office interior design dc
demand for housing in washington dc is goingthrough the roof. over a thousand people move into the cityevery month, driving up the cost of housing and they're turning the nation's capital intoa construction zone. tower cranes piercing the sky above the citystreets have become so common they're just part of the background. but as fast as the cranes have gone up, demand for housing is rising even faster. making dc among the most expensive placesto live in the united states. and one innovation whose time has come
shows just why the demand for housing is farfrom being met. i kinda got driven down the tiny house roadbecause of affordability, simplicity, sustainability and then mobility. tiny houses are very cheap to build, you canbuild one of these for ten thousand dollars you can build one for thirty, forty, fiftythousand dollars, but they definitely come in far beneath thecost of a regular home especially in a city like dc. they're very sustainable, they take very littleenergy to heat or cool. so having a space that i could hook up tosolar
that i could, you know, catch rain water anduse for a simple shower and sink was very very appealing to me. they are mobile because many of them are builton wheels but the reason they're often built on wheelsis because it then escapes a lot of the kind of coding requirements whichthese homes would violate not because they're unsafe places to live, but because the minimum size of a room youknow must be 120 square feet and if these homes are 120 square feet altogetheryou then have obvious issues. this is not a tiny house, it's the officeof zoning, the zoning comission,
the zoning administrator, the board of zoningadjustment and the office of planning which, along with the department of consumerand regulatory affairs implements, adjudicates and enforces 34 chaptersand 600 pages of regulations governing property use and building requirementsint he nation's capital. the director of the city's office of planning,ellen mccarthy, described the problem with allowing tiny housesin the city: and so the zoning authorities have alloweda few experiments in affordable housing like this apartment made entirely from shippingcontainers. but the city is constrained by a zoning ordinancethat was drawn up in 1958
that's 56 years of cultural change and buildinginnovations, like tiny houses, that the code wasn't designed to address. and for small builders like jay austin, gettinga special exemption from the zoning authorities could cost tens of thousands of dollars andyears of time with no guarantee of success. the proposed changes to zoning rewrite won'teffect what we're doing at all, we are, tiny homes on wheels are still a littlebit further out probably many years out, of decades out. it's totally legal to buy one of these andto park it somewhere.
and really it only becomes illegal once youstep inside and say 'this is my home.' we could leave these houses on the lot i imaginefor 20 years and there wouldn't be any issue with it but if we declared these are full time residencesthen there, you know, would be a little bit more, little bit moretrouble perhaps. the laws that keep jay austin from livingin his own home have their genesis in new york city's zoningresolution of 1916. for the first time in history, committeesof urban planners began to reshape an entire american city.
they split up skyscrapers to provide moresunlight on the streets below. industrial factories were separated from residentialproperty. immigrant communities were kept apart fromneighborhoods of the elite. and when the supreme court ruled these lawsdidn't violate property rights, zoning quickly spread to every major cityin america. every city, that is, except for one. houston for me is an experiment. it's an experiment in overt capitalism. and therefore very much at home in texas,
there is a kind of libertarian way of thinking here. it's much more alive in a way, much more organic,than a typical zoned city that is more restricted by these old fashionedmeasures that no longer are viable. if you live in an unzoned city, you have todevelop a dialogue or negotiation. and that of course we have seen in our countryis not easy to come by. i have architect friends that have to operatein places like berkeley where the zoning board is sort of a groupof aestheticians without training say 'that's no good, this is good, this isberkeley, this is not.' and this sort of, you know, it's sillinessbut has enormous economic consequences
is operating in those places. while here, you can almost get away with anything. anything, like a house clad entirely in beercans. in houston a few simple laws govern lot sizesand set backs from the street. there's even a new historical preservationordinance. but for the most part, developments are regulatedby private covenants and deed restrictions. and without city codes, committees or plannersto regulate land use, all sorts of creative expression are possible.
when architects began to build homes out ofcorrugated metal, a cheap material associated with poverty andtrailer parks, no one had the authority to stop them. as it turned out not only were tin houseseconomical, they also kept homes cool by reflecting sunlightduring houston's sweltering summers. today tin houses are cherished as a uniquehouston innovation. whether it's a tin house in houston or a mcmansionin mcallen, homes in the sprawling state of texas will always be cheaper than the densely populatednortheast.
but compared to the rest of the sun belt wherecities are zoned and the land is plentiful, unregulated houston is still the most affordablelarge city in america. i totally agree that regulation is about preventingbad things from happening. houston's success in creating affordable housingfor the middle class is one reason why the city is disparaged bythe one group whose job it makes obsolete. urban planners like harriet tregoning, formerlyof the washington dc office of planning. i hate to make houston the whipping boy, right? oh go ahead. you know, that's a place that doesn't havezoning, it doesn't' have regulation
and it's not exactly the full flower of urbanism. two hours down the gulf coast from houstonis victoria. a city that hasn't had zoning since it wasfounded 190 years ago. and the most unusual thing about victoriais that it's not very unusual at all. i don't notice anything greatly differentabout victoria and the look that victoria portrays and the look that they have in san antonio,austin or houston. so, property rights in texas are sacred, youcan do what you want to do with your property and i think most of the people here in victoriawant to protect that right.
the city's growth and land use is based moreon economics and the will of the owner rather than some quasi-governmental body thatyou have to ask permission from. east of town was a rendering plant where theytook dead animals and processed them. the people that were in favor of zoning wouldsay 'well what if there's a rendering plant nextto your house?' economics dictate that you're not going toput a rendering plant next to a residential subdivision economics dictates that you're gonna builda shopping center on a major thoroughfare. it's worked very well in victoria for a numberof years and i trust we'll continue to do so.
now it's true if you look hard enough in victoriaor houston you can find the odd high rise poking outof a low density neighborhood and sometimes economics dictates that you'llhave to eat your butterscotch dilly bar next to the bail bondsman. but tolerating a little disharmony, a dashof kitsch and the occasional strip club in a strip mallalong the texas gulf coast is a small down payment on the right to bethe architect of your own life. because if you're jay austin, you can buildthe home of your dreams, you just can't live there.
for now his tiny house is a part time residenceand a full time showpiece to present to the public in the hopes of changinga zoning committe that hasn't updated a zoning code in 56 years.