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American Tiny-House Communities, by Lyndsey Deaton

Updated: May 20, 2018

We live in an era where municipal laws and social stigmas challenge the right to occupy

space; where new urban solutions are dismantling the dysfunctional effects of housing

insecurity. The tiny-house village has become a popular architectural solution in cities

across America for its focus on community cohesion. Scholars have established the

benefits of community cohesion, such as increased resilience (Raudenbuch) and decreased

crime (Sampson), yet this valuable quality is in decline (Putnam). The tiny-house village

model attempts to push against this decline by cultivating community through specific

urban design patterns and social programs. Social science scholars posit that spatial factors

(increased face-to-face interactions, a perception of safety, and access to resources)

influence the strength of community cohesion.

As of January 2018, over 400 citizen groups have advocated for the construction of tinyhouse

villages. Now more than ever, architects and urban designers need to understand

the spatial qualities of these tiny-house villages and how they, in particular, influence

community cohesion. This study seeks to describe the tiny-house village as a typology with

particular focus on the spatial components that strengthen community cohesion: How do

tiny-house village residents access direct resources? How do residents interact with each

other? Why are spaces perceived as safe or dangerous?

Only in the past few years have enough villages sustained with a common mission - housing

security - to warrant comparative analysis as a typology. In this paper, I provide the context

of why tiny-house communities are a unique social movement and the vital role of social

equity in stimulating community cohesion. Then, using a case-study model, I describe the

spatial qualities of eight tiny-house villages through observations, plans, and photographs to

identify common urban design patterns supporting community cohesion. My analysis

concludes by refining the tiny-house village typology and uncovering emerging spatial

trends that may lead to greater community cohesion through social equity.

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