The Tiny Housing Crisis: Part II

When people hear the phrase “economic security,” an immediate association is made of vast amounts of cash, or a bank account with 7 digits on the good side of the decimal. A million dollars isn’t what it used to be. When I hear the term “economic security,” I think in terms of food, water, shelter, opportunities, education, public health and safety, and strong social institutions. This is what “economic security” and “the wealth of nations” looks like, not a briefcase full of paper.

Our tiny home is one of a growing number of such dwellings that have been designed for mobility, durability, aesthetics, and customized for the habits, needs, and lifestyle of the occupants. The Modular housing model will indeed be making an economic impact in the near future across a wide demographic range. The next decade promises a growing population who will need end-of-life care, and as we are confronted with the cost of this endeavor, simple dwellings will step into this economic niche in a variety of ways. A spare bedroom can be quickly set up to provide a non-intrusive nurses unit; especially in Alzheimer and Dementia cases where removing a patient from familiar surroundings promotes acceleration of symptoms. Caretakers can live on-site and quickly earn enough money to buy their own tiny home. Many people will choose to provide care to their parents directly, and a tiny house can provide an “instant in-law-unit.”

College Graduates are moving back home at an alarming rate, burdened with vast student debt while entering a competitive job market where labor is exported and undervalued.

Businesses are downsizing their offices, and small business owners need affordable office space; separating business from home-life is important… imagine how easy that could be (and how much gas money you would save) if the driveway is your “business zone.” Artists, writers, artisans, and hobbyists alike already benefit from their tiny backyard sanctuaries.

Community Level Discussions on increasing Urban Density near the transit corridor are dominated by developers, Realtors, and builders. In the meantime, thousands of people are living in overcrowded units. So people are living in illegal dwelling units, some of which are unsafe and many lacking sanitation… but an accessory structure doesn’t attract much attention if it is under 100 sq ft and does not have plumbing or electricity. http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/development/2013/05/san-francisco-likely-has-tens-thousands-people-living-under-stairs Honestly, wouldn’t you rather have people living in your neighbors’ driveway?

We are realizing that a single weather event can displace hundreds of thousands or more individuals within a matter of hours. A well co-ordinated dispatch of housing, complete with supplies can be trucked in within days; providing immediate relief to those displaced, as well as short term accommodations for aid-workers and those concerned with rebuilding. Climate Scientists have been warning of increased frequency of severe weather events. You should get a tax-break for building a tiny house and keeping it in your driveway… so long as you register it with fema and agree to dispatch it in the event of a natural disaster. Hasn’t America been defined in terms of our response to national tragedy over the last couple decades? What could be more American than having an emergency shelter in your driveway?

So .. on a personal level… I am pretty confident I have embarked on a lifestyle that will enable me to pay down my personal debts, as well as pay down my personal ecological debt to any children Candace and I may or may not have one day. Either way, aren’t all the kids our kids? Do we have the right to borrow against their economic and ecological future?

I guess that depends on values. Maybe you believe that our kids will enjoy a higher standard of living than we could ever dream… Personally, I tend to think our children will have to learn to make do with less, and I am not eager to take more than my fair share at their expense. No matter what you do, just stop taking it for granted… admit that every act of meeting the economic needs of 7 billion on this planet is an unsustainable act.

I’m now grateful for every damn ice cream bar I eat, and every piece of fruit that travels thousands of miles to be ripe on my plate. My personal values have shifted from the material, and my life goals have shifted to “living a long time” which means my priorities are a good diet, and a healthy lifestyle… other than the Camel Filters… anyway.

We (we bay area folk) are truly reaping all of the spoils of empire, and I for one won’t allow myself one second of guilt for enjoying so much while so many people have so little. But… when you put what we have now in perspective of what humans have over the course of history, and will have over the course of the uncertain future ahead… All I can feel is gratitude. So I smoke my cigarettes and drink my wine and boy do they taste sweet… I eat a hamburger and I drink my dairy and I enjoy the variety of goods on the marketplace that have come to the shelves in a store near me and it all is a bit sweeter to me than most… because I truly appreciate the long-term cost that is incurred.

I’m getting ranty now, so I’m going to have to drop off and think of a way to explain how simple shelters can be leveraged to tackle huge social problems that we are faced with, such as homelessness, veterans programs, illegal foreclosures, and a criminal justice system that could only be described as a system in crisis.

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Got a brand new window for the sleeping loft

What do you think? is it too over the top?

Yep, but we don’t care.

probably will take me 20 hours to install it.

dove on fire

Update: The window was sold to our friend, a Professor of Sociology and finds a (hopefully) permanent installation in Woodside, CA. We hope that our (Presumably Catholic) neighbor, who complained so bitterly about the presence of the house, found some love in her heart.

 

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Protected: Tiny House Movement vs. Suburban Business As Usual

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The Tiny Housing Crisis: Part I

When I hear the words “housing crisis” the first thing that comes to my mind is how millions of middle class Americans nearly lost their retirement in the near economic meltdown of 2008. With the Dow hovering at record levels … Continue reading

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Moving Day… er… Days… ok .. Week

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So, our original plan was to move the house on Monday, April 1st, but we couldn’t quite get the kitchen in and the trailer legal for travel by that day. It seems like a simple enough enterprise…. rent a truck, hitch up, and go… but things are a little more complicated when you plan on hauling a 6000 pound structure made chiefly of wood and glass down the road. Temporary shear bracing is added, windows are removed or boarded up, and modular units are slid over the floor to balance the weight of the load.  You spend several hours troubleshooting to discover a ground in your trailer wiring went bad before you make the 2 minute fix. Arguments are had with insurance underwriters as to whether or not a policy should be written for us for the value of the load we plan to transport; routes need to be walked with a stick to make sure that we have our 13’5″ clearance… and then you have to rent a truck … which it turns out… you can’t.

As we learned, renting a Truck to haul a Trailer is a bit of an enterprise. Penske and San Mateo Rentals do not allow towing with their vehicles; neither does Hengehold for that matter, which is where you go to BUY a work truck in the bay area. Home Depot welds a pin in the receiver of their trucks to prevent people from using them to tow. It turns out that U-haul welds 2″ hitch balls on their entire fleet of Box Vans which would otherwise be capable of towing our house… this is done to prevent theft of receivers and hitch balls. If only we could attach the 2 5/16″ ball needed for our trailer, Uhaul would be the perfect choice. If you are shopping for a trailer for your tiny house… a 2″ coupler on your trailer will make renting transport much easier (if you aren’t planning on buying a truck) since the largest rental fleet in America has 2″ balls permanently attached. Also, U-haul sells their box trucks used, and those too are permanently equipped with 2″ hitches. For this reason, I predict that future tiny house companies, as well as agencies who provide short to medium term emergency housing, will design and build their trailers with 2″ hitches. My digression makes a long story longer.

So we pushed the date back to April 8th, Which was the day that we discovered all of these interesting facts about renting a truck. Paul offered us use of his F-350 to do the job, though, but I was really hesitant because the truck is not equipped with an electric brake controller for the trailer… typically I have little respect for the law, which states that my load needed to be equipped with brakes… but in this case… a desire to stop without being pushed into the middle of the intersection or down a hill far outweighed my disdain for the laws of man… prudence and safety take precedent.

So I was under Paul’s truck inspecting the wiring and making a shopping list for what I needed to install a brake controller when I was interrupted by a customer of WHBS needing assistance. I was pretty short with him in explaining that I wasn’t on the clock and was pushed too far to the limit to be able to talk… I feel bad whenever I have to tell someone to “bugger off, I’m busy” … but this time I felt particularly bad because I was less than pleasant about it and the gentleman has spent hours with me over the last year just shooting the breeze about the project and has been a valuable source of information for me. Raymond is a mech-eng and we spent quite a bit of time talking about designing and building collapsible stepladders and a latter for our sleeping loft … also .. he is a rather enthusiastic and sociable person who always seems to be in a good mood. So after I crawled out from under Pauls truck I found him on the warehouse floor and offered an apology … explaining that I was under a lot of pressure, and was unduly rude.

So Raymond asks “Gee… is there anything I can do to help?”

To which I answered “Not unless you got a Super Duty truck and want to tow a tiny house down El Camino this afternoon”

So he says “Yeah… I got a super diesel outside with a dualie.. I’m busy today, but you can borrow the truck and tow it yourself if you want”

(Can you believe it!? Much Gratitude, Raymond – who, ironically, has traveled through North Dakota many times – you totally saved the day!)

Turns out the truck is exactly like our trailer… as large as something can possibly be built without becoming a commercial vehicle.

We had to take a ride back down to A&B in Redwood City to pick up a 7 round to 7 flat adapter for the trailer… but that was way cheaper and faster than buying and installing a brake controller for Paul’s truck… also .. it was really cool to go back down to where it all started. Candace and I reflected on how excited and eager we had been to buy that trailer 14 months ago…

The {Revised} American Dream

and then we reflected on how haggard, stressed, and exhausted we were on the 8th….

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This lifted our spirits as we returned to the warehouse with everything we needed to move.

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And then it got windy… really windy. Everyone told us not to go. We listened… reluctantly.. and spent the night in the house in the alley. By 3pm on Tuesday the wind had died down, the trailer was hitched up, the lights were all working, and traffic was light. We left the warehouse. Thanks for the awesome footage, Paul! We laugh along with you every time we watch it!

The Truck purred like a kitten and pulled like an ox. I got the house up to 40 miles an hour in the Dip underneath Hillsdale Blvd and began to feel some pitching so I eased off before yaw or roll joined the party…. I guess I need more positive tounge weight before I try to pull her at 45.

I wasn’t surprised by the waves, honks, stares, and even pointing that occurred… what surprised me was the people who didn’t seem to notice at all. I guess people are too busy driving to notice that they are in traffic with a house… hell, some people are too busy driving to even notice that there is other traffic on the road at all. Just keep looking forward… don’t look over… you might see a guy driving a house smiling and waving at you.

The route was 9th to Delaware to 25th to El Camino to Redwood City.. and then 5th to Bay to Kayanye to Flynn. I would like to end with a list of feelings and emotions I experienced during the hour drive.. this list is in no particular order… I seemed to feel all of these things all at once with incredible intensity during the entire trip.

Sheer Terror, Fulfillment, Empowered, Powerless, Gratitude, Hopelessness, Love, Fear, Nausia, Awkward, Graceful, Strong, Unstoppable, Paranoid.

I felt held by a spiritual power that I can only describe as being carried.

And I felt Candace behind me the entire time (and ready on stand-by with her walkie-talkie).

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