| November 28, 2012

The Washington Post writes about a new trend happening in the alleyways of DC. Tiny 200 square foot homes are springing up in Northeast DC.

“This is the dream,” says Rin Westcott, 28, who lives in Columbia and came out on a wintry Saturday afternoon bundled in a flower hat to help her friend Lee Pera with a tiny-house raising.

Pera, 35, wore safety goggles as she treated the cedar boards of her “little house in the alleyway,” one of three under construction in what is thought to be one of the country’s first tiny-house model communities.

If these affordable homes — which maximize every inch of interior space and look a little like well-constructed playhouses — are the dream, they represent a radically fresh version of what it takes to make Americans happy.

Yeah, you can imagine what the Post would be saying about these people building tiny houses if there was a Republican President. But, not a peep about the White House being unable to resurrect the economy, just this;

Although the diminutive homes are made of high-quality materials, they are priced for a flagging economy. They sell for $20,000 to $50,000, less than the down payment on a two-bedroom condo in a trendy D.C. neighborhood.

A “flagging economy” is all they squeeze out of their Thesaurus. By the way, that $50k price tag is more than half of what I paid for this three bedroom house on 5 acres, so enjoy yourselves down there with your doll-house sized home in the city that I recently abandoned.

Category: Barack Obama/Joe Biden, Economy

Comments (94)

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  1. PintoNag says:

    @51 As with anything else, forcing folks to do this would take all the fun out of it.

  2. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    So, what do you think the Post’s take on a trailer home would be? I mean, some of those are only 650 square feet. Where’s the story about how novel and wonderful trailer home living can be? No, that isn’t happening, is it? It’s not about living small at all, is it?

  3. Just Plain Jason says:

    Hey I got a better idea we take the houses and tow them out onto a frozen lake and cut a hole in the floor…

  4. CBSenior says:

    @52 Not if you are a commie or a Liberal. Telling other people what to do is your favorite past time. Loads of fun making other people do shit you have no intention of doing. It is all fun and games until someone looses and eye, THEN it is just plain FUN.

  5. PintoNag says:

    A trailer is a mobile structure, and that REALLY carries a stigma. Like it or not, we still think “trailer trash” when these are around, no matter how nice they are.

  6. Mr. Blue says:

    I’m still wondering if Joe lives in a one of these under 200 square foot houses he’s advocating.
    Well? How about it?

  7. Just Plain Jason says:

    Liberal mantra…good for thee not for me!

  8. Mr. Blue says:

    #58: Usually followed up with the Noble Excuse.

  9. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    PN: WE do? Well, that aside, my point is that the story is ostensibly a celebration of small living–but only that type of small living that carries the Liberal Stamp of Approval. Down with the couple who reside in a four bedroom house! Down with the fellow who owns more than he truly needs! Down with those who earn more than others think they should! To me, this story is just a tiny tile in a large mosaic being assembled all around us. And I do not like the picture at all.

  10. Joe says:

    A few people choose to downsize and you guys start shooting off about Mao , liberal hypocrisy, being forced to live in a small house. “Paranoia strikes feel, into your heart it will creep” – Neil Young

  11. Joe says:

    strikes deep. Damn autocorrect

  12. PintoNag says:

    Air Cav…stripping off the pretty paint, it smacks of those crackerbox buildings that were built block by block in Soviet Russia.

    I see the mosaic you describe, also.

  13. Reaperman says:

    So what does this all look like from the air? Anybody spotted it on a satellite map site yet? Looking at ‘boneyard studios’ it seems like somewhere there is a lot, with a lot of tiny homes on it which are currently classed as vehicles/trailers because they’re too small to pass zoning. DC “Shanty Town”? Please tell me it’s not as bad as that sounds.

  14. Mr. Blue says:

    Hey! Joey! Over here!
    I asked you a question.
    Do. You. Live. In. A. House. 200 sq ff. Or. Smaller.

  15. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    Hey Joe. I think “you guys” is only me and, yep, I’m venting my spleen because I see a bigger picture here. And what’s with the Neil Young quote? The guy who sounds like a cat being tortured? “Southern Man” Neil Young? I prefer “Sweet Home Alabama.”

  16. Sandman says:

    A lot of the small house movement (at least in more rural areas) are people in their 20’s or 30’s who are looking to build something that they can own outright rather than deal with a mortgage or people who are planning for retirement and choosing to move out of the city.

    My wife and I currently have 1600 square feet in the middle of town on 1/5 an acre.

    If we could go to 750 to 1000 square feet on 5-10 acres outside the city once the kid is out of High School why not?

    The reason for the small square footage on some tiny homes (<200) is that in most states the permitting process is much reduced or non-existent.

    And there are issues with shipping containers that can make them difficult to use. Though here's a great hunting cabin design that is well done: http://www.tincancabin.com/how-to-build/

  17. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    Wanting a small house that you can buy up front without a loan is not the issue. It’s the disparaging and deriding of the guy with the BIG house on the hill as if he is somehow undeserving. I want Americans to be free to choose how and where they want to live, to drive what they want to drive, to live wherever they want–all without having the gubmint making it more and more difficult to do just that in an infinite number of creative (and loathesome) ways.

  18. ohio says:

    Looks like the pidegeon coop I built when I was a kid.

  19. RunPatRun says:

    Heat from the flat screen TV = no need for a furnace.

  20. OWB says:

    Still having a problem with $50K for 200 sq ft or less. Wow!

    But if that is what you want, go for it. Just don’t lecture the rest of us for making a different choice. OK?

    Oh, wait. Too late. The hypocrites already landed.

  21. Ex-PH2 says:

    OK, Carolina Home Plans has plans for small houses from 550 square feet up to 965 sq ft. One bedroom, one bathroom, plenty of windows and living space, nice porches and the cost to build is (depending on where you live) $79/sf to $125/sf. What’s the big deal?

    For those of you who were not alive in the 1950s like me, the suburban housing developments were underway big time, and I remember my father’s annoyance at the size of what he called “crackerbox” houses, which were 1000sf to 1200sf, 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom Cape Cod-style homes on 1/4 acre lots. They are still there. They have held up quite well. They were originally sold for between $2,500 and $4,000, but it was 1952 and a lot of them were built for vets from World War II and the Korean War. I see some of them around where I now live.

    I think the issue is that a lot of people are downsizing anyway because they got stung by the housing debacle and they don’t want to be in debt forever, nor do they give a crap about impressing anyone. I don’t think anyone is being ‘forced’ to live in these cubicles.

  22. Sig says:

    I looked into some of these extra small houses for a while and I still think it’s a pretty interesting idea. I wouldn’t be able to fit all my stuff–so I’d have to get rid of most of my stuff. Stuff doesn’t really make me that happy, when you get down to it, and I’m pretty attached to some of it, but there are times I think a house fire while we were away is the kindest thing that could happen to us.

    I have zero problem with other people having big houses, but I’m not entirely certain that my life is much better with a moderate 2BR home on half an acre than it was in a tiny apartment, except that I don’t share a wall with neighbors.

    I don’t know how much of this is just yearning for the good old days of my 7′ by 7′ B-hut room in Afghanistan. Ahh, plywood heaven.

  23. Joe says:

    Mr. Blue – condo, 900 sq ft. But if/when we move we will consider going smaller.

  24. Mr Wolf, non-Esq says:

    My ‘hut’ in Kuwait was bigger- and more comfortable, and likely better built. My trailer in Baghdad even more so. And I can guaranfriggintee you no one paid 50k for either one, or even both.

    What they are paying for is that land. SanFran is doing nearly the very same thing as this- only they cost even more than these do due to land costs.

    My lawnmower has more room than people do in these things.

    Want to know what’s next? Just wait- they’re gonna start STACKING them. Then, start calling them collectives.

    In 5 years or so, this is going to be a ‘hi-crime’ area because the people are too close, and have no way to get away from each other. You can bet on this.

    Would I use one for a hunting cabin? Probably- after adding a huge fireplace. And putting it on at least 20 acres if not more. But not within gunshot range of any neighbor for certain, let along within sight.

    And if you think I’m some wastrel, fear not- my entire house is 100% solar powered. So there. (but I make up for it owning 6 cars and 6 motorcycles. So my karma evens out)

  25. melle1228 says:

    I just want to know when everything over 200 sq ft became a McMansion like #16 claims, especially when you have a family of 4? I like my large foot print, I want an even bigger foot print with land so I don’t have to live next to other people.

  26. JJAK says:

    What doesn’t make sense to me is why anyone would want to live in DC at all, be it a mini-house, townhouse, or the White House.

  27. Ex-PH2 says:

    Some people are buying up Airstream trailers, gutting and rehabbing them and living in those, instead of these over-built, overpriced, silly egocentric architectural displays.

    Before the housing collapse, there were people building the oversized houses, having a few parties, and then moving out, within 18 months of moving in, to something more upscale — whatever that is.

  28. Just Plain Jason says:

    I just did some quick math and they are paying 2.5 time more per square foot for a 200square foot house in DC. I live in a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom house with a two car garage and an unfinished basement. Sounds like someone is making a very bad financial decision, but that is just me.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Am I missing something? Do they do own the land? Or are they “squatting” in city owned alleyways? It is a little unclear from the article. Property in the city is still expensive. So buying a lot that is likely much much more than the tiny home, then adding the price of the home could still amount to a hefty expendature.

    @ Joe while I agree with living in a smaller footprint, and practice it (tiny appartment kinda similar to tiny house); damned if you coming here with your nose upturned and your lecturing did not bring bile to my throat. I want an Escalade and a 10 gallon hat after reading your comments – sarcasm. Honestly, how many buzz words from WaPo did you recycle in your comments I lost track. But I guess recycling is a big part of the whole “(in)conspicuous consumption” thing.


  30. Ex-PH2 says:

    Those little cabins are not on permanent foundations. They are all on wheels, making it easy to hitch them to a truck and move them. The gallery of photos that accompany the article clearly show what look like 30-gallon water tanks being brought in to act as water sources, meaning they have to be refilled daily, and oddly enough, there was nothing mentioned about waste water outflow.

    These are wooden, axle-mounted trailers, nothing else. Whoever has a snotty attitude about it, give it up. They’re trailers and they cost a hell of a lot more than they should for something that small. This is a serious ripoff. For the amount of money they’re spending, they could get a really nice double-wide in a nice mobile home park. $50,000 for these garden sheds? Come on!

    But — this just tickles me pink — if you’re dumb enough to think that this alleyside location is better than a trailer park, just wait until DC decides it ain’t so hot and decides to move all of these people OUT, whether they like it or not.

  31. Ex-PH2 says:

    Here’s a nice little number over in Matteson. 1800 square feet, fireplace, garage, nice lot, for $29,900.


  32. UpNorth says:

    I remember seeing these houses back in the early 70’s. We passed a bunch of them just east of St. Louis, Michigan. They were called, wait, it’s coming back….Got it. They were called migrant housing and the state shut them down as they didn’t contain enough space to be “livable”. I believe the ACLU was involved in that.
    Oh, and Joey, where do you hang all your climbing ropes and your climbing togs in that little space? Or, do you rent a storage garage?

  33. RE #73: While the little place that I built was but 220 s.f., it was adjacent to a 40′ X 74′ new barn. Plenty of room for my “Stuff” which is basically woodworking tools. This place was on the land of someone else, and is considered an “outbuilding” here in rural Florida. The landowner bought the materials, I did all labor, and it is considered “my place” for as long as I want it. I use it for a month at a time from time to time, since moving out after living in it for 3 years. I believe that the landowner has about $4,000 in it, and it appraised at $27,500 a year ago, for loan value, not taxable. Pretty good for an “outbuilding”.

  34. Ex-PH2 says:

    @84 – Am I missing something here, or would you agree that waxing rhapsodic over what is a home-made wooden camping trailer is a bit ridiculous?

    Hell, I’d live in a rebuilt Airstream before I’d move into one of those things.

  35. Reaperman says:

    There’s a lot more about their plumbing than I ever cared to know on the boneyard site: http://boneyardstudios.com/2012/10/01/tiny-house-appliances-water/

  36. Reaperman says:

    ^ That was aimed at @81

  37. Ex-PH2 says:

    @87 – ROFLMAO!!!

    And these people are stupid enough to pay — what? — $50,000 for the privilege of living in something smaller than my kitchen? And they can’t even guarantee themselves a water supply?

    That noise you hear? Me and my cats laughing so hard we fell over.

  38. TheTrueAnalyst says:

    Those houses are nothing more than a glorified shed. Seriously, if you actually want to waste money on a house like that then good for you, but it is pointless. Also, talk about dragging down the value of the neighborhood tremendously. For a homeless bum these would undoubtedly be paradise, so I’m not looking down my nose at folks in those situations, but these are priced out of their range anyhow.

  39. OWB says:

    A couple of things keep coming back, in addition to the price per square foot. They are building mobile homes on site? Ya gotta know that is to get around some zoning issue.

    Who owns the alleyway? Who do you call when your crap burner malfunctions??

    This entire deal just looks like a variation on the occupy movement!

  40. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    I listen to Mark Levin on the radio a couple of evenings a week. I love the guy. If you’ve never listened to him, he’s a conservative, an attorney, a learned student of our Constitution, and a former member of the Reagan Administration. Anyway, in view of the class warfare fire that the current admin likes to stoke, Levin pointed out that while millions of obama’s minions enjoy disparaging “the rich” they would love to join that group, as evidenced by this week’s Powerball sales. I thought it a terrific observation.

  41. NHSparky says:

    Unfortunately, I am not yet part of those evil 1 percenters. What? You mean “win the Powerball” isn’t considered effective retirement planning?

  42. Ex-PH2 says:

    Like Sig pointed out above, if you have a lot of stuff, it won’t fit, but having “stuff” doesn’t necessarily make you happy. And if it’s your stuff, it’s stuff, but what if it’s somebody else’s stuff? Then, in the words of the late George Carlin, it’s junk, so what do you do with it?

    I can see this quickly turning into another shanty town like the good old days of the Gold Rush in 1848. Wait ’til the homeowners in the permanent structures behind these portable houses start complaining about the noise and the smell and the lack of sanitation and the rats, possums, racoons, coyotes.

    And what happens when a real winter comes? DC can be notoriously nasty in a blizzard. Ain’t no one gonna come down the alley and clear it with a snowplow.

    This was all done to get around the building codes and nothing else, by a bunch of people who are otherwise known as ‘squatters’ and who would be chased out by the police if they were living in tents along the alleyway.

  43. Twist says:

    Sparky, you are part of the 1%. The 1% of the population that got off their asses and served their country.