I’ve been thinking of a few distinct models of tiny homes and green neighborhoods. First, consider a new development on raw land. You’d have the ability to cluster all the homes on the most appropriate part of the property. That probably means close to the nearest street, but might also mean the worst land for gardens, the area with the fewest trees that would need to be cut for home construction, and so on. This first video shows a good example of a small, new home. It’s actually a laneway home stuck into an existing neighborhood, but you could build a new neighborhood on this idea.
Is it time for “the commons?”
I think it would be ideal to have a variety of home plans of 250-500 square feet on small lots. The rest would be common land for recreation, wildlife, and gardens. I’d go so far, in relatively warm climates, to forget about streets with curb and gutter, and create simple gravel paths. For residents with cars, have a parking lot at the edge of the development. Most people in this neighborhood would bike for transportation, but there would be room for small vehicles to reach each home for delivery of big items.
Here’s architect Ross Chapin talking about a “pocket neighborhood” and homes he’s designed. Very nice homes built in a similar way to my idea.
Chapin and developer Jim Soules have built a few “cottage home” developments, such as Conover Commons. With 12 homes of 1,000 square feet on 1.5 acres, this project is a good example of how it works. I like the small lots and fine craftsmanship of the homes.
I’d love to see a real neighborhood of several hundred homes built this way, replacing the large-lot suburban model we see all over the country. Including town homes in the mix would probably add some diversity, too. Maybe grandma and grandpa would like to sell the big family home and join the kids and grandkids in a funky, walkable neighborhood like this. You could house just as many, if not more people, yet use less land.
It would be interesting to build all this as owner-occupied homes, with common land owned by all. I can also imagine a variation created from existing neighborhoods, too. Detroit, of course, comes to mind, with its thousands of abandoned homes and empty lots, and it’s already happening. Any place with more homes than people would be a candidate. It sounds a lot like an intentional community, actually.
An updated trailer park
Another idea is a rental community for moveable tiny homes. They simply rent out a lot, much like a trailer park for tiny homes. Codes and zoning are probably the greatest challenge for this idea. Here’s a long discussion about the subject. If all that can be sorted out, this seems like a feasible version of tiny homes and green neighborhoods.
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