If we are not going to think about it, we could at least ask ourselves why we are not thinking about it.
Everyone who wants to use a tinyhouse knows that the zoning problem is by far the biggest issue in the tiny house world. But it gets very little discussion. Everyone is avoiding it, admit it.
Personally I think I tend to avoid it for a few reasons, one of which is the detour factor. I think this is also what causes most people to just give up, rather than trying to change the laws: I just want to live in a small house that suits me. I have the time and money to build a house, but I’m not a wreathed-in-fire activist, and I don’t have time to be one.
Having to change the laws seems like a very long, highly unwelcome detour from what matters to me. This, I think is why people trend strongly towards telling people they should just try it, and ignore the government’s unreasonable rules. Unfortunately suffice it to say that said people fail to realize that the government is not that much of a push over.
Unfortunately that doesn’t change the fact that the laws are the limiting factor here.
Another reason is that doing something about the laws is not as easy as just sending a letter to my local politicians. If you ask yourself, “what would work to get tinyhouses practically permitted?” (e.g. tinyhouses can be placed legally in any backyard for a total of no more than a few hundred bucks worth of total government burden, in the form of inappropriate construction requirements, permitting etc., negotiating with the neighbors over view etc. is fine though) instead of “what can I do to help?”, it becomes apparent that sending a letter or whatever alone, in the absence of any other action on the part of anyone else, will in fact make effectively no difference at all.
I assume one letter, the politician probably ignores. Many letters, and there may be a certain probability that the scales are tipped in favor of what the letters request be done.
A lot of letters, and the politician understands that they do it, or they promptly lose their job and are replaced by one that will.
Unfortunately you need a good number of people sending letters, donating, or performing whatever other action (unless you have the dough for lobbying, or can do it yourself, which worked in the case of the medcottages tinyhouses thing, getting them permitted as-by-right in all of Virginia).
As far as I can tell, all effective movements have at least a small number of people that make it at least their part time job to organize all the other people. And know what they are doing to a reasonable degree. All of them. Clearly that means these people need to be relatively highly motivated.
Paying them doesn’t get you off the ground though, because you need someone to solicit and collect the initial money, or who can pay it themselves, so you would still need at least one motivated organizer and donor…. (although it raises the interesting possibility of a professional activist that both started things and then took some of the donations to pay for their work, that might encounter issues with people questioning their motives.)
But there is *one* group of people that could do this and have a lot of personal motivation to: Tiny house builders. Jay Schaffer and so on. I am perplexed that these people have not started effectively organizing the very large number of people like me that would totally pitch in to a movement if we had the chance. IIRC the Tinyhousedesign blog gets 50,000 unique hits a month. The Tinyhouseblog presumably gets more, could be 100K. That’s a heck of a lot of people involved. And you have to realize that a lot of people hear about tinyhouses, and then leave again later after hearing that they are not allowed. Those people don’t show up much in those statistics as regular readers do, but could be added to the political force too.
A third reason is that I view the problems around tinyhouses as symptoms of much deeper problems, so I guess it seems to me like spending a lot of time on it would not be that useful beyond the relatively narrow issue. A popular philosopher in the tiny house movement points out:
“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil
to one who is striking at the root.”
– Henry David Thoreau
If people were not so quick to allow the persecution of minority groups, like people who live in trailers, or to trample freedom or borrow against the future in pursuit of short sighted goals like propping up housing prices, creating a housing bubble, tinyhouses would already be allowed. If the wealthy were not so readily permitted to get their way at the expense of the rest of us, there would be no minimum square footage, or exclusionary zoning. If the laws or political system had any respect for reality built into them, they would not be based on erroneous logic, and when they were they would be corrected when the underlying rationales were shown to be flawed (and the original creation process would be recorded and made available for analysis…).
(BTW the word “rant” might have gone through your head right about now, but dismissing a valid arguments as a rant is something people do because they are unwilling or too lazy to think about complex things. Reality is inherently complex.)
That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t pitch in, though, to get the issues around tinyhouses improved. It would still be useful in itself, and could maybe help a bit with the more basic issues…
Fourthly, it seems (to me, right at present) like there is not that much need for discussion on the subject, because we *know* what the problem is already (actually there is a lot of misinformation floating around about these things, so clearing that up might actually make a lot of sense, come to think of it).
But there is plenty of room, and need, to work out the issues of how to change the laws, which might include figuring out why they are they way they are in the first place, for example.
Also, before you start thinking about ways that a tinyhouse could be used without changing the laws, consider the relative amounts of cumulative, if you assume everyone was doing it, effort involved with dodging or accommodating the law vs. changing it.
If instead of everyone bending over backwards and spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars each to “hide in plain site”, or commuting in from the styx because the house was not allowed in the city, or whatever, what if all 100,000 tinyhouse enthusiasts just spent a few hours on political change? Honestly, at some level it’s about working smarter, not harder. It needs more investigating, but could potentially be a much more efficient way to get your tiny house.
So, anybody up for organizing? I think the builders are the only ones who can do it. Come on, I bet it would really pay off business wise, so there is a good excuse…