The Gentrification of Trailer Park Living

April 15, 2014 — Leave a comment

The Gentrification of Trailer Park Living

Half of young people now living at home with parents, are posh caravans the answer?

Recently the Guardian revealed how 48% of Europe’s 18 to 30 year olds are now living at home with their parents. To plenty of young adults currently wondering how to find a little independence and a place of their own, these figures came as no surprise.

We’re the first generation in living memory to be told to expect a lower standard of living than our parents and our student debt is among the highest in the developed world. The little social housing left is reserved for people really in need, property prices are record high, banks aren’t leading, the energy markets are crooked and well paid jobs are few and far between.

But here’s the good news. If like so many, your only options are staying with mum and dad, or sleeping in a caravan…. the caravan is actually looking like an increasingly appealing and acceptable choice.

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Across American and via the Internet come the euphemistically named ‘tiny houses people.’ Hipster trailer park heroes seems more accurate to me. They’re currently trying, and succeeding, in making trailer park living not only comfortable, acceptable and civilised but trendy, eco-friendly and somewhat luxurious.

The idea of ‘returning’ to homes of less that 1000 squire feet has been in revival since the 1970s, but the recent resurgence and branding of the ‘movement’ only gathered pace in the US after the financial crash of 2007. It’s an architectural and social movement driven by some inventive craftsmen and designers and epitomised on a selection of popular blogs, and it’s even about to get it’s first TV show.

By drawing on knowledge from house boating, traditional cabins and caravanning, tiny house people have been creating some functional and impressive little buildings – comparatively affordable, hi-tech, efficient or even self-sufficient units. Look at these things; some are like ultimate little hideouts designed for urban free-living, rammed full of gadgets, space saving mind fucks and creature comforts.

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Admittedly life in a house the size of a traditional caravan or shipping container isn’t for everyone. Plainly many 21st century adults simply wouldn’t fit. But even if you’re modestly sized like myself, a certain lifestyle adjustment is required for life in a tiny house. The philosophy and ethos promoted by the movement is a necessary precursor – a simple, slimed down life style. Such a life style is innately eco-friendly and very, very economical.

Unlike traditional travellers who’s choice to live in caravans is due to cultural heritage, tiny house people willingly select this mode of living. But like traditional travellers, it’s often because they favor simplicity and freedom, freedom from the alienation and debilitating restrains imposed by modern consumerism and home ownership.

Despite this, rightly or wrongly, the ‘tiny houses’ identity has been so rigorously marketed by the ‘tiny house people’ because they’re keen to emerge as distinct. They want to distance themselves from the sigma and prejudice that those living in more tradition caravans are so often subjected to.

Tiny house people in the US are twice as likely to have a collage degree and don’t earn any less than your average American [Link]. They’re not people who would otherwise be out on the street, they’re people who no longer want to play the increasingly demanding game of bills, council tax and mortgage/rent. Some try to pass off their tiny houses as alternative studio-flat on wheels, but lets be frank, they’re just spectacular bourgeois caravans. They’re so affordable because just like caravans and “RVs” they don’t require building permits and the majority are readily portable.

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Such is the ‘cost of living crisis’ rent controls and regulating energy markets are now being seriously discussed in parliament. The acute housing shortage has made even finding a house difficult and property prices are eye watering, especially in the south. And if you are lucky enough to get a mortgage off the banks, you’ll be paying it back for a debilitating and depressing amount of time.

Apparently the recover has begun, and unsurprisingly it’s the property market that’s excelling itself, with no less that 6% growth. But that’s largely because the UK’s property market is little more than a monopoly board for foreign investors. Wages remain stagnant and a booming property market only benefits the people who already own the country. Our parents and grandparents made a killing on property, but entering that property market is a dream for half of young people today.

Is an incongruous idea – That some of the many young middle class adults unable to purchase property today could now adopt a mode of living once associated with poverty. Well, not really. Technology, the climate and our unbalanced society have change sufficiently to make the idea quite plausible.

The remaining questions are obviously land, and regulation? Once you’ve got yourself a cozy little house, where do you park it? Well, tiny house people gentrified the caravans so they’ve also gentrified caravan parks. ‘Tiny house villages’ are now a thing – private, exclusive, comparatively affordable little communities. It’s only a matter of time until the UK gets its first village.

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