Tiny homes are not new and have existed for as long as houses have existed. Henry David Thoreau discusses the first documented tiny home in “Walden,” published in 1854. While some of your favorite tiny home TV shows are a bit extreme, the average size of a tiny home is 700 square feet; although, the International Council Code defines tiny homes as 400 square feet or less. Most of my apartments have been between 500 and 700 square feet. The latter was a two-bedroom with two full bathrooms and plenty of closet space.
So how did I become interested in tiny homes? While I would love to take credit for every good idea in my life, my architect husband and his obsession with tiny homes is how I became involved with small home development. After a year or so of being subjected to every tiny home show that exists, I suggested we pitch tiny houses at Startup Weekend Jackson. In 2016, we pitched and won first place. From there, we formed TinyJXN. The mission of TinyJXN is to develop Jackson, Mississippi’s first tiny homes and tiny home communities.
This is more than an obsession, hobby or business. My husband and I wanted to provide new and affordable housing. We wanted an opportunity to apply our professional experience and education to something fun and innovative. Our target areas are neighborhoods where there is an abundance of vacant lots and dilapidated properties. While our original plans were to develop tiny home communities, there are a ton of individuals who are interested in owning their own place, such as college students, young professionals and empty nesters. Many nonprofits are interested in housing inequity and interested in building affordable tiny homes for low-income and housing insecure individuals and families. People want quality housing, unique designs or are looking to make a smaller environmental footprint. Others are interested in building tiny homes as vacation homes, rentals and Airbnb listings.
We understand tiny homes are not for everyone, but no matter the size of the home, we believe quality housing is a human right and should be affordable, enabling individuals and families to not have to choose between housing and basics such as food, healthcare, transportation or savings. Particularly, for individuals plagued by various forms of debt (e.g., student loan, credit card, and medical), tiny homes are an affordable option to creating a space to call your own.
Tiny homes have seeped into other areas of my life; currently, I am wrapping my dissertation on tiny houses. Once successfully defended, I plan to work on zoning and building regulations to accommodate tiny homes. While the City of Jackson does not discourage tiny houses, they just aren’t considered. Cities in Oregon, Texas, California and other other states have more flexible building codes. We’ll also have to work with banks who don’t deem tiny homes a viable option with resale value. While some people love tiny homes, there is still a need for community buy-in, informing them tiny homes are not here to gentrify and or reduce property value but to provide an affordable housing option.
As far as our tiny home journey, we have one built but a village more to come. We hope these new homes and communities will be the catalyst for attracting more development and amenities that improve the quality of life for Jacksonians.