When crowds of people shout their solutions in the midst of a problem, we get a cacophony of discord. But when they offer solutions supported by replicated data, we can form consensus and make change together.
Scientifically speaking, replicability—the ability to repeat an experiment with statistically-similar results—is how we get closer to the truth. Socially, it breeds trust, builds community and engenders cooperative action.
I write about my journey building a self-directed life to help others do the same. Since my move to the Hudson Valley, I’ve met neighbors who built their own small homes decades ago and several more who are just a couple years ahead of me in the process. I know that small, simply and self-directed can be repeated here. But I don’t know if that’s true elsewhere. Hypothetically, if I had to pick up and start this process all over again, where would I go?
Looking through the regulations of most “tiny house-friendly” places, it’s hard to find one that would accommodate my vision. While some states and municipalities have made allowances for Tiny Homes on Wheels (THOWs) and even Accessory Dwelling Units (small buildings that share plots with a larger homes), regulations allowing small and tiny homes built on land have not moved as quickly.
But Philadelphia is different. Because the city was originally designed in 1682 with small residential, commercial and public plots, the maximum home square footage has always been more of a concern than the minimum. The regulations today reflect that history. And keeping with my vision, it’s also a progressive city within two-hours of loved ones that’s teeming with community arts, gardening and environmentalism.
While small houses already exist in Philadelphia, they tend to be very expensive. And a variety people in the city have already been thinking critically about how to the change the costs of housing. In 2014, a group of Philadelphians started a now-1,000-member meetup group to form an intentional community of THOWs within the city limits.
In 2017, Villanova professor Stephanie Sena started fundraising to bring a 650-square foot prefab home to a city-owned lot for her homeless clients and their animals. When Councilman Allan Domb heard her idea, he loaned her the $75,000 needed for the project with one caveat: it needed to be a model for affordable housing. This plan is moving forward. Even architects and developers are building tiny on small plots in transitioning neighborhoods.
More small and tiny homes are coming to Philadelphia. But we don’t have to leave it to academics, architects, the city or real estate developers to bring them. There has to be room for residents to build their own solutions—especially when they are supported by the law, neighbors and replicated data.
With what you know today, what would you do to start a simple, autonomous life in Philly? I’ve already started my plan. Put your thoughts in the comments below and let’s work it out together.