been burdened under the economical, societal and political strain, which is the result of governments from previous generation. Most of them have been influenced to note the impacts of a streamlined life, comprising of education, a college degree, and employment of choice. Within the tenets of a lifestyle that involves multiple part-time jobs, incompatibility between education and job profile and resorting to minimum wage based occupations have led to a higher bandwidth in education of the generation, while they are confronted with the situation of unsuitable jobs, and eventually, the difficult to owning a home. Surrounded in the present day and age by the burdens of the stipulated necessities, and aware of the environmental implications of their choices and decisions, major sections of the population are turning towards Tiny Houses, which have proved to be beyond a passing phase.
The situation is not confined to a specific portion of the world any longer. According to the United Nation’s World Urbanization Prospects Report (2014), about 7.2 billion people, approximately 54 % of the total population, reside in cities, causing urban housing supplies to be strained at an unprecedented rate. The figure is touted to be raised by a staggering 6.33 billion.
The demographic change is rapidly noted, but housing has not undergone the same alteration, or has indicated a large-scale alternative for a viable future. There is lacuna in uniformity of the housing situation, which seems to suggest that while micro-apartments, completed with adaptable furniture and suitable décor could not only provide for the means on which families base their lives on, but will also aid in absorbing the migratory as well as the floating population, a phenomenon having high impact on civic life, especially in a city like Mumbai. However, while these options have been considered by people as an ascertained choice, there has been little to no observation of the ideal being holistically applied for communities.
Tiny Homes are intrinsically linked to any individual’s habitation, though its ideological implementation would be a contributing factor towards cities, urban spaces and civic livelihoods. While housing density is on the rise, the surrounding and environment tend to take a backseat. Time and again, it has been insisted that cities need ‘Breathing Space’. Public open spaces, recreational grounds, parks and gardens facilitate city life and citizens in living a suitably holistic life. So, while smaller spaces are advocated, there needs to be employed a marked amount of wisdom in designing the same spaces, so that their constitution does not pose as a risk to the fundamental necessities of cities and their inhabitants.
Increasing housing density has been observed in many forms across the world. While Asian cities, such as Hong Kong have high density housing in the sense that low-income generating families, and extended relations tend to share space, with an approximate ratio of more than two generations residing in sub-divided apartments, with areas as less as 28 square feet. Highly metropolitan regions such as New York propagate a singularly ideated sense of lifestyle, and tend to have compact homes, with ‘a very fixed idea of what an apartment needs to, and who is expected to live in the unit will affect the design’, as told by Sarah Watson, Deputy Director of Citizens Housing and Planning Council, thereby leading towards an arbitrary ambiguity between houses and inhabitants.
Constituting the ideology of simpler living in smaller spaces, Tiny Homes directly conclude to lesser area, lesser clutter, lesser consumption, lesser energy expenditure, lesser taxes and therefore viable economically as well as ecologically. The Tiny Home, and its conception, comprises of few governing rules, excepting a stipulated size which tends to be within a range of 120 square feet to 300 square feet, based on usage, context and individuality. However, there is a sense of personalisation attached to the notion of a Tiny Home, with its construction practice including a wide array, from DIY wood, to unique architectural ensembles which are especially created to ensure energy efficiency in all fronts. A Tiny Home is based entirely on the client’s usage, and wish, and is therefore a modular example, moulded to serve for individuals, couples or families.
Tiny Homes are a deviation from the lifestyles that have come into being, as a result of streamlined ideals of living. Tiny Homes represent liberation from those facets of life, which have been propagated through the existing culture, but is not necessarily ideal for all. Building your own home, enabling you to cut your cost and consumption, allows you the opportunities to invest and indulge in your own interests, as opposed to living a life guided by sheep mentality. When the woes of a house dwindle, you can conduct yourself in pursuit of your passions, your dream job and your travel plans. You also gain the benefit of mobility and flexibility. So far, the intensity of our livelihoods restrains us from introspection of all tying aspects, but once given due consideration, it becomes highly evident that a large portion of our worries stem from the necessity of owning and belonging to a house which is predefined by societal convention and not by our heart’s content. Therefore, the Tiny Home Movement, holds within itself the potential to not only liberate individuals, but when momentum is met with, Tiny Home Communities, could be part of foreseeable future.
Therein lies one of the few qualms the Tiny Home Movement currently faces. While the ideology is rooted in a concept which is of certain merit to individuals and singular families, and eventually, to communities as a whole, it is, as yet, to capture attention and interest on a broader scale, where it could focus on housing for all, instead of housing for one. The acknowledgement of Tiny Home as viable house for people has granted people world over the opportunity to explore avenues which are a stark contradiction to the existing norms of luxury. Therefore, recognition of their value as an asset to the society would enable in paving the way for an alternative vision, which would aid and abet communities, towards economic and ecological lifestyles, and healthier living.
-Devashree Vyas, Volume Zero.