designing ways to a better world

Our Tiny Home on CBS Sacramento

Our Tiny Home on CBS Sacramento

Our three tiny houses on CBS News Sacramento segment "Tiny Houses Face Big Challenges from Municipal Codes"

I love this piece! The interview was a joy, and we felt really comfortable with Brei (the interviewer who barely appears on camera) and the camera man (whose name I regret I’ve forgotten). I’m so glad we were able to connect so we could add our part to this sensible bit of reporting. And hey, I’m super camera shy, but I don’t look half bad!

Pepper - Paprika - Clark on CBS News Sacramento segment "Tiny Houses Face Big Challenges from Municipal Codes"
Pepper – Paprika – Clark on CBS News Sacramento segment “Tiny Houses Face Big Challenges from Municipal Codes”

The level headed tone of this segment signals a long overdue decline in the shock value of tiny homes in the news media, one I’ve been hoping to see for a while. The perspective in this discussion is “This has potential. What are the obstacles?” Very constructive, and a great antidote to the tendency in the media to make it all sound too easy. While I’m a huge tiny house fan, I’m also a true advocate in that I see the damaging effect of false perceptions and I want people to step into these challenges well informed.

The media is a blurred and simplified mirror for our personal journeys in tiny house adventures as they are in everything. Once the news coverage gets past the first stage, “Shock! The size!”,  and the second “OMG the cute! So fancy!”, they can get on with the third “Sticker shock! WOW!”,  and maybe the fourth “People can do that! Easy! And cheap!” It’s not until stage five that we see the first real clues that this project may actually go somewhere. That’s when we begin asking “How exactly can I make this work for me?”

This is the stage where it’s crucial we know the real possibilities and challenges. We need to answer hard questions such as where we’ll set up, what we’ll pay for that space, and how much control we’ll have over location and conditions. How much risk and interdependence are we ready to accept comfortably? How committed are we to live in this unregulated form of housing knowing that legal conditions could change at any point? We need to know our positions on these issues before we buy or make any house plans, property decisions, etc.

But of course it’s always a good time for downsizing, so get started on that right away as you determine the viability of your THOW desires.

And never forget, for the select few in tiny house world, there is also stage six. “I did it, and it was way better and more amazing – and harder and more expensive – than it looked. In so many ways, on so many levels.” But well worth it – if we persist and achieve our goals – and indeed profoundly life changing.

And to the politicos out there looking into tiny house questions from the folks you represent, here’s my response to the gentleman from Sacramento. It’s true Prop 13 limits property taxes in California to 1% (so a $50,000 house purchase only sends the state $500 bucks instead of $5000 for a $500k home). Professor Rob Wassmer of Sacramento State University says ergo Cali will never approve small houses because they want that 1% to be as big as possible (and he’s surely right given the short sighted group think so often evident in legislation).

I believe we can all agree that a person spending around 50% of their income paying on a property has much to spend less on other purchases, even though they’re only paying 1% property tax. Another person who has maybe $500 to $1000 in monthly housing payments (possibly including space rent, utilities, and a personal loan payment or materials bills on a credit cards) has freed up enormous income to spend elsewhere. They will likely put a good chunk of what they save back into the community buying experiences and adventures at a much higher tax rate. Specifically in Sonoma County we pay 9.5% sales tax. The gentleman says Proposition 13 is a huge political barrier to accepting tiny homes in California, but isn’t that potential tax revenue a major fiscal point in our favor?

Tell me what you think.

Paprika Clark

I’m a lifelong student of language, art, and human nature: an ENFP Aries Fire Dragon Sex Positive Intersectional Feminist Independent. Join me as I feel my way through this. If you have any questions, send them my way - as far as I'm concerned, every day is an Ask Me Anything.

Reader Comments

  1. The thing that legislators fail to grasp is that tiny homes will not take up the same geographic footprint as those $500,000 houses. If they zoned for tiny home communities, you could fit possibly four to six units on every McMansion sized lot and still have ample room for outdoor space and parking… ergo the $500 theoretically becomes $3,000 in tax revenue.

    1. I completely agree Calli, thanks. THOWs will never reach the density of stacked architecture of course, but they have enough going for them when well designed – I think they could go 20+ per acre with the right layout and landscape and still give good life quality. Just at the lowest threshold of “medium density” as planning officials might describe it.

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