Freedom from the Housing Trap | Zack Giffin | TEDxCoconutGrove



you Hey so how many people here know what a tiny house is yeah all right how many of you feel like you could live in one maybe not let me reach the question how many people work in jobs that you don't feel completely inspired by or maybe I've had a dream that always felt just a bit out of reach or maybe you just don't feel like you have enough time for yourself or your family because for those of us that live in tiny houses the definition may be a home that's under 400 square feet but how we see it is a tool to live a life that we choose it's a tool that we use to avoid the financial traps that leave so many people treading water and once you put your need for space up against your need to achieve your dreams the actual relevance of a tiny house it becomes much more apparent see my dream was never to be on television my dream was to be a professional skier and when I was in my early 20s I had this moment where I felt that dream escaping me and I knew that I need to make a big shift in my life if I was going to actually make it happen and so what I did was I actually bought a motor home and I fixed it up with everything I had and I took a job a minimum-wage job for states away in a place that I didn't know anyone and went out on this kind of big journey to pursue the dream and the crazy thing was it happened and I actually spent my late 20s in my early 30s traveling the world getting paid to ski you know rubbing elbows with my heroes and that sense of satisfaction that gratification that came with it was so profound I know that it's going to last with me for the rest of my life and I can tell you a hundred percent that it would have never happened if I didn't have the ability to pare down on the financial demands of my life so that I could really focus on making this dream a reality so in 2011 I built my first tiny home and shortly after I've read a book by a hero of mine and a visionary person named Jay Shafer and in the book he talked about how the Ottawa industry had actually gone through this process where they were confronted with the need to affect their efficiency of the vehicles and they did so in a short time and the craziest thing is that they didn't actually jeopardize the power of the engines and it's this really remarkable thing because now we have vehicles that actually travel so much further two to three times on the same gallon of gasoline and at the same time we're going from zero to 60 in record time and this is this very big concept to me because what it really proves is that efficiency and power are not mutually exclusive and I find it really useful when I'm actually applying the same concept into my work as a tiny house designer so efficiency when you're actually thinking about construction is all about energy use so that's heating and cooling but it's also cost it's about good use of materials it's about minimizing waste and the whole point or the concept involved with a tiny house is that by building very small but then actually making these spaces very high-functioning we can achieve extremely efficient homes right so efficiency is really it's this kind of thing that I work and my specialty is actually these kind of transforming solutions to make the maximizing the use of a space however if I'm not careful these clever contraptions they can easily become cumbersome and when that happens the entire value of that design is lost so my goal is really is to design multi-purpose solutions that work as a fluid system and that's when I believe the true efficiency is achieved now the power of a space really comes down to someone's appreciation of it and whether it's a big home or a small home that really comes down to the customization and making someone feel like that space is theirs and that can happen with something as little as just a live edge countertop that they just love or a clawfoot bathtub or maybe stained-glass window for me is my spiral staircase it's this really a cute adorable wood stove that I have that heats my house it's those things that make me feel so comfortable when I'm there for a lot of people what really works is attaching sentimental items so for example if I was to repurpose somebody's defunct old grand piano that's not going to work and then actually repurpose it into something that's needed like a bed frame that's a very good example of a very powerful design however the power of a home can also be to facilitate growth in someone's life and that is where I become extremely inspired so a really good example of that would be say a flight simulator that looks an antiquated and it's big and it doesn't belong in a tiny home but if this is the item that can actually transform someone's life by letting the owner achieve that long-held dream of becoming a pilot and then that pilot's license actually turns into a job and the job into a career that is an example of an extremely powerful design that can really change someone's life so the same way that a home has this power to propel someone's life forward the lack of a home really can be a debilitated and burden in this country we've gone through a series of decades where the cost of our housing has outpaced our incomes to such a degree that we have this growing homeless population and we have families spending more and more of their income every year on their housing you see the tiny house movement is not a fad based upon an effectuation with everything small the tiny house movement is a response to these growing environmental and economic factors that are only going to become more and more extreme in years to come and many people are looking at tiny homes as this ability as this way to address these new realities and the funny thing is tiny houses are nothing new you see in 1950 the average median home size for a family of four was under a thousand square feet and it's hard to believe now because the average median home size now is twenty five hundred square feet in 1999 when I started building homes the average median income was around $40,000 but the average home sale price or the median home sale price was a hundred and sixty thousand dollars now fast forward of 2016 the median home sale price in our country is over three hundred thousand dollars and that's an increase of 93 percent in 17 years so what that really means is that the cost of our housing has been outpacing the gains in our income by three times over this period and if you actually factor in inflation the median average wage in this country has actually gone down by two and a half percent during that time and this is the first time in modern history in America where our wages have stayed stagnant for a decade and now it's been over two so how did this happen well I'll tell you a story when I first started building tiny homes or not tiny homes big homes in the early 2000s we were doing major remodels and almost entirely we were doing them for couples who had already raised their family in a much more modest home and what they were doing is they were using the the equity that had appreciated over the years to reinvest in their home doubling the square footage and actually right at the moment where their need for the space was the least and they weren't doing it because of their need for the space they were doing it entirely based upon this idea that their house was going to be a retirement plan it was an investment and the problem is when enough people start looking at real estate strictly as an investment is it turns into a self-perpetuating cycle so the appreciation of our housing is completely pending on the demand but that demand is completely dependent on the expectation of appreciation so what it's done is it's taking a larger and larger portion of our country's net worth and actually channeled it into real estate which is a highly fluctuating asset and has left us exposed as a country to housing downturns and we felt the broad ripple effects in 2008 when we had a bubble that burst and what we did was to mitigate the recession as well as also try to boost the economy back up and incur a recovery we lowered our interest rates you see that's the tool that we use to actually start to incentivize purchasing and borrowing of housing and what's happened is we actually it was very successful it was a terrific thing and the appreciation of our houses have gained right back to the same point where we were right before the bubble burst in 2007 the only problem with that is that our wages haven't increased and now we've actually lost the ability of our most effective financial tool to mitigate any future adjustment because our interest rates are still as low as they can go we can't lower them anymore and we already know that we have 8 to 10 thousand people per day entering retirement age and the question that we have to ask ourselves is what's going to happen when the baby boomers go to cash in on their retirement plan who's going to absorb these homes you see there's a number of worries and factors when thinking about who is going to absorb the homes from retirees because today in the economy although the employment numbers are good the wages are down plus younger generations are actually coming out of college with unprecedented levels of student loan debt that is not percent actually that is number in billions there on the left and right now we're at one point three trillion so that's a really big issue because on top of that attitudes are shifting you know family sizes are smaller people are moving around a lot more and there's this big trend to moving away from the suburbs and into our city centers and the bottom line is when the baby boomers go to cash in on retirement plans there's a very good chance that they're going to be faced with the reality that younger generations are in no position to afford these large homes and are no longer interested in a large home in the suburbs now I know this sounds like a very grave scenario but I'm not here to give you a presentation about doom and gloom I'm here to talk about opportunity because here I see a perfect opportunity to apply the same principles that we learned about power and efficiency to the needs of our housing sector you see a tiny home could be a very powerful tool for us to help us address these issues however right now we have rules that basically make living in a tiny home virtually impossible the reality is is the hardest part about living in a tiny home is not how you pare down your shoe collection contrary to popular belief the hardest part is navigating building codes and zoning requirements that really limit their creation so there is an issue going on and people definitely recognize that this is an issue so in 2016 I was part of a delegation that actually successfully articulated the need to readjust and amend our building codes to accommodate for tiny houses and in 2018 those amendments will be implemented and now it's up to the local municipalities to adopt those recommendations however the harder part facing tiny homes is convincing zoning officials to actually permit tiny homes into the community you see the responsibility of zoning officials is actually to look out for the interests of the people within their community and making sure that no policy that they introduce is going to negatively affect the property values is number one now anytime that we start to implement any kind of affordable housing projects inevitably we end up lowering the property values in the surrounding area and that's why everybody likes the idea of affordable housing but it's just as long as it's not in my backyard right tiny homes have this unique ability to actually create lower cost housing in our communities without negatively affecting the property values because we can they can be dispersed they're small enough that they can fit into the cracks of our already existing infrastructure and that is a really big thing because it actually does two things for us you know every time that we actually consolidate low-income housing or any kind of affordable housing what we inevitably create is we create a project or we create a trailer park or we create a slum and we end up perpetuating an environment that continues the cycle of poverty by cutting off low-income individuals from access to opportunity so fortunately there are a few squad a few cities that are recognizing that affordable housing needs to be implemented better and many of them are doing it by trying to encourage something called backyard cottages or basically mother-in-law apartments essentially tiny homes on foundations in backyards and they're doing it to try to tackle some of the big issues with the need for urban density you know the need for efficiency within our city as well as low cost housing and ironically traffic congestion however these policies haven't had the desired effect that advocates like myself had hoped because of one important reason and that's because people that can afford to build a backyard cottage or a tiny home in their yard lack the financial incentive to share that property with another family and the flipside is that people that actually could use the relief from having a rentable space in their backyard are in no position to take on an extra construction loan to actually make that a reality so there is one important precedence that's happened in our country which is making a major distinction Fresno California has rewritten their zoning ordinances to allow tiny homes on wheels to be used as accessory dwelling units on existing properties of 6,000 feet or greater and this is a really important distinction because what it essentially allows is for a family or a property owner who's struggling to pay their mortgage a pathway to actually having relief by using a tiny home in a partnership what it also does is create a pathway for a lower income family to move into an area of greater affluence where their children can grow up with more opportunity and the thing that actually makes it all work is that these can be implemented in ways that don't negatively affect the surrounding property values and it requires no additional infrastructure cost from the municipalities see I think that we all want to live or we all want cities that have space for our schoolteachers our police officers the firemen the carpenters the artists and the musicians because that actually elevates the quality of life for everyone in the community and if a tiny house can be a tool that we can use to address the needs of expanded affordable housing as well as providing a pathway for struggling homeowners to avoid foreclosure and actually address their issues in a different way than selling their property this is a very powerful tool it's a win-win scenario and in my world that is the hallmark of good design you see tiny home movement and the tiny house movement continues to grow despite major hurdles in legality because tiny houses are not a fad tiny houses are response to this growing set of economic and environmental factors in our country and the reality is we all have incentive right now to start looking for all the tools available to us to address the needs of a changing world thank you very much [Applause]

31 thoughts on “Freedom from the Housing Trap | Zack Giffin | TEDxCoconutGrove

  • I always thought that tiny homes were amazing. But as I got older I got into rescue. So a tiny house wouldn’t be an option for me (especially if I’m fostering 15+ kittens at a time) I need to stay in the city and stay close to my local shelter and work alongside them fostering cats and kittens. Unfortunately a tiny home won’t fit the bill. Sure conventional homes are pricy..but sometimes in the end that’s what works out for a lot of people. That’s what works for me. 🙂

  • But there’s no place to park a tiny house. The only solution is to build Tower cities connected to maglev Trains (T&T), but the problems with that is that most people can’t afford to live in a Tower city, which is caused by wage slavery. If there was equal wealth, then every person in every nation could live in one. The wage is the cause of world poverty because it’s slavery: controlled by someone or something. We never should have built any cars or houses, because it killed millions of people. We should have built only T&T. The world is a mess.

  • zoning officials shouldn't be concerned with property value, people should be able to live small if they want, and why does it lower other houses property value anyway, my property isnt your property. i dont get it. its like discrimination.

  • I love this man ❤
    I've never felt brave in my life but for a tiny house I'm willing to be a pioneer. I want to help tiny houses become legal everywhere. They're amazing and I feel like everyone should have the opportunity to afford a place to live.

  • Tiny house episodes are my favourite…
    Zack really love u… Ur superb n ur great ideas that has almost solutions for everything.. u r 😘😘

  • Enlightening talk. A TH is better than no home. Change has got to start somewhere. Necessity breeds invention.

  • Overcomplicated blah blah…All you really need is an 8'x8'x8' room, double walls with a vacuum space between rather than insulation (2" and doesn't have to be a strong vacuum) easily sealed with the same old paint you use anyway, but check and maybe reapply vacuum twice per year like topping up your tires. Maybe put an 8' shelf along one wall above head height, a 3'x3' wetroom, and a gantry on rails. The rest is simple, and you can figure it out to suit personal taste. If it seems small, GO OUTSIDE! 🙂

  • Brilliant – such a clear explanation and one that addresses such a huge problem. Thank you for such a humane talk, because 'home' is so crucial for all of us. I live in England where there is virtually no provision made for tiny house owners to buy/rent land to live on. To be honest I managed for 10 years but have now decided to move abroad where I can afford to rent. I will be honest and say that although I love my small home there were downsides even though it was a great adventure.

  • once enough people adopt tiny houses, the market will adjust and it will be just as expensive as a normal house is today. Then we really are trapped for good.

  • Non,non,non. A tiny house is a super heavy trailer that can be difficult to move. This is another compromise. Just saying, there are millions of americans living in areas that do not address the basic needs of humans that do not earn an income to compete in an inflated housing market. I THINK, many people are trying to avoid facing their own poverty. SURE DONT WANT TO BE THAT GUY! HA HA HA

  • Unless you build it 100% on your own, tiny houses are ridiculously expensive for what they are. 90 grand for a 300sqft wooden trailer? That's not an exaggeration. I looked into this for quite a while. Not even close to worth it if you buy one from someone like him. I've built my own for 16k with every comfort. Don't buy, build.

  • So what i got out of this is we have a population problem and space or land is starting to become a real issue. The wealthy are still stable but the poor are at risk of homelessness or dare i say becoming the definition of slaves where their income does not provide enough for their basic needs. So then the solution here is to move them into tiny houses and make it seem enticing instead of figuring out a way to evenly distribute the cash flow across the nation (the rich have a decrease of income and the poor have an increase). Or restricting the amount of land one person can own so then a wealthy family doesn't live in a castle on 3,000 acres while a poor family is crammed into a sardine can.

  • Thank you for doing this video. The tiny house movement right now, like you said IS a reaction, it's a revolution in my opinion. My husband and I are taking the plunge right now. We're selling the big house, along with the giant mortgage and giant monthly bills to maintain it (and the house and yard work), and renovating our off-grid cabin in Maine (12×28) into a year round home so that we can retire early. While our tiny house is not on wheels, the concept for us is exactly the same and for all the reasons you discussed in this video. The house has become the central focal point of our lives, and not in a good way, and we're done. We're not getting any younger at 55 and 57, and we have PLANS! Plans to travel, plans to live every moment, plans to savor every breath . . . rather than work like dogs to support the house until the day we die. I don't know what happened to our society, but it's not what my grandparents lived with. It's a cycle that we're getting out of. Love your show and love your creativity! CHRISTINE

  • Tiny houses are great until you decide to have children. Put 5 people in a tiny house with all their clothing, the necessary food, book bags, laptops, toys, beds, etc. How 'tiny' would the house actually be to accommodate?

  • Best day of my life? Selling my waterfront home in South Florida. Why? I bought it for $115,000. Taxes and insurance made the payments $1,100 a month. I lived there for 3 years, then…… Hurricanes HIT 4x in 8 weeks. To make a story short, my insurance and tax payments escalated to $1,800 a month, more than my PRINCIPAL AND INTEREST. Go figure. Don't ask me why. I sold May of 2008, the next month THE CRASH HIT. Homes, by the 1,000 went on the market. Whew!!! I did feel bad for the buyer. He's still there and hopefully happy. Prices came back and he is at break even. I bought for $115k sold for $270,000 3 years later. Will never buy a big house again. Live simply. Less is better. Freedom.

  • I own 5.5 acres of land in metro Portland Or. I think putting tiny homes on it would be a good option. I'm planning to sell so was looking at comparable land valuations and saw a 2.5 acre site that was approved for 65 condo townhomes or 100 apartments. That is 25 and 40 per acre. Of course these are multi story buildings.

    I am actually afraid to let anyone on to my property because I become responsible for everything that happens. How does a property owner deal with all the legal issues? When a person domiciles somewhere they have the same rights as the land owner but not the responsibility. Then there is the utility fees. Where one landowner should be able to allow everyone to share a sewer, water, electric, cable hook up but the powers that be decide each unit has to have its own account. Lots of work to do on the concept it seems. Its easier just to park it on public land.

  • Tiny House = $50k, Land = $20k, permit fees, well installation and city power = several thousand K, solar panel set up= several thousand K, time invested in building/set up = months to years, contractors to deliver the house or materials to build= several thousand K….still not doable for most folks without some sort of maniacal bank loan that may not even be available. I have yet to meet a Tiny House owner that didn't start out with their own house or property to sell off and live the dream. I got sucked into the dream too, until I found out it was just another money making enterprise for someone else. Not a single Tiny Home company I've ever engaged in dialogue is willing to help or negotiate in any way. I've been burned by the Tiny House Movement Trend multiple times over the last several years, do pardon my bitter tone, but please don't think it's easy or affordable to be a part of 'the movement'.

  • Zach
    the banksters are the problem.. the central bank is owned by bankers.. Look it up..
    banksters print the money.. loan it to gvt.. gvt spends it.. extorts you to repay the loans (bonds, T bonds) plus interest…

    This is why we have $20 trillion of nation crushing debt… soon treasury will have to default… mad max…. Walking Dead… Zombie apocalypse… No? By what mechanism will our esteemed Criminal Administration prevent financial melt down?

    Die falscher lends.. government spends
    has IRS extract.. pays loanshark back

  • Realestate invest Law
    Building always depreciate and land will always appreciate
    Just keep that in you mind throw away every thing else you LL be much better of

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