Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Paradox of the McMansion Versus the Tiny House


Few things signify the gross excess and outright waste of our current society like the modern suburban home. There are entire industries catering to the American middle class desire to own the biggest house possible along with a yard that usually must look like a miniature copy of an aristocratic English estate. The only purpose for this waste of resources and abuse of the land is for a shallow pursuit of status among equally superficial individuals.

The term “McMansion” was in fact coined to signify a house considered ostentatious and lacking in architectural integrity. The lack of architectural integrity coming from the addition of secondary spaces that are essentially empty voids, internal areas of the house that serve no purpose other that an attempt at decoration. The best example off the top of my head would be a house I saw once with a foyer that had twelve foot ceilings. Right next the ceiling were three windows that had absolutely no useful purpose. Yes, they let in extra sunlight but with the ceilings in the rest of the house the normal distance from the floor the “grand foyer” as the homeowner described that space was utterly ridiculous to me.

The same goes for another McMansion I visited once during a pool party my family had been invited. The party had already started by the time I arrived with my wife talking to the hostess and my son playing in the pool with other kids. The husband of the hostess came over and greeted me and for some reason ushered me up to the master bathroom so I could change. Yeah, everything about that house screamed useless space designed to give the impression of a grand palace from the outside and inflate the importance of the owners inside. But it was the master bathroom that defied normal standards. The total square-footage of the bathroom was easily greater that my living room. Now it did have and oversized bathtub and a extra-large shower stall, and of course a toilet but the overall floor space was ridiculous.

It has been my observations that these McMansions tend to breed a contempt in their occupants towards anyone else not perceived to be of equal status. My recent post about the utter panic that erupted in local McMansion dwellers around me about the proposal to build affordable Section Eight housing in the general area shows how much humanity has to be surrendered just to protect things like a “grand foyer” and a master bathroom larger than living room.

It's a given that one of the worst problems we have here in the United States is the lack of affordable housing. Billions of dollars are spent annually to build these suburban McMansions and other houses that sit just under this definition. But actual homes that the poor can afford, allowing them to break the cycle of poverty, are exceedingly rare jewels. Such people are supposed to hide away in Sections Eight apartments deep inside the darker corners of cities whose only real purpose to allow rich developers to get even richer off government subsidies.

Even when something like Sections Eight housing is available, there are still legions of homeless men, women, and families floating around our streets like human flotsam in a vast ocean of apathy.

Here's where my bewilderment at our stunted society reaches critical mass. A type of residence that has become popular among some people are called “Tiny Homes.” These structures have an internal space ranging from one-hundred square feet to around four-hundred. But they can still provide the comforts of larger homes like full or even queen-size beds, a bathroom, along with a kitchen and living room.

While houses greater than four-hundred square feet don't technically fit the description as a tiny home, going up to eight-hundred square feet to accommodate families don't break the spirit of the idea.

Here's part of the problem as to why we're not solving the affordable housing problem by building whole villages of these tiny homes.

First is the obvious zoning issues, especially when upper scale neighborhoods just happen to be relatively nearby. The right-wing, self-righteous zealots in my area lost their tiny minds at the idea of affordable housing in the form of apartments being built. I can only imagine what they would think if a subdivision or two made up of Tiny Houses were proposed.

More than likely since Tiny Houses are required to be mounted on wheels, like trailers, they would be equally upset saying such residences draw crime, drops in property values, and overburden already crowded schools. Now it would be great if Tiny Houses could be built on permanent foundations but there are scores of vague regulations that prevent the creation of such villages. I'm sure some of these regulations stifling Tiny House creation have solid, legitimate reasons but I can't help to think some of them exist because typical homes owners fear their property values being hurt. And from my experience absolutely nothing defines the perspective of the vast majority of middle class Americans than how something or someone might hurt the property values of their houses.

Sliding slightly into the metaphysical but McMansions to me violate basic decency and shows an almost malevolent disregard for other human beings and the environment. The amount of resources in lumber and wiring and plumbing used to build such monstrosities could have gone to several much smaller houses. And as for the beautifully green lawns the chemicals used to create and maintain them have severe environmental problems that literally flow all the way down to the ocean.

I love how conservative suburbanites lament about “the good old days” were so much better all the while forgetting that their grandparents homes had a square-footage running around fourteen-hundred square feet at best. Full disclosure here, my current house (money pit) is a hair or two under twenty-one hundred square feet and I pretty much despise it.

Going full metaphysical, along with bleeding heart, high spending liberal. But with millions of folks in America going homeless, I can't help but think that with Tiny Houses we are looking at one facet of a solution for huge chunk of our society's problems. I actually believe we should build entire villages of Tiny Homes and give them away to homeless families, at first, and eventually down to single individuals. Payment for these homes would require troubled individuals to be part of anything and everything from mental health counseling, job training, substance abuse treatment, and basic upkeep of their homes. That failure to actively participate in treatment and training and upkeep would mean eviction.

The problem with my proposal is twofold. First being the mindless conservative reaction at the idea of their precious tax dollars being wasted on some liberal program. These God fearing, gun-toting real Americans have priorities and helping those less fortunate is just socialism.

The second being the mindless liberal reaction that the poor are just victims and shouldn't be expected to focus on their recovery and development. There's a great documentary on YouTube about Seattle's response o the homeless crisis is how it is actually hurting the people they are supposed to be trying to help.

I simply do not believe the conservative conceit that poor folks are lazy, useless parasites looking to suck the life blood out of hardworking folks. Yes, I'm sure on an individual basis such people exist but there isn't any perfect answer when it comes to humans and the institutions they create to help govern society. Personally I'm sick of our society both ignoring our problems and refusing to do anything constructive to help fix things.

One of the reasons I question the very nature of whether or not humans are an intelligent species is our inability, or even desire in many cases, to solve the problems of poverty that has been plaguing us since our ancestors decided to give up the hunter-gathering life.

Poverty breeds suffering for which all the other corrosive agents spring forth to eat away at a functioning society. For me more importantly, Americans disregard for fellow Americans makes everything we say we believe not just a lie, but a dangerous delusion. For if whole poorer segments of our population can be written off as lost causes, there is nothing stopping the rich elites from abandoning the middle class folks if they become inconvenient.

That may have been a little too abstract for some folks so to make it clear, Jeff Bezos and other billionaires don't give a fuck for you suburbanites living in your McMansions. Bezos wants to build space colonies off Earth and every other billionaire and multimillionaire I've ever heard of has a Doomsday plan that at a minimum gets them out of the country should it collapse.

You McMansion folks keep ignoring the growing poverty here in America and one day the angry mobs could be all over your green lawns with torches looking to cook you and your family. All the while Bezos will be in orbit and the other rich folks will be in their luxurious underground bunkers sipping champagne.


The Bug said...

I totally agree that the American dream home is obscene. Even our house (a glorified double-wide mobile home) is really bigger than we need. We could easily lose at least one room and still be comfortable.

I love the idea of the tiny home community. We actually explored that at our church - we have a lot of property we're tired of mowing & thought it would be the perfect place for a community like that. But then the pandemic hit, and the person who was spearheading the idea got a job at a different church... I should see if that's still something feasible though.

Nan said...

You missed the fact the tiny homes one sees touted on HGTV and similar outlets are not inexpensive. People will pay $50,000 or more for a tiny home that is essentially a glamped up storage shed. They are in their own way every bit an example of conspicuous consumption as the hideously ugly McMansions.

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