June 26, 2014

Good living in small packages

I HAVE TO LAUGH when I hear people complaining about the tiny houses that are starting to spring up in America, particularly in the densely populated urban areas. They’ve obviously never lived on yachts.

Apparently the people with big houses think the value of their mansions will be dragged down by their mini-neighbors. And, because the people with big houses pay big taxes, the authorities in charge of setting building standards are listening to the complaints. Many have even set minimum house sizes, some of which start at 840 square feet, and many of which are larger.

Meanwhile, the Millennial generation has been paying rent for so long that they’re unable to afford the down-payments for the old houses that started getting bigger after World War II. The average American home grew from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2,349 square feet in 2004 — a 140-percent increase. Yet the American household shrank by 18 percent between 1970 and 2003, from 3.14 people to 2.57, on average.

So the pendulum has started to swing again, and it seems the pressure is building for municipalities to approve smaller homes, even though they won’t bring in the same tax revenue.

I think the Millennials have the right idea. Anyone who has lived on a yacht for any length of time knows that it’s possible to survive in a very small space.  In fact, 840 square feet of living space would be considered quite generous in a yacht.

If you take the average 35-to-40-footer as having about 12 feet of beam, 840 square feet would provide you with a living space 70 feet long. Plenty of people have gone around the world in 30-footers, living with one or two other people for three years or more in a cabin measuring 10 feet wide by 10 feet long. Admittedly, there was additional space in a small forecabin and some stowage space in the cockpit lockers, but nothing like 840 square feet in total.

Meanwhile, the movement toward smaller housing footprints and more economical living will probably be beneficial for the secondhand market in yachts. Not only will people become more accustomed to small living spaces, but they will begin to realize the benefits of a floating home that can be moved almost anywhere in the world as often as they like.

For my money, I’d rather live in a few hundred square feet that I can sail to the gorgeous anchorages of the South Seas or the British Virgin Islands than in 840 unmovable square feet stuck next to neighbors who throw frequent loud parties and never return the garden tools they borrow.

Today’s Thought
Good things come in small packages.
— Anon      

“What did the doctor do about your water on the knee?”
“Oh, no problem. He just gave it a tap.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


Sixbears said...

One guy commented on the lack of headroom in my boat. I told him that in the cockpit headroom was unlimited. It's all on how you look at it. Tiny homes make sense to me.

Edward said...

Once we moved off our 26ft Heavenly Twins catamaran our 600sqft home now feels very spacious and we can't imagine why we once had a 2700sqft home!

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

I am feeling my 1300 sq ft living space is quite livable and I'm soon giving up my 840 sq ft as no longer age-appropriate. as for the gorgeous anchorages of the South Seas or the British Virgin Islands, digitized photos will do!

jan said...

A sailing friend once described a house as a structure "much like a boat but poorly made and so landlocked as to be damn near worthless." Sounds like you'd have liked him too. (Rest in peace, JohnW)

Anonymous said...

Doc...there u are again....same sickness it seems.