a story about living small

An Interview with Karen Chapple, Professor of Urban Planning at UC Berkeley

Tiny Houses as a Solution for Affordable Housing.

When we emailed Karen Chapple last spring, for an interview about her recently-built, net-zero small house, she wrote us back jokingly, “Join the club.”

There’s been a lot of interest in Karen’s 420-square foot house, which she built in the backyard of her Berkeley home and currently rents out to another family. This is in part because Karen’s personal experiment in urban development is the first piece of a larger study that looks at how small houses might be a solution for affordable housing in the Bay Area.

Karen’s work as a professor of city and regional planning at UC Berkeley also makes her particularly knowledgeable about building and development, and a perfect interview subject for questions about where the future of tiny houses might be headed.

Our favorite thing about Karen? She’s not an easy convert. She’s quite happy living in her standard-sized home, and thinks that in some ways, the Tiny House movement might be too individualistic—is it really possible to fit a family into 120 square feet, for example? But she does admire the movement as “an innovation,” and looks forward to exploring the solutions that building small might provide for high-density urban areas and low-income housing.

Here’s a quick excerpt from our interview, in which Karen explains why small houses offer exciting possibilities for affordable housing in urban areas.

Stay tuned for more!


Karen Chapple on Tiny Houses as Affordable Housing from TINY on Vimeo.

3 Responses

  1. Al Brown

    Absolutely right. A government edict that costs 4 times what it needs to is not at all uncommon, unfortunately.

    Many about-to-be-homeless people would love to have a tiny space of their own for such a small cost. But these policies are guided by what other homeowners want and keeping their property values up, not making it possible for the very poor to stay housed and be self sufficient.

    September 7, 2011 at 1:28 am

  2. Scott

    Be patient Al Brown. The time is coming-)

    September 13, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    • staceyranae

      yes scott the time is comeing. I want to build, dig, plant, water ect… in a new tiny house community. When and where can I work lol! (a real “9-5” paying job) This way I too could be involved . If there is a HELP WANTED AD out there for “tiny house construction laborers” I am out of work and eager to help. Yes, I am a girl(29) but I have been around construction just about all my life, and can’t wait to pick up a tape measure and hamer again. I, myself, have built 4 “play house” structures in my day, and would really like to be apart of the “real deal” construction. I curently live in Texas, I have family in Ga. and W.V. I wouldnt mind relocateing for “the cause”! I am very seirous about this and can be e-mailed at staceyranae16@yahoo.com

      thank you!! ~staceyranaehays.

      November 14, 2011 at 11:47 pm

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