A tiny house seen in a forest area. (Photo courtesy of Benjamin Chun/Flickr)

Opinion: Tiny houses present a solution to bleak Boulder housing scene

Contact CU Independent Opinion Staff Writer Hayla Wong at hayla.wong@colorado.edu.

Opinions do not necessarily represent CUIndependent.com or any of its sponsors.

It’s not how big it is; it’s what you do with it that makes the difference.

I’m talking about houses.

Tiny houses are revolutionizing the way we think about living. Since industrialization and the rise of mass consumerism, the average house in America has doubled — then tripled. But does each family member need more than a thousand square feet to themselves? The tiny house movement resists this super-size-me culture by scaling down the typical living space to less than a tenth of the size of the average home. A typical tiny house sits at about 100-400 square feet and can be hitched to the back of your car.

Every aspect of a tiny house is deliberate and inventive: a couch doubles as storage space, stairs are bookshelves, beds are lofted and the entire bathroom is also the shower.

The tiny house movement is picking up and has been gaining more exposure as more and more people are discovering the freedom of debt-free minimalistic living. Pinterest (boy do I love referencing that website) is riddled with tiny house ideas and inventive ways to maximize living space, and TLC even has a show dedicated to exploring the unique tiny homes that are popping up around the country and the globe!

These trailer-like structures also require very few materials to build and push back against the gross expenditure of natural resources. Furthermore, most people who choose to live small also want to live off-the-grid and eco-friendly. This means no electricity hook-ups or municipal plumbing. Most tiny houses use solar panels, gas-heating, water tanks, grey-water disposal and composting toilets. Tiny house dwellers can just pick up and travel, bringing their entire house with them.

The best part about a tiny house? The average cost of building one of these nifty units is only $20,000! That’s about a year and a half of rent in Boulder.

Let’s take a moment to recall how insanely expensive it is to live in Boulder, though I’m sure I’m not your only reminder. Just last month, the pre-leasing frenzy hit, and it hit hard. In my searches, the average 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath dog-friendly apartment ran at a little under $2,000. On the Hill, prices only go up from there. Frankly, this is a huge concern for a number of reasons. The biggest is that it gentrifies Boulder. Anyone without the financial means to afford renting (let alone buying) a place in Boulder will have to move to neighboring towns like Longmont, Superior or Louisville.

A minimum wage job will not suffice in this market without forcing a person to sacrifice significant lifestyle luxuries, which only further bars them from feeling like they belong in Boulder to begin with. This creates a non-inclusive, yuppie environment that goes against the free-spirited all-loving image Boulderites try to portray. The diversity in Boulder is rapidly slimming down and that is the fault of the climate that has been created here. The housing situation here is bleak if it follows the trend that has already been driving housing prices up and making the Boulder lifestyle seem accessible only to certain people.

You probably know where I’m going with this. That’s right: Tiny houses are the solution!

This past summer I worked for a company that turns used shipping containers into luxury tiny homes. The owner of the company kept expressing to me how she felt that container tiny homes would be where students would soon be turning, but that the City of Boulder would have to alter its zoning policies to make this a possibility. She ran for city council with this mission this past fall and has since been elected into office, which could be one step toward making the solution a reality in Boulder.

There are endless possibilities for what students can do with tiny houses. These small, sustainable and economically realistic structures would alleviate so much financial stress that a student shouldn’t even be experiencing in the first place! I am a strong advocate for the simplistic lifestyles that accompany tiny house living and the freedom that follows. Too easy is it to fall into the hum-drum of the machine we call civil life. Falling into debt during or right after college has become the norm, but that is only because we’ve accepted that as a “fact” of life. And yet it does not have to be so.

This generation is hopelessly indoctrinated into the customs that were forged by generations before us. Why don’t we create our own?

About Hayla Wong

Head Opinion Editor Hayla Wong hails from Hawaii and is majoring in Sociology, minoring in Philosophy. When she is not writing serious social critiques, she provides her social commentary as satire pieces.

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