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Living in Tiny Houses

The city of New York is working on a large-scale effort to build 300-square-foot homes for residents in a neighborhood in Manhattan.

| BY Kent McDill

Since the beginning, the American Dream has included home ownership, and the bigger the dreamer, the bigger the dream house.

Now, with the price of home ownership continuing to handcuff the American consumer, and with so many working people unable to afford needs like health care and groceries while paying for their home, owning a big home has lost some of its appeal.

So, in many places across America and the world, citizens are learning to appreciate the simple beauty of owning a very, very small home.

In Atlanta, The Savannah College of Art and Design converted an area parking deck into a series of parking space-sized homes, with another parking space as outdoor living space. The new small homes include areas for sleeping and food preparation, as well as a bathroom. The so-called SCADpads, named after the school, make use of the previously constructed lot to house people unwilling or unable to buy their own home with thousands of square feet.

Instead, they live in these 135-square foot constructs.

“It’s not just a generational thing,’’ said Scott Boylston, a professor at SCAD’s Design for Sustainability department. “People all over are looking at a different way of living – living in smaller spaces with fewer things.”

In many cases, the cost of buying one of these small homes is so, well, small that people do not require loans or mortgages to pay for their homes.   

While the idea is producing homes for hundreds of people in big cities, it is also catching on in more suburban or rural areas, where people prefer to use their land as farms or gardens or outdoor living spaces, and use only hundreds of square feet rather than thousands to use as their “house.”

The “small house’’ phenomenon is catching on in big cities where normal housing is too expensive. In New York, a program called adAPT NYC is planning to prepare 275-300 square foot units in Manhattan. The stated goal is to create homes that “have substantial access to light and air to create a sense of openness’’ as opposed to the tight, shuttered existence of many apartment dwellers in the Big Apple.

In Lismore, Australia, a group reconstructed a series of metal shipping containers used to haul materials across the oceans into small houses. A similar project in Brighton, England, used 36 shipping containers retrofitted with bathrooms, kitchens and insulated walls to provide homes for singles or couples who could not afford larger houses.

The small house idea not only provides home ownership, it also makes positive use of urban land spaces, and creates a new sense of community among the new dwellers.

The idea works in large cities because, for many city-dwellers, their home extends beyond four walls.

“They don’t mind living in smaller spaces because they really see their home as just a part of their lifestyle,’’ said SCAD School of Building Arts dean Christian Scottie to CNN. “The city is where they live.”

About the Author

Kent McDill

Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.

In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.

McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.

McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy  Buffett and all things Disney.