Down our way, in the Lovely Borough of Lewisham, plans are afoot for tiny homes. If you check out the developer’s website, you’ll see that these homes are clearly targeted at people who see themselves as ‘city makers’, ‘the young, hardworking and ambitious’ who ‘contribute’ and thus, ‘deserve a home they can call their own’.
As someone who advocates living in a small home, I shouldn’t want to reach for a revolver on reading the Pocket Living website. Indeed, their design code is to ‘encourage community cohesion’, something I love to encourage. But when I’ve thought about ways to do that, I never decided to spend decades training and working towards building places unaffordable to most locals, which are unable to accommodate the disabled, and 100% owner-occupied. In Cricklewood – their latest development – prices start at £264k for 400 square foot. By my reckoning, you need a £40k salary, not want a bath, and want to spend your waking life in coffee shops or in the gym.
These developments are something of a self-professed global trend, which raises interesting points about the basics of tiny house living. Tiny homes – from what Phyllis and I see on more4 – are usually about shedding materialism and spending more time with nature, rather than inside the house. It’s not just about living somewhere small, it is more radical, abnormal – sacrificing materialism in order to work fewer hours, usually. A lot of it is about making something individual that suits one’s lifestyle. But this looks pretty different, expensive homes, packed like slums, cross-dressing in the clothes of tiny houses.
The price is obscene. These are not homes intended for people to live in for 20-30 years, they are clearly twatpads to be sold on for profit, in order to buy a further property later. “Starter homes for city makers”. I know there’s a market for such things, but (*Godwin’s law spoiler alert*) the language of the Pocket Living website is either dystopic or Fascistic, exalting London’s high-earning workers as deserving ‘makers’ striving for the mythical greater good – the creation of a *city*. The Londongemeinschaft. People buying the culture that befits them from over-priced leisure industries is being confused for making things, and living in isolated, identical pods to the exclusion of others is masquerading as contributing to the community.
These aren’t homes for the people who clean up the drug-and-berocca-addled toilet seats in glass offices. They’re probably not even for the people who make the fucking buildings the city is constructed from, because there’s not much room for tools, so when they say ‘city makers’, they’re talking about the people who contribute to a certain culture partaken by richer people. It’s not about opting-out of the rat race, it’s about opting-in, and into the smallest cage to boot.
Not only that, the website and BBC article likes to play up the positives of living somewhere small (affordability! £264K! Ha!) but avoid the downsides. A lot of living somewhere small involves continuously thinking about how to cope with being expansive social animals in small living quarters. We’ve ended up making this website because we’re a couple of eejits who struggled to find information about how to live a grown-up life in a small home. The sorts of sales pitches by Pocket Living ignore the difficulties and stresses that come from living in places that are small.
By making them almost completely uninhabitable to children they solve one problem. But the other way they get around any responsibility they may feel to build somewhere of an adequate size is by doing a hand-job of a sales pitch. They target the few people who need little convincing that life will be better if they owned a home (though, in this case, it’s a temporary asset they happen to be sleeping in), and hope they don’t realise that it’ll be stuffy, noisy and cramped. “Hey, you’re fucking brilliant, and you can buy this brilliant place (which is tiny), but it is part of the Londongemeinschaft.”
It’s basically a tiny gated-community, really, that’s what pisses me off. And normally I’ve thought gated communities are about big houses, but it turns out they’re also for small-minds in the city, who daren’t buy ex-council or share rent. And, just to be more annoying, they’re close to some large housing co-operatives which actually do strive to create communities for the people making the city.
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