Alchemy Architects, a modern architectural firm that gained fame for creating the weeHouse, is working with home builder Robert Engstrom Co., the East Side Neighborhood Development Co., and the Metropolitan Council to create a tiny house community right here in St. Paul. The neighborhood is being planned on Payne at Maryland Avenue in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood of St. Paul, and each unit (in the 900-1200 square foot range) would cost $100-$150k.
But don’t start packing just yet.
First they’ll have to convince St. Paul to change its zoning codes to allow the small structures. This has been the biggest challenge for small home communities across the country. But it has happened. Washington D.C. for example, has loosened restrictions to allow tiny homes to be built, and in Colorado, construction of the country’s largest tiny home community is already underway.
Live a smaller life
So what is a tiny house? And what are the benefits of owning one?
Tiny houses give homeowners the ability to downsize the space they live in. It provides an option for urban home buyers who can’t afford, or simply don’t want, a larger house. After the housing market collapse of 2008, where foreclosures and financial ruin made the idea of owning a home superfluous to many Americans, the idea of “less is more” began to seem a lot more appealing.
It’s also one of the greenest places to call home, as the energy expenditure is about 7% of that of a normal home.
These tiny houses are a boast of the latest domestic technologies, from appliances to lighting to online tools. For example, Alchemy Architect’s model LightHouse features a dashboard website (pictured above) that shows the minute-by-minute usage of water, electricity and natural gas.
And for some, it’s about adopting a minimalist philosophy; getting rid of all the extra stuff and simplifying your life leads to happiness (more ideas here: 8 Benefits of Living a Minimalist Lifestyle) and the idea that we don’t need bigger, better, more extravagant in order to be happy.
But a tiny house might not be for you
Labelled as just the latest craze by some, a silly idea cooked up for Millennials by Millennials, and condemned, as seen with these comments on the Pioneer Press article about tiny homes,
Clearly they’re not for everybody. But they don’t have to be. For some, traditional housing is the way to go, and for a growing amount of others, a tiny house is an economical, eco-friendly, streamlined, and easier way to live.
It provides diverse housing options, and means more people will have a place to call home.
And it’s not a new thing; a crazy idea cooked up by counter-culturalists or Millennials. The philosophy behind living smaller (minimalism) can be traced back to Thoreau’s Walden. Lloyd Kahn’s Shelter and Lester Walker’s Tiny Houses, from 1973 and 1987 respectively, are also credited as early inspiration for the movement.
If you’re interested in checking out one for yourself, you can tour one at the Minnesota State Fair: Alchemy Architect’s model Lighthouse will be on display and open for touring starting August 25th.