Youth & Bravery?
Helen Keller, in a speech given in New York City in the winter of 1921 said, “To keep on trying in spite of disappointment and failure is the only way to keep young and brave. Failures become victories if they make us wise-hearted.”
The road for Close to Home has been one paved with many interesting lessons and we like to think that we’ve remained young and brave, but the grey hairs may speak to something else! We set out in 2013 with a new idea about helping to keep communities impacted by disasters close to home. We knew that there was innovation in building science that could be utilized to build communities back faster. We set out to introduce these concepts directly to the markets in need. But we’ve continued to be ahead of the game, so it seems.
We were inspired from afar by the story of Greensburg, Kansas, a community devastated by a tornado in 2007. And the inspiration continued when Rachel had the opportunity to visit Greensburg in 2013 in order to learn more about the community rebuilt and re-imagined.
Rachel and Jennifer traveled together to Washington, IL after the tornadoes there in November of 2013. That was one of our first site visits together after a disaster – working to put our products to work for the community. But it was slow going as it often is when folks are trying to navigate next steps post-disaster.
Rachel and Jennifer made multiple trips to Eastern WA after the fires of 2013 & 2014. Folks there told us specifically that they wanted to build for themselves with volunteer labor and to take advantage of donated materials. Our products were too expensive per square foot and they were looking for less engineering and instead some old-fashioned construction opportunities.
Thanks to that direct market feedback, we went back to the drawing board and created ASPIRE, our DIY Tiny House on Wheels Kit.
And then the Camp Fire destroyed Paradise, CA exactly one year ago last November.
We hauled ASPIRE down to Chico – taking our market-inspired product directly to those who needed it, or so we thought. But the model of purchasing and living in RVs still reigns. And FEMA has their trailer models and contracts with those manufacturers. Butte County, CA “adopted” tiny houses as a housing solution and worked out where they could be parked & hooked up to utilities, but it still takes a while to change these large and very complicated systems. Meanwhile, folks were very interested in our tiny house, but we did not receive the orders. Finally, it was time to face facts and bring ASPIRE back home.
As a company we have pivoted once and have pivoted again – trying to figure out just what the market needs and wants. In the end, it seems that there is a continuing discrepancy between what the market wants and what it thinks it should cost. The wealthy want a tiny house for their vacation land – but that’s going to be a tiny house that is completely tripped out with everything someone might want in a vacation home. And that is a tiny house priced closer to $150K – in direct opposition to our interests in tiny solutions.
Folks working on behalf of those with nothing, need to keep the cost of a tiny “house” to $2,500/$5,000 – less than the cost of our tiny house custom made trailer! Meanwhile, The idea of affordable housing at $50K for an individual tiny house – built with volunteer labor (and with all appliances & furniture included) – is a concept that has yet to catch on.
The Middle… Just a Little Further Down The Road…
As Helen Keller so wisely advised almost one hundred years ago, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” That being said, because of our unfailing belief that tiny houses can play a role in providing affordable housing where it’s needed (and where is it NOT?), we’ll trudge on in 2020 to see if we can connect some pieces of the puzzle.
The City of Seattle has put out a call for Detached Accessory Dwelling Units that they can pre-approve as designs that homeowners can choose to build in their backyards! As in, YES, In My Backyard! We’ll work on submitting ASPIRE as an example of one of the smallest units that could sit on a small lot to provide additional much needed housing in Seattle. It is wonderful to see that movement by the City. More density where we need it, with the acknowledgment that we need many more options of true affordable housing!
Helen Keller also said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope.” With that in mind, we will continue to work toward housing equity with the understanding that systemic change takes a very long time.
We appreciate your ongoing interest and support of Close to Home over the years – THANK YOU!
Whether you have followed us as a friend, tiny house enthusiast, or agency representative,
we appreciate your support!
Finally, for our Close to Home enthusiasts, you’ll be familiar with our Black Lab, Remy. We wanted to share the news of Remy’s passing last November, 2019. We miss her terribly, but are grateful for our memories and many photos of Remy’s supervision of our ASPIRE build. She was so helpful and was always such a willing model. We’ll leave you here with a photo of Remy enjoying the view on San Juan Island. She was delighted by her chance to roam free – running in and out of the water as she desired and then drying off on a sunny deck.