Tiny Home On Wheels: A Canadian Critique On The Movement

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Cristina D’Amico is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of English at the University Of Toronto.

She made and presented a critique on The Tiny House Movement through TEDUofT conference.  The video was uploaded to youtube on June 28, 2017.  Here is the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWVgsK7Uu3k

I will quote what I think are valid points in her speech and give my thoughts on those points in bold black lettering.

The Cost Of Housing Is Constantly Rising.

explaing cristina“Affordability of housing affects people from all walks of life in Toronto.  It is actually an issue faced in major metropolitan cities around the world”.

This fact is Old News In Montreal.  Apartments have been getting more and more expensive for a number of years.  People are living in smaller apartments than they once did because they are what they can afford.

“Today I want to talk about one very small effort that is coming out of the United States and quickly gaining popularity in Canada.  So when I say small  I do literally mean small.  I am talking about The Tiny Housing Movement.  The Tiny Housing movement describes itself as ‘a social movement that is about living simply in a small home’.  Normally it is actually a home you have built yourself”

The Tiny House Movement did begin in the United States.  It began when Jay Shafer built his first tiny home on wheels ( see the previous blog-The Tiny House Jay Shafer Built).  Indeed it has grown in popularity.  The proof is in the amount of Tiny House Building Companies we have in Canada.  They are not numerous but they are finding construction work to do.  Yes, tiny homes on wheels are small.  As a rule, they can come in three different trailer sizes.  I don’t think they are bigger than a two-room apartment though. 

Does the Tiny house movement have an interest in people’s general welfare at heart when it claims it is a social movement?  I think it does.  You just can’t define a social movement in the states the same way you would in Canada.  

I have heard it said that Canada has both a capitalist and socialist economy.  In the end, it probably is more capitalistic but we do have a more socialistic point-of-view on some matters in general than the United States.  We do expect the provinces to provide free Medicare as an example.  We generally don’t feel our freedom has been taken away because of it.  It is not the same in the states.

If many people are coming together to help each other live simply in a tiny house I think something is happening on a social level.  Maybe there is a better word for what I am trying to say that is not “social”.  Despite whatever flaws the tiny house movement has, it is attempting to help people lower their debt load and have a dwelling.

The Movement Presents Itself As A Progressive and Paradigm Shifting change.

“You don’t have to mark the start of your adulthood by moving out and buying a home in the suburbs and starting your family.  You don’t need a house with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, more than 1 pair of shoes if you want to feel sustained and happy.  But for all this anti-consumerism language I think, in reality, it thinks very conventionally about ownership.

The tiny house movement does make people reevaluate the American Dream.  You don’t have to put pressure on yourself to buy a regular size house when you attain a certain age to start a family.  You don’t need a whole lot of stuff to be happy as long as your basic needs are met.  This idea is appealing to adult children who live with their parents longer these days because they believe they are not earning enough money to support themselves.  

The tiny house movement does discourage the over-consumption of everything but not the ownership of a house.  Well, you do need shelter so owning a house would be alright.  The right to own property is very important to Americans.  I think it might be in their constitution if I am remembering it right.  That is not to say Canadians don’t like owning property either.

second cristina explainingLiving Small During Tough Economic Times Is Not A New Idea.

“So Mitchell starts this company for living small in 2008 when the housing crisis is really sinking its teeth into the marketplace.  For both Thoreau and Mitchell, the idea of economic self-determination is absolutely crucial to their idea of freedom.  You need to be able to own something free and clear.  It doesn’t matter how small it is but you have to have it”.

I think people tend to be conservative about spending money during tough economic times regardless if there are tiny houses on the market or not.  The fact that there were tiny homes on wheels available in 2008 made a portion of people feel safe in the thought that it would be easier and quicker to pay one off than a regular size home.  They could guarantee themselves a place to live, barring a natural disaster coming along and destroying the tiny house.  So owning a home without ever having had to pay a mortgage is freedom from worries.

“In general, the idea of affordability is crucial to thinking about tiny living.  It is one of its central tenants.  So this is an image I pulled off one of the websites of one of the various tiny living web pages.  Its kind of an inspo framing that you will frequently see when you visit these websites and go to their conferences.  Go down the rabbit hole as I have done.  ‘You weren’t born to pay off debts and die’.  I agree with this sentiment of course and I am sure many of us in the audience also do as well”.

Tiny houses are more affordable than traditional size houses.  To be so is their motto.  I think their eagerness not to be burden by debt is a loud type of protest.  I think part of our economy is based on how much-projected debt consumers will get themselves into and how much interest they will have to pay back on those debts.  Imagine what would happen if everybody could stop using their credit cards for say just a month?  What would happen?  The credit card companies would likely flip. Yes, living as debt free as possible is releasing yourself from a slave prison.

How Affordable Is A Tiny Home On Wheels?

“You have $30 000 dollars in savings for access to credit and you are either going to put it down towards a down payment on a home or you are going to buy a tiny house free and clear.  What do we do about the people who don’t have access to this type of credit?  Or these kinds of savings.  Not to mention if you were to build your tiny home yourself you would need 9 to 10 months full time off building this tiny house to even be able to accomplish the project.  So it is also imagining a person who can take this much time off of work”.

There lies the big problem.  Tiny homes are still not accessible to everyone despite being cheaper than a traditional home.

“To me, I think tiny living movement presents a somewhat limited and narrow response to our idea of housing.  It’s not affordable enough, a universal solution.  So you might be thinking tiny can’t solve everybody’s problems so what?  Or you might be thinking you live in a capitalist society, you live in a market-based society, everything is a commodity, I mean right.  So What? ”

It appears the tiny house movement does have its limitations on how much housing it can provide people with.  What can we do about it?  It is just the way the world is supposed to work.  There actually are people who feel that way.

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