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The Tiny House for Affordable Housing


 


 

Increased building costs, and lack of close-in urban lots to build on, has driven up apartment rent in many of our country's cities. This lack of affordable housing is even aggravating the crises of the homeless. In light of this - the tiny house is increasingly being considered as an alternative to traditional housing.

But can the tiny house actually relieve any pressure on housing cost?

It will only relieve the pressure if hundreds, or thousands of renters - for one reason or another, move away from their apartments and rent a tiny house.

This is only going to happen if the location of the tiny house is close in the city, where housing is in demand. And the rent for the tiny house will have to be substantially less then the rent of a studio apartment, which is about 1600 dollars a month in Seattle.

Google says a studio apartment is about 550 or 600 sq feet and a tiny house can be 400 sq or even less. So the tiny house rent would have be noticeably less than an apartment.

Locating places to build 1000 apartments might be difficult, so where would 1000 of these tiny homes be set up at?

(Note. From time to time we will make-believe that the huge wall of codes and city regulations has been overcome. And this is one of the times. So in this example the city is happy to give you a permit to place and rent this kind of modular tiny house on your city lot.)

So the place to put the 1000 needed rentals is in the yards of the existing city lots. And why would home owners rent to people in their yards?

While there might be the occasional case where an annoying relative living with someone and to have a place for them to stay outside of the main house walls – could be an appealing idea, however it will be the money from rent that is the big reason.

People air b&b to strangers inside their home for money. But some people don't want strangers in their house, however to them a nice tiny house rental in the yard might be ok.

The home owner might bring in 1000 rent a month, of course there would be expenses, but still 12,000 a year is a lot.

12,000,000 a year, a million dollars a month in rent given to 1000 ordinary home owners that already arte in the neighborhood. Even if rent was only 750 a month that is still 9,000 a year for a homeowner .

Most neighborhoods don't embrace change, so 1000 new apartments and renters isn't going to be all that appealing.

But if the 1 million bucks a month stays in the local economy spent by local homeowners at local restaurants and stores, and not sent away to builders as traditional apartment rent is, the pain of additional people is more bearable.

Who moves into these 1000 tiny houses? The homeless can't pay 1000 a month.

A tiny home to a homeless person is a step-up in housing, but to a traditional apartment renter a tiny home is a down-step. So it might seem intuitive to build the tiny house straight out for the homeless.

However this infill housing idea, of using existing homeowner lots, is not suitable for mass housing of the homeless. Each homeowner rents to someone they feel comfortable with, and 1000 new homeless type people in a neighborhood is not going to fly at all.

Additionally they say there is almost 11,000 homeless in Seattle, 1000 tiny house rentals is hardly a drop in that river. In Seattle's homeless case 5000 tiny houses would need to be built to only house half the homeless.

11,000 homeless people is practically a city and would take thousands of housing units.

It would seem that finding land to set up that many tiny houses would be hard. However by using the “Off the grid” version of the tiny home, hundreds of homes could be set up on large vacant lots that aren't developed with city utilities, but will be developed in 3 or 4 years. However in the mean time for 3 or 4 years the land could be used.

The idea of using the mobile version of “Off the grid” tiny house for mass housing of the homeless is discussed further in the “City in the City” page.

But what is attempted here, with the infill tiny house, is to give those that have a limited budget more options. And if the expense of rent is more important then room space to enough people, and they move from apartments to tiny homes, that will put downward pressure on apartment rent and open up rental units to those that need more room space.

So the whole tiny house infill housing idea hinges on if normal renters, those already in apartments, find the tiny homes more livable for the cost, and move their rent money to tiny home rentals.

On the internet you can find a pretty long list of both the Pro and Con sides of the tiny home issue. We are going to try sometime to link to a sample of articles on both sides. Both the tiny house fans, and those anti-fans that say you should never buy a tiny house.

Then from this discussion of facts and stories of living in tiny homes, both Pro and Con, we would like to see if it can be determined whether this particular design of a light weight modular tiny house can be a usable step in the affordable housing solution.

The prediction is there will be 1.3 million housing starts this year and 450,000 RV's will be sold.

From these prediction it is clear that 10,000 of any style of tiny house infill rental housing would be needed a year, to even be a decimal point in these kind of numbers.

Working on the internet we can get the facts together and do detailed conceptual computer drawings of the idea, but to actuality manufacture the homeowner-lot-rented-tiny-house by the 10,000's, it will take the Titans of Industry to actually do it.

So are you listening Boeing? You know how to make light airplanes and mate modules in space. You can figure out how to make the tiny house walls light and strong and how to mate the walls to the floor.

You can make a lot of money Amazon. I know that it is currently possible to order a tiny house on your site, but think of the money you will make if you sold them by the thousands, not the dozen tiny homes you have now.

And Fed Ex you run shipping trucks, so maybe you might help find out the best way to design the house walls for shipping. I don't know how large of items you can ship, but if Amazon is selling the units by the thousand they will need trucks, because they won't be droning in all the tiny houses.

Yes, to live in 400 or so square feet of living space, is going to be some challenge. But by using the real life experience of those that live in camping trailers and other tiny living spaces, the best configurations for a standardized tiny house can be found.

Besides we are all going to live on Mars soon and the housing there probably isn't going to be large luxurious homes. More likely a-tiny-house-sized pod.

We might as well start getting used to designing and living in small spaces. That way we know how to live in small places when we move off planet.

Are you there Mr. Musk? Supporting the idea of smaller living space is good for getting humans ready for Mars.

If you didn't hear that, maybe the fact every tiny home has a mini-wall power pack with a Tesla style battery charger and perhaps the sale of 10 thousand to 50 thousand battery packs a year will make a sound better to hear.

But seriously the only way things work in the world is if money can be made. To be sustainable there has to be a line with a profit on it.

It as important as anything else that a path to profit is found. Some of the pages address that problem, but even if lots of people want move to tiny homes - finding a sustainable profit and overcoming the city regulations and codes will be the big hurdles.

Here are some pages with more detail on the standardized tiny house design

Homeless Bathroom

Tiny Home In-fill Housing for Anybody

Living “Off the grid” in the City

Solar Powered Showers

Recycling and Tent Corral

City-in-the-City

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More Details

Written below are some of the observations on the tiny house for affordable living that eventually I would like to link on separate pages. But for now this rough draft of thoughts are all on one page,

Some of the thoughts are coherent and others not so coherent.

The list of this tiny house design requirements has several major components

The tiny house is manufactured at an off-site assembly line and must be transportable to the site location.

In this version of the tiny house, the the house walls are built light weight, like camping trailer walls, and designed in modular sections that are trucked on a flatbed to the site location. Then hand assembled at the location, without need of heavy equipment like cranes.

The modular wall sections are light enough for a crew to hand carry the sections and assemble them on a specially designed foundation, made and approved only for this particular modular style of a light weight tiny house.

This tiny house design is as green as it can be designed. Recycled materials are a big part of this and the specially designed foundation makes use of chopped up recycled tires and the house itself is designed to conserve energy. This is an important consideration that needs to be disused in detail later.

The tiny house design has three main components. The house walls, the foundation, and the floor, which is also an adapter connecting the foundation to the walls.

There are two options in this tiny house design, an “Off the grid” design and an “On the grid” design. The only difference between the two is the foundation. The tiny house walls and floor fit on either foundation option.

There are 3 basic types of foundation designs for this tiny house version. The foundation with a travel trailer like waste-water holding tank inside of it is the “Off the grid” design.

A similar foundation without the holding tank is used, if the waste-water goes into the city sewer.

Also a specially designed permanent slab foundation of cement can be poured. The tiny house floor attaches to the designed concrete slab that would be flat with the ground.

Without the house on the cement slab it will be hardly noticeable and the house pad would make good car parking.

The concept of tiny houses, along with the other concepts, like low impact on the earth life-styles, recycling, and conserving, is written in millions of internet pages.

A few more pages floating on the Google ocean won't even be noticed. So something spectacular needs to happen. What that something is I don't really know.

Some more thoughts

The tiny house has the advantage of being less expensive overall to build and to maintain. And if the occupant is gone much of the time, such as a long haul truck driver, student that studies at the library a lot, or anyone that needs or wants to save money, the tiny home can be a viable option.

There are advantages and disadvantages to a tiny home and the small living space is certainly a life style change form a traditional house. And of course this smaller style of living won't be for everyone.

If the tiny home is mobile it will be on a foundation/trailer that is 8 feet wide and 16 to 20 long, for the highways.

A tiny house that is stationary could be a shipping container, which is a good image of a classic tiny house. Although if the house is not mobile then it can be wider than 8 feet - any size mechanically feasible.

The construction of the tiny house that is discussed and explained in these pages this concept differs with some design elements that are usually thought of when a tiny home is imagined.

This tiny house concept is dependent on being able to transport it easily since the tiny home is manufactured in sections off site with light weight walls that are light enough to be hand carried. The tiny house comes off the assembly line and the house sections are stacked in a crate and plastic wrapped.

Then trucked to the tiny house dealer's lot. Much like dealer gets a new car to his lot.

Lots of things happen and there will be people selling their tiny homes, which I guess means an “Honest Abe's used tiny houses,” sales-lot on the edge of town.

But if the bank knows “Honest Abe” will buy their reposed tiny house, and they will get some value back on their loan, they will be much more likely to loan.

Also by mass production the cost of a standard tiny home would be in the price range of a car, 20 to 30k or less. So I would imagine something like car structured bank loans.

Foundation

The foundation is also modular and also can be trucked. In fact I would see the sections designed to fit into a large u-haul truck, and anyone can move the standardized tiny home to any state and city and re-assemble it with a proper permit.

A tiny home on wheels may seem like a travel trailer but it is entirely different. Nobody tows a wooden tiny home on wheels to the beach for a weekend, as they will with a camping trailer. The wheels are just there on the tiny home so the heavy wooden frame can be moved to a different location after it is built.

In this design concept moving the structure is accomplished by making as large of sections of the walls as can be reasonably carried by 3 or 4 guys. The modular sections fit is carefully thought out, so an experienced crew can assemble or dis-assemble the tiny house in a few hours since they have done it before.

But hopefully assembly will be easy enough that, if you can put together Ikea furniture, you and your friends can put up your tiny home.

Recycled Materials

Recycling materials is very much a part of the tiny house described here. The foundation on the “off the grid” version uses chopped up tires and remelts them around concrete blocks with metal re-bar that bolts together.

The idea is to encase the concrete in rubber so while loading and unloading and carrying and dropping the heavy foundation blocks they won't chip as concrete against concrete will.

Since the waste water tank is under the house in this design of a tiny house can be completely off utility grid, such as water, sewer, and electricity.

However the same standardized tiny house is designed to fit, either on the mobile foundation of rubber covered cement, or it will also fit on a special designed permanent concrete pad. a flat pad of cement that you can park your car on if there is no tiny house on it.

A tiny house on a cement pad is an “almost off the grid” by pumping the waste water into an existing sewer connection and using city water. (Both legal since we imagined the tiny house can get a permit.)

Suitable land in the city for apartments is limited and expensive. And there is the affordability concern that usually involves rent assistance from the government's safety net. Plus the government usually gives tax benefits to the builders and turns over the assistance payments directly to the owner and investors.

Skipping quickly past the menacing overwhelming barrier of codes and government regulations that building a tiny home that will satisfy all local governments and local codes, we imaging that the tiny home can get a permit and be set up pretty much anywhere. If such a huge barrier can possibly be surmounted will be disused later.

But approved this infill housing idea, to have the existing home owners with larger lots to be allowed to have a rent-able tiny house on their property, could supply thousands of affordable housing quickly.

In Seattle a studio apartment is 1600 a month a tiny house home would be smaller but more private. And if the rent was 1000 not 1600 that would helpful. The thought is that some people, maybe quite a few, would move out of apartments into the tiny rentals to save money and that will free up apartments and put downward pressure on rent costs.

Plus the rent money would go to the real people of the neighborhood, not distant investors, so that might get the neighborhood more in line with this infill idea.

Homeless Bathroom

Tiny Home In-fill Housing for Anybody

Living “Off the grid” in the City

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