“GMA’s” Ginger Zee provides an inside look at the tiny living trend, and a sneak peek at “Tiny House Nation” on FYI Network.
Demand for housing in Washington, DC is going through the roof. Over a thousand people move to the nation’s capital every month, driving up the cost of housing, and turning the city into a construction zone. Tower cranes rising high above the city streets have become so common, they’re just part of the background.
But as fast as the cranes can rise, demand for housing has shot up even faster, making DC among the most expensive cities in the United States. With average home prices at $453 per square foot, it’s every bit as expensive as New York City. And the struggles of one homebuilder shows just why the city’s shortage looks to continue for a long time.
“I got driven down the tiny house road because of affordability, simplicity, sustainability, and then mobility,” says Jay Austin, who designed a custom 140-square-foot house in Washington, DC. Despite the miniscule size, his “Matchbox” house is stylish, well-built, and it includes all the necessities (if not the luxuries) of life: a bathroom, a shower, a modest kitchen, office space, and a bedroom loft. There’s even a hot tub outside.
Clever design elements make the most of minimalism. The Matchbox’s high ceilings, skylight, and wide windows make the small space feel modern, uncluttered, and open.
At a cost that ranges from $10,000 to $50,000, tiny homes like the Matchbox could help to ease the shortage of affordable housing in the capital city. Heating and cooling costs are negligible. Rainwater catchment systems help to make the homes self-sustaining. They’re an attractive option to the very sort of residents who the city attracts in abundance: single, young professionals without a lot of stuff, who aren’t ready to take on a large mortgage.
But tiny houses come with one enormous catch: they’re illegal, in violation of several codes in Washington DC’s Zoning Ordinance. Among the many requirements in the 34 chapters and 600 pages of code are mandates defining minimum lot size, room sizes, alleyway widths, and “accessory dwelling units” that prevent tiny houses from being anything more than a part-time residence.
That’s why Austin and his tiny house-dwelling neighbors at Boneyard Studios don’t actually live in their own homes much of the time. To skirt some of the zoning regulations, they’ve added wheels to their homes, which reclassifies them as trailers – and subjects them to regulation by the Department of Motor Vehicles. But current law still requires them to either move their homes from time to time, or keep permanent residences elsewhere.
The DC Office of Zoning, the Zoning Commission, the Zoning Administrator, the Board of Zoning Adjustment, and the Office of Planning all declined to comment on the laws that prevent citizens from living in tiny houses. But their website offers a clue:
Outdated terms like telegraph office and tenement house still reside in our regulations. Concepts like parking standards and antenna regulations are based on 1950s technology, and new concepts like sustainable development had not even been envisioned.
Complex as it is, the Zoning Ordinance of the District of Columbia was approved in 1958. That’s over five decades of cultural change and building innovations, like tiny houses, that the code wasn’t designed to address.
Exemptions and alterations to the code are possible – many are granted every year – but they don’t come cheaply. Lisa Sturtevant of the National Housing Conference estimates that typical approvals add up to $50,000 to the cost of a new single-family unit. That’s why large, wealthy developers enjoy greater flexibility to build in the city, but tiny house dwellers… not so much.
Fortunately, a comprehensive rewrite of the zoning code has been in the works for much of the last decade. Efforts to allow more affordable housing are underway, although many of these solutions favor large developers. Future plans still forbid tiny houses. Austin estimates that, given the current glacial pace of change among the city’s many zoning committees, tiny houses are “many years, if not decades out” from being allowed in the city.
For now, Jay Austin is allowed to build the home of his dreams – he just can’t live there. The Matchbox has become a part-time residence and a full-time showpiece. The community of tiny houses at Boneyard Studios are periodically displayed to the public in the hopes of changing a zoning authority that hasn’t updated a zoning code in 56 years.
Runs about 10:30
Produced, shot, written, narrated, and edited by Todd Krainin.
Additional music by Lee Rosevere.
Learn More at Reason.com
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“I’ve been involved with the small house movement since its beginnings, for almost 14 years now, and the Tiny House Nation television series is one of the biggest media events to happen to the movement in more than a decade.” ~ Greg Johnson
Watch Episodes Online
Here are links to the episodes from the Tiny House Nation videos page.
Global Availability. Please note that viewing is not available in all countries such as Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden and maybe others (we’re receiving reports from members).
In the Media
In “Tiny House Nation,” renovation experts and hosts, John Weisbarth and Zack Giffin, travel across America to show off ingenious small spaces and the inventive people who live in them, as well as help new families design and construct their own mini-dream home in a space no larger than 500 square feet. From a micro-apartment in New York City to a caboose car turned home in Montana to a micro-sized mobile home for road tripping – this is a series that celebrates the exploding movement of tiny homes. From pricey to budget friendly, “Tiny House Nation” is not a typical design show, but one that proves size doesn’t always matter – it’s creativity that counts.
Graphics to Promote the Show
Here are some graphics obtained from the web that you can use to promote the show through your blogs, websites, emails, and social networks. When possible, link to the official show URL at this address http://www.fyi.tv/shows/tiny-house-nation. Square images work well with Twitter. Remember to use the hashtag #TinyHouseNation.
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Here are some resources mentioned in the video for further reading and research.
- BOOK – Humble Homes, Simple Shacks, Cozy Cottages, Ramshackle Retreats, Funky Forts: And Whatever the Heck Else We Could Squeeze in Here by Derek Diedricksen [Buy Now]
- BOOK – The Big Tiny by Dee Williams [Buy Now]
- BUILDER – CustomBarns.net
- TINY HOUSE VILLAGE – BlueMoonRising.org in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland
- WEBSITE – RelaxShacks.com
- WORKSHOP – Treehouse Hands-On Workshop