Community Building

Recently I had the chance to chat with some people from around the Charlotte area who are into Tiny Houses, it was a great time, but it did bring up some interesting points for me.  Near the end of the conversation we spoke about the idea of a community of small houses.  While this is certainly not a new conversation, it did strike me that this was the third conversation that I have had in the past 4 months that ended with the idea of a community.  I have gone back and forth on the idea whether I would want to go down that road, it certainly is an interesting proposition.

I have found myself at this discussion several times now and it got me thinking, is this something that is possibly a cultural trend?  The idea of a commune is obviously not my intention and many folks aren’t looking for such a thing, but what about an Intentional Community?  What is that, you ask?  Basically is a community that is created by a group of individuals who unite for a common purpose.  A Tiny House community by definition would be an intentional community.  It is important to note that these groups often don’t include religious doctrine, weird rituals or other negative things that many associate with “communes” or “cults”.

So with this idea, that an intentional community might be a product of a cultural shift, I set out to see if I could find out.   Come to find, there is a note worthy trend among 20-somethings and baby boomers who are seeking this type of arrangement.  With families spread out over vast areas, the digital age throwing stimulus at us faster than ever, mounting environmental/socio/political concerns and cost climbing, people are turning to these types of arrangements a lot more.  A resurgence of communal living has come, but in much more evolved and unique ways.  The other aspect that I find most appealing is the community aspect of it.  Where I live now, people drive into their garages at night, shut them behind them and never come out.  There is next to no interaction between neighbors, it is so sad!  This is the number one reasons people have cited as why they seeks these arrangements when it comes to 20-somethings and baby boomers as of late, they feel disconnected and want a true community.  Within an intentional community this is facilitated through community meals, events, social spaces, removing the emphasis on cars, having a vision statement, etc.

I can’t help but wonder if this resurgence is simply the precursor to Americans reverting back to small town type of settings.  Large enough to cover all the needs, but small enough to know each other and help first hand in every decision.  Many people have stated we need to move back to an smaller town center type of arrangement, even if they are connected by a public transit system to a whole series of townships.  There are those who say we must revert back to an agrarian type of lifestyle (with some technologies holding over) that will be catalyzed by a major drop in population.

So back to the original questions, does it make sense to start a community?

In terms of accessibility of land, I would say yes.  These type of arrangements are really useful for being able to purchase larger shares of land that would be perfect for Tiny Houses.  It would also allow us to navigate all the red tape and get approval for Tiny Houses on Wheels and smaller houses on foundations as a group.  It might be easier for the initial group and also pave the way for other groups and obviously make it easier to add to our group.

In terms of utilities, I would say yes again.  As a group you could arrange your own power from solar, wind, and hydro.  For Black water you could arrange systems to deal with that onsite and dilute the costs.  For water, you could easily make drilling wells or running water lines more affordable as group with collective purchasing power.

These issues mentioned above are the hardest to overcome and it means we could make great strides in the Tiny House Movement. Along side of that, I think that people are really looking to connect socially and a much deeper level than our society generally affords when it comes to the way we are housed.  Designing housing to facilitate the interaction, the creation, and removal of barriers is something we will continue to see and want more and more.  I feel that these communities do a good job to build this.


What are your thoughts?

  1. Hey Ryan,

    This seems to be on the mind of lots of folks in our region as well. Folks are feeling the gravity shifting around them pulling towards a coalescing of community.

    A friend of ours, Lindsey, just quit her job as a librarian to travel around the USA and document the intentional community movement. She’d love some recommendations on intentional communities if you know of any in your area.

    Also, have you ever heard of Jessica Reeder? She did something similar to what our friend Lindsey is doing and has a great blog on the subject. 🙂


  2. Problem is these arent homes pictured ARE NOT tiny homes … They have a community here like that and they are 1200 to around 3000 sq ft

    • oops …
      Problem is the homes pictured here ARE NOT Tiny homes …

    • There is a Tiny Home community forming now in Maine. I am planning to visit soon myself. Look at the Intentional Community website directory – good resource.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree and further contend that we can do it with a nearly 0 Carbon footprint using Pure Salvage. This creates a way to build the entire Tiny House using 99% salvaged materials that can be had for the human energy it takes to reclaim them. Doors, windows, wood flooring, walls, and ceilings. Best of all it is a healthy house with nearly no formaldehyde, plastics, vinyls, sheetrock, carpet, VOC’s or other toxins found in some houses today. Entire Tiny House communities of 10-12 houses plus a central eating and meeting house could be built from 3 or 4 large 1880-1940’s wooden houses.
    Tiny houses don’t get up into the 800+ square foot range, infact even 700 sf is contraversial as a threshold. Cooling costs of $35 a month in summer heat like Texas prove that it pays for itself fast. Second, low taxes. Lofts under 5’8″ are generally considered storage space for tax purposed. Low maintenance means build with the intent for it to last for centuries.
    That is what the American Pride in Craftsmanship was all about. We cut down the best forests, mined and made the most incredible hardware for doors and windows, meant to last for centuries. They are still good for another couple centuries, so why not keep using them. You can fix them if they break, not throw them away. Tung Oil or Linseed Oil every few years for maintenance, paint with Milk Paint or other old world simple paints. They last for ages.
    This attraction to downsizing will be growing exponentially as the true price of keeping all of the things we love exceeds our financial ability to support it. The Baby Boomers are coming round at last. As we downsize, Tiny will be the trend, and for me, that means bottom floor of 120-400sf, plus the 2 possible lofts.
    Freedom might be looked at as freedom from your housing costs after four or five decades and you want to go see your grandkids or the friends up North, at the right time of the year.

  4. I dont know exactly how to explain my point of wiev about community.. Why make a lot of similar houses and put them together like this? I know I wouldnt like to live a place where only people with kids live, or only old people, or only young ones..

    Or only people that think they live tiny, but it `s not tiny at all..

    Where I live now, in a block, there is young, old, some young parents, some from other countries. I love the mix.

  5. Well, this may be a long reply, but I wanted to answer some of the questions and points that Ege has brought up…
    While those who live in intentional communities may share some of the same values, most often diversity is one of those values. As a member of such a community, I can assure you that there is a great mix of ages, types and sizes of houses, incomes, etc.
    Our community, Potluck Farm, started over 20 years ago when a group of 4-5 families pooled their time , money , love of the land and each other, and bought a former tobacco farm in North Carolina. We are a thriving community to this day, now numbering 13 families with 170 acres. We each have a 3 acre lot, with the remaining property shared by all. This includes a pond, an orchard, various outbuildings and farm equipment, walking trails, and many animals. We have a potluck about once a month, movie nights, music nights, and many other shared activities. The point is, we couldn’t have done it alone. But we COULD do it together.
    Is this the answer to all of life’s problems?


    Is this something that works for everybody?

    Maybe not.

    I’m fairly convinced at this point in my life that there isn’t one answer for all life’s questions, but many.

    In the Triangle area of North Carolina (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill), there are several intentional communities. You can find these online by googling triangleintentionalcommunities. Some of these groups are cohousing, while others are not.
    Last month I had the privilege of meeting Mandy and Ryan, a couple exploring sustainable communities across the country by traveling thousands of miles by bicycle. If interested, check out the trailer for their movie by googling WithinReachmovie. Inspiring stuff.

    As some of the Potluck Farm people have gotten older, the question was raised concerning “How would we be able to continue to live a rural lifestyle for the rest of our days?” After all, there may come a time when we no longer wish to maintain, or are able to maintain, huge gardens and large lots. Through the wisdom and courage of some members of the group, a sister community on 10 acres next door to Potluck, called Elderberry, was born. In a few years, I may downsize from my small home (350 sq. ft -450 counting the loft)), and head on over there, to something around 250 sq. ft. Once again, just search online, for Elderberry cohousing. There is space available… I believe there will be room for 18 families, one of which will be devoted to a caretaker. Will it be an entire community of tiny homes? No. The way it’s shaping up now, the home sizes will range from very small to small, around 900-1000 sq. ft max.
    All of this stuff is extremely rewarding, but it takes work. My advice to those folks interested: do your homework, and start visiting some of these groups. Don’t buy into the myth “This is for rich people; I can’t afford it.” That one held me back for a while. I work in retail and I can guarantee you, I’m not in that financial category. It’s the power of people working together; that’s what makes it happen.

    • Greetings Mike Moore-

      Thank you for sharing about Potlatch farm. It sounds really good! We’ve been dreaming of joining an intentional community for years and are looking for the right one for us. My husband and I were both teachers and musicians. Our precious son, now 13, has special needs, and we’ve been serving as his caregivers. We’re very open-hearted, social and helpful people. Like you, we’ve been working hard and saving up for years, we just don’t get paid very much. So we’ve been wondering how we could afford to live in an intentional community. Please feel free to contact me with your input because we’re hoping there’s some creative people with whom we could live and help out in a positive community, who would work with our small, hard-earned savings. We’re happy to rent too if that’s permitted. We would just like to participate in a like-minded community. Please call: 505-577-1703. -Melissa

  6. I grew up in small towns. As I grew older I got the itch to move around. I’ve lived in much bigger towns than the tiny ones I grew up in and I have to say, I personally love the idea of a community like that. I currently live in Amarillo, Tx and I have friends in all sections of the town. The one section of town I love the most is an area called San Jacinto. Now San Jacinto is also known as San Jaghetto, it is not the absolute safest part of town, depending on what block you are on.

    There, the difference of one block can mean whether you die because of your skin color or not, but on the correct blocks, you get an amazing feeling of connectedness. The one particular block that I am attached to reminds me of growing up in a small town called Clarendon, Tx. Neighbors walk across the street just to talk, people sit on their front porches and yell across at each other conversationally, people watch each other’s houses and make sure everyone is safe, there are bbq’s and cookouts. You get a real sense of community there. You can easily walk from your front porch to an 82 year old woman’s front porch and sit and talk all afternoon. Evenings bring out everyone sitting on their porches drinking something cold and just relaxing. Tools are loaned across the fence with no worry as to whether or not they will be returned because they always are returned.

    Why would I risk spending so much time in such a dangerous part of town? Because for the time that you are sitting on that one particular safe block, you forget that you are in a city. You forget that the next block over someone has been stabbed, all because of the sense of community and connectedness you get from the people that live there. That is why I love the idea of an intentional community. Your neighbors should also be your friends. You should be able to allow your child to play in the front yard without worry that some bad person is going to come by and hurt them or take them. You should be able to allow your animals to play in the yard without worry that someone will take them. I miss the sense of community I grew up with, but I also like the conveniences of a larger town, and I would love to have an intentional community where I know everyone and where I get the feeling that my neighbors are my friends, not my enemies or someone that doesn’t care whether I am being attacked.

  7. this has been my dream for many years. i’m just hoping to make this a reality one day.

  8. I have been looking at “pocket neighborhoods” of the Pacific North-West, which is the term used by Washington-based architect Ross Chapin to describe the small-home communities you refer to here. Apparently, they are in very high demand. I sure wish someone would develop some in my state, because I would love to live in one, but I suspect there will be many, many people beating a path to the door of that neighborhood, particularly because housing and the cost of living is excessively high here.

  9. As an older single woman living far from family, having little retirement money, I’ve long posed the question why can’t we build communal housing where we can “proactively step into aging with dignity, independence and safety, with mutual respect and concern”? Combining tiny house design with co-housing would be wonderful.

  10. This is a major dream of mine! Why can’t we make it happen?

  11. See that’s it. If you have a lot of money, there are plenty of places for retired folks to live in community and safety. It’s those who do not have much other than their meager social security to live on that are S.O.L. That is why I planned to make my own security in my 40’s by buying this property, trading my older mh in for a new single wide, and moving our small businesses here. We definitely are not rich or even middle class but we live happily and without money worries.

    Those who depended on their homes equity to be their safety net when they retired are the ones who are really hurting right now since everything is in the negative. 🙁

  12. Nothing would make me happier than to live in a sustainable, off the grid situation with like minded people. I would love to live with creative, artistic, bright, open minded, gay friendly, progressives who want to have fun and have as light a footprint on the earth as possible. Where can I sign up for that place?

  13. Wow this is amazing love what you guys doing

  14. I think this is a great idea. There are so many people that have no one so they go to work and come home where they are locked inside until it’s time for work again. Yes, they could go out ALONE. So to be apart of a small community could get them out and involved again. It’s a choice, no it’s not for everyone but for that small few it is worth it and could save lives.As far as the size of the homes, that should be a choice as well, some people like 800 sq ft. and some like 3,000 sq ft. that should not matter it is about what make you happy.Some want children around and some do not. It is all CHOICES and having the chance to make your own.It should be affordable and close to a town for doctors, shopping, and jobs. If you move into the community and do not like it or do not fit in then you have the chance to just move and sale. I would do it. Just my thoughts.

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