D.C. Politician Wants Tiny Houses for Millennials .... 1,000 of Them

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Vincent Orange is a Washington, D.C. councilmember at-large with big, small-minded ideas about affordable housing. (Photo: Eric Fidler/flickr)

Exactly how many tiny houses would it take to help put a decent dent in Washington, D.C.'s affordable housing woes?

According to a recent proposal drafted by D.C. Councilmember Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), it would take 1,000 diminutive dwellings to make a significant impact. Said homes, 125 for each of the District's eight wards, would boast footprints exceeding 600 square feet of space (but not by a whole lot) and price tags not exceeding $50,000.

And Orange's vision for 1,000 new tiny houses in the nation's capital doesn't just skew towards minimalist lifestyle-embracing millennials who have yet to accumulate 2,400 square feet worth of stuff ... applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 33 to be considered for one and be making a minimum or living wage. As noted by the Washington City Paper, that first stipulation likely would never fly given that age requirements — in this case, a discriminatory age requirement that only opens up affordable housing to those born circa 1997 through 1982 — likely violate federal housing laws.

So there's that.

Dubbed the Minimum Wage, Living Wage and Millennial Housing Initiative, this well-meaning but ultimately eyebrow-raising piece of legislation also begs the question: is there even available space in each of the eight wards for 1,000 stationary tiny houses? Where would these sizable communities of pint-sided abodes — "Orangevilles," as the City Paper likens them — sprout up? And who would build them?

While Orange's bill specifies what the homes would entail (at least one separate bedroom, a bathroom, kitchen and all basic utilities) and who would be eligible to buy them (preference would also be given to first-time home-buyers), the not-so-little particulars of who is building them and where aren't addressed. The bill does specify, however, that the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity would be in charge of selecting potential build sites in each ward.

While it's certainly no Portland or Olympia or Austin, the nation's capital isn't completely foreign to the idea concept of a community where the housing stock more closely resembles a backyard playhouse than a Capitol Hill townhouse. In fact, Boneyard Studios, situated just off of Logan Circle in Ward 2, is one of the country's first and better-known communal "micro-villages." (A micro-village, until recently located in Northeast D.C's Stronghold neighborhood, that isn't immune to big drama as sister site TreeHugger reported earlier this year). That being said, the number of tiny houses in Boneyard Studios' humble alley lot has never surpassed the single digits, let alone the hundreds.

A perhaps more practical, density-friendly way to generate a whole mess of new affordable housing — even more than 1,000 new one-bedroom units — would be to build truly affordable micro-apartment developments that meet the requirements outlined by Orange or perhaps "stacked" duplex/triplex units. Micro-apartments, many created in the redevelopment of historic D.C. properties, are already all the rage in D.C. However, few actually qualify as affordable in the prohibitively expensive city.

Of course, affordable one-bedroom apartments aren't as attention-grabbing or "gimmicky" as the compact, millennials-only digs detailed in Orange's oddball bill — "gimmicky" being a word used by David Garber, a "prolific tweeter on urbanism, minor hero of the smart growth set, and natty dresser” looking to unseat the incumbent councilman's spot in next year's elections.

"Unlike Mr. Orange, when I'm on the Council, my priority will be to identify and support non-gimmicky affordable housing solutions that don't break the law and start with resident input and equitable opportunity for all District residents," said Garber in a statement.

It's hard not to admire the intent and ambition behind Orange's bill. It's also hard not to question its practicality.

Via [Washington City Paper] via [Fusion]