UnNews:Americans embrace "tiny houses"

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Americans embrace "tiny houses"

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9 November 2015

Tiny bedroom

This is how big a bedroom of a normal house is. A tiny house is visible out that window, though most people mistake it for the outhouse.

CROYDON, New Hampshire -- Hilary and Shane Lentz liked the idea but weren't sure the reality would be appealing. Then a business started at Harvard University rented them a "tiny house" — which experts define as 400 square feet or smaller — for $99 a night.

The Lentzes, from Pittsburgh, had been considering a smaller home, as he is a brain surgeon and she is a corporate executive and they needed a house that would fit their take-home pay after paying for America's new affordable health care. They both also believe that curtailing our lives, and reducing our consumption of anything on which statistics are kept, is a key to avoiding imminent global climate catastrophe — while suicide seemed like too big a leap, for now.

Enter Getaway Corporation, a project at Harvard's Millennial Housing Lab working to replace America's reputation for showy consumption of no benefit to anyone, with showy tax-funded student activism of no benefit to anyone. The corporation rented the Lentzes "rustic" living quarters about the size of a shipping container — whose sides were decorated with the words "Maersk" and "Use No Hooks" for realism — so the couple could see whether they wanted to join the increasing number of Americans who shun the tradition to "live large."

Their home for the weekend is powered by solar panels, of course, and thus well-lit at almost all hours when the sun is out. The toilet — which doubles as the silverware drawer — requires a light sprinkle of potting soil and a few seeds to be sown after each use. The innovative office is on the roof, where an adequate WiFi signal is sometimes present.

Scamp

A typical venue for "tiny living," but not for making a clean break from the Corporate State. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.

The Lentzes spent their first evening playing Risk! — confining their competition to the part of the board representing South America — and went for a long walk while waiting for their home to distill enough water from the air to prepare a small glass of Kool-Aid. But they found no problems cooking a spaghetti dinner, provided neither spouse extended a noodle to its full length. By the end of their stay, they said they were eager to "downsize," and suicide seemed more palatable as well.

Getaway built several trial homes here in Croydon because it is close to the epicenter of the Free State Project, a movement of out-of-state libertarians to find a rural place they could take over politically without playing politics. The Project's only success here, before they decamped to nearby Winchester so that a trip to Walmart would not require bus tickets, was to pack town meeting and repeal the Planning Board, allowing builders like Getaway to pursue such experiments without facing seizure and imprisonment.

The bucolic village that Getaway built around its "tiny houses" has a diner where Getaway's customers will consider it a bargain to breakfast on a demi-tasse of free-range cornflakes for $12, and a petting zoo with a variety of squirrels, chipmunks, and the occasional porcupine. Renters park out-of-town and reach their tiny houses in a wagon drawn by a pair of Andean alpacas, who double as tourguides because they can communicate with the locals, though they can spit further.

However, experts say that the tiny-house fashion is not catching on, doing as bad a job of rising above 1% as the global temperature is of obeying computer models that Harvard touts as the reason to downsize in the first place. "The data reveals that tiny homes are not the true American dream," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors. He adds that the real American dream is catching a real-estate salesman in repeated lies and studying a ream of contracts with companies you have never heard of when you arrive for the closing.

Getaway understands that its pathbreaking concept might not catch on. Founder Jon Staff says the company has a fallback plan, under which the tiny homes would be rented to tourists from Japan at twice the price — after being re-cast as "luxury hotel suites."

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