I remember how scared we all were to do the first piece of press on our tiny house communal project here in DC.  We were worried how the city might react, we were worried about the safety of our houses, and we were worried about allowing portions of our lives to be on public display. Since doing countless interviews over the last two years though I’ve realized that you quickly must develop thick skin (or refuse to read the press you do which has become my strategy!).

And, no matter what, never read the comments!

You get the purely negative (often political) comments like:

Block the communist revolution in America that is forcing millions of families into shacks.

Will these dressed-up closets be the new McMansions in Obamaville?

You get the funny:

A midget could catch the devil in one of them teeny, tiny little houses.

Instead of an address, you get a Dewey Decimal number.

And you get the personal:

I see many cats, hard candy and quiet time in her future

I wouldn’t even go out on date let alone sleep with a man if he lived in one of these homes. There are certain standards in life you have to stand by and this is one of them

Details will be reported incorrectly, stories will be embellished and twisted, people will send you hateful messages, and, no matter how you try to put on a positive face about your project, the media will search for drama (even if there is none).  Despite these risks, we’ve had a positive experience with most media even if it hasn’t always been the angle we were expecting as was the case this January when Franklyn Cater from NPR called me to follow up about a piece he had started on Boneyard Studios last summer.  Something about those soothing NPR voices just instill a sense of comfort and trust, so I agreed to catch up with him provided he didn’t focus on any drama. Thankfully, he didn’t fail us – producing a well-rounded story about microhousing in the city.

However, after this piece went live I started receiving questions from folks in the tiny house community and the media. It turns out that our old blog was redirecting to a new site with misinformation posted about our houses and the city, and some media have since reprinted that information.  This is the downside of being so public with a project: when things go less than ideal, the media also jump on that opportunity.  At the end of the day what is written about me and my house doesn’t matter as it only impacts me, but reprinting misinformation about city policy and tiny houses impacts us all.*  Many of us in the tiny house community across the U.S. have worked hard over the last few years to show cities that tiny houses can be a (small) part of affordable and creative housing solutions.  And Washington, DC – both the city and many of its residents – have been largely intrigued and supportive of the idea of tiny houses, much more so than any of us expected.

Since we started our projects, we’ve seen the interest in tiny houses boom.  What’s great about that growing interest is that there are opportunities for more projects, each with their unique foci. Working together and supporting other tiny house organizations, companies, and enthusiasts only makes all of our endeavors more successful, and we feel fortunate to have hosted many of you for visits and events, and to have been graciously hosted by you when visiting your cities and supported by you in our transition to a new space.

Yes, things ended on messy terms on the lot where we all founded Boneyard Studios, but I am trying to see the split as beneficial for tiny house enthusiasts overall – there will now be more space to engage with tiny houses: a space for people to build and tour showcase homes at the alley lot owned by Minim Homes, and a new (and hopefully larger) space for Boneyard Studios to continue hosting arts and tiny house events (as we’ve done through our tiny house concert series, workshops, tiny house plays, open houses, and meetups).

While we cannot offer formal, public tours of the Matchbox and Pera houses at this time, we are continuing with our events and appreciate the local businesses who have reached out to offer us space.  We want to thank Wooly Mammoth for inviting us to be a part of their connectivity series with their play Cherokee this past Fall and Winter, and we also are excited to announce that our Spring tiny house meetup will be hosted by Bardo Brewpub.

Although the media’s fascination with tiny houses has grown a bit out of control, I’m hoping those of us in the tiny house community can remind them what we’re all about. We are passionate and engaged people who care about the future of our cities and towns and the increasing lack of affordable housing and arts space. We are innovative people finding ways to create stability with houses built not on a foundation but built on the reality that we live in a society with a diminishing formal safety net but, hopefully, an increasing community safety net. And we are resourceful people building homes that we don’t have to work the rest of our lives to pay for, giving us a sense of creative control over our lives and allowing us the time and space to become more engaged citizens in the places we live.

*I know politicians and government are easy scapegoats; however, our niche (yet growing) movement of small and sustainable living has a hard enough time already with mainstream acceptance to be spreading mistruths about them.  To clarify a few of the main ones that have mentioned the city:

  1. DC did not change its policy on tiny houses (there is, however, a zoning rewrite which addresses Accessory Dwelling Units).
  2. The city did not kick off nor threaten to tow any tiny houses off the property on Evarts St. (where we started the Boneyard Studios community).
  3. We are unsure whether or not a DC council member ever complained about noise from tiny house construction on the property, but there is currently another house being built there now so hopefully not.
  4. There has been confusion about waste.  (The Pera house had an incinerating toilet for almost two years before upgrading to a Swedish Separette toilet last summer (the same system the Matchbox house has). During a meeting with city planners this past fall we learned that an architect/developer proposing a container project in DC is designing his units to use the Separette as well, and we are happy to see these new off-grid options taking hold in the U.S.)
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Join the conversation! 5 Comments

  1. Y’all rock Lee. Thanks and keep up the good work. Speaking from afar, it’s invaluable to at least one of us out here. All the best to you and Jay in the next chapter of this community.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  2. I appreciate your courage and bravery, Lee. And have absolute respect for the work you have done for everyone in the tiny house community.

    Wishing you well,
    Vina

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. Thanks for another great post. I’m so happy to hear the details of your ongoing story and wish you the best finding a new spot for the community! I’ve got your back!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  4. Tiny house living is just beginning to emerge here in Louisville, Kentucky, and I believe that my partner and I are two of but a handful of people who are actively building tiny houses in the area right now. Although we don’t expect nearly as much media attention, this is a really helpful article for me to read. We’ve discussed some of these issues about going public with our choices – there seems to be a tension between a) sharing so much that we might get negative attention that affects our ability to live in the tiny house, and b) not participating enough in the conversation about tiny house living that needs to be happening between residents, neighbors, and policymakers. Thanks for paving the way!

    Like

    Reply
    • Hi Carolyn! So glad to hear things are going well with your builds in Louisville! I look forward to following your progress down there and hopefully meeting up someday.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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