In recent years Tiny Homes have become big business. Existing in a legal grey area between mobile homes and conventional housing, Tiny Houses allow for savings on land and construction costs, and a burgeoning industry has developed around the concept.
Championing minimalism, community and anti-consumerism, the phenomenon has become a media sensation. HGTV's Tiny House programming averages five million viewers per week. Tiny Housing is being promoted as an aspirational housing choice. While pitched against aspirational consumerism it is in many ways subsumed into it, with Global brands like ikea now offering a range of products specifically for small living spaces. The appeal of Tiny Homes has grown so much that there's even a Tiny House extension package for the video game 'The Sims'. Despite their branding as trendy and innovative, Tiny Homes can be seen as a crisis culture for several reasons including that they provide an option for people unable to afford traditional housing, are used as a response to homelessness and - more recently - have been adopted as a means of cheaply social distancing or self isolating during the Covid Pandemic.
Myself - Ella Harris, and my colleagues Mel Nowicki and Tim White are exploring this fast growing phenomenon.
Tiny Homes in Austin
We were recently awarded a BA/Leverhulme Small Grant to explore Tiny Housing in Austin. The project examines the role of Tiny House developments in response to the now-chronic US housing crisis. In Austin – widely seen as the epicentre of the Tiny House movement - Tiny Homes are being pitched as an urban housing crisis solution for demographics ranging from homeless populations to middle-class professionals. Through exploring the aesthetics and narratives used to promote Tiny Homes online, and conducting interviews with both producers and users, this project is aquiring in-depth understanding of the phenomenon’s emerging geographies. It will generate crucial insights into how Tiny Housing reflects and influences meanings of housing and home at a time of turbulence. As part of the project we're working with photographer Ciba Oba Smith who will be documenting Tiny Homes and their residents in Austin. Together, his images and our findings will be the basis for an illustrated book about Tiny Homes.