Building Community With Pocket Neighborhoods

Hanging around the tiny house at POD49. Photo: The Oregonian

At PAD, we spend a lot of time talking tiny houses (obviously), because we love them and love what they can do for people. But living in a tiny house isn’t for everyone, so it’s important to spend time considering some of the other alternatives to traditional housing that offer similar benefits – more community, less money spent on resources you don’t need, and more time to do what you love. If you’re a big house owner who wants those things, you still have plenty of options if you get creative with your space.

Creating the Community You Want

Our last two blog posts focused on the reasons that draw people into tiny house living and how to find parking for a tiny house. These pieces pair nicely with this recent profile The Oregonian ran on the mini pocket neighborhood PAD’s Joan Grimm and her partner Rita helped create in their backyard. We referenced “POD49” in our post “Back to Basics: Why Tiny Houses?”, but here you can learn more:

“Their pod, Grimm says, meets the goal of combining an intentional community with the need for individuality. It blends the need for privacy with sharing those things “that make sense.” It means, for instance, she explains, that you can run into a friend when she’s taking the lawn mower from your yard and catch up on her life, have a good conversation, “without having to make dinner.”

Or, as [POD49 member/neighbor Lisa] Pate put it in an email: “I have the good fortune of living in a house very near dear friends where we support each other, share and enjoy garden space, easily walk to each other’s houses to borrow sugar or have beers, and still maintain an independent living situation. I guess it comes down to great relationships and community.””

This piece (click over to The Oregonian for the full article) highlights some of the opportunities that housing alternatives like tiny houses offer, even to people who already have a “big house”. Joan references Ross Chapin’s “Pocket Neighborhood” design principles as an inspiration for POD49.  These principles lay out clear criteria for how to create a place where “Nearby neighbors can easily know one another, where empty nesters and single householders with far-flung families can find friendship or a helping hand nearby, and where children can have shirttail aunties and uncles just beyond their front gate.” While many of the principles would be best applied at large scales, like multifamily housing developments, just knowing them and keeping them in mind can help individuals and small communities like POD49 achieve some of the same goals and benefits.

While Dee Williams is PAD’s resident tiny house dweller and designer, Joan Grimm has a critical perspective as well: a big house dweller who got more than the typical big house experience by thinking differently about her space with her partner, and discovering that a tiny house could be the key to creating a community in their own backyard.

POD49’s Tiny House: The Sweet Pea

Sweet Pea Tiny House Plans

The POD49 piece goes along with a separate article just focused on the POD’s Sweet Pea Tiny House and its traveling resident, Gina Bramucci. Gina calls the POD49 tiny house home when she’s in Portland, but also spends time doing relief work internationally. Click over to the Oregonian piece for Gina’s story and a few photos of her beautiful tiny house, and or see and learn more about the Sweet Pea Tiny House and construction plans.

What’s Right For You?

Many people interested in tiny houses hope to find or build their own version of POD49, where they can share resources and fun, but also have a door they can close when they need some space to themselves. Both Oregonian pieces combined tell a great companion story about different ways to achieve this same goal. It’s worth considering whether living in a tiny house is going to give you what you want, or if you’re better suited as a tiny house host or mini-community maven. You might even want to share these pieces with the people in your life you’d like to host your house (read more about this in our “How to Find Parking” post). For every Gina, who a tiny house works well for as she sets sail around the world, there’s a Joan, anchoring her with a welcoming, shared space to call home.

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