Tent City Urbanism: From Self Organized Camps to Tiny House Villages by Andrew Heben
From: Sharon Villines via groups.io (sharon=sharonvillines.comgroups.io)
Date: Wed, 16 Dec 2020 12:51:26 -0800 (PST)
Sometimes I find a book I just love. This is one of them. The author writes 
based on his professional and living experience with tent cities and tiny 
houses, and discusses the community that develops with housing stability and 
self-management. He also details some of the negative effects of the political 
and economic influences that come along with getting government approval and 
financing. He is also a founder of the American Tiny House Association. He 
designed and built his own 384 SF house where he lives with his partner and 
their baby.

Heben now develops Tiny House Villages with SquareOne Villages, a non-profit 
organization in Oregon creating self-managed communities of cost-effective tiny 
homes for people in need of housing.


For this book he traveled across the US to study over a dozen tent cities 
organized by the homeless, mostly illegal, and spent time living at one in Ann 
Arbor, Michigan known as Camp Take Notice. 

If you are trying to build low income housing, starting with camps and tent 
cities you can work up instead of thinking middle class and trying to work 
down. Those that have become legal to some extent stayed in place formed 
communities with governance structures, behavioral norms (no drugs, no guests 
after 10:00, etc.) And built a common house with showers and a kitchen. One 
community was required to move every 3 months but they did it and stayed 
together. (Tiny houses installed on concrete pillars (short) can be fairly 
easily moved.)

Some communities he discusses are non-profit organizations and others have some 
government support. The essential feature is that they are self-governed and 
function like cohousing. Some are quite large — 100 residents. 

He includes a lot of information about dealing with zoning and government 
agencies, not always for funding but for permission to exist on unused city 
land, church grounds, etc.

One process for dealing with zoning that I first thought would be unhelpful for 
cohousing is to start by forming a non-profit organization of advocates and 
volunteers. It helps the community organizers obtain zoning approval and 
building permits. The advocates also explain the project to the city and 
neighbors. Advocates can be local leaders, construction experts, city planners, 
etc. who also bring their reputations and contacts to the project. 

Many people see cohousing as an exciting project that they want to be more 
involved with even though they have no idea of living in it. 

The book is filled with ideas and real-life stories, and a sample plan for 
building and governing a tiny house village. The site plans look like cohousing 
with common houses, community gardens, house clusters, etc.

Important to me, he also talks of “intimate democracy,” learning how to 
function democratically with the people in the next tent. He stresses this as a 
primary value and for tent cities  it would also helpful in convincing city 
agencies that this is a community designed for the public good. Not another 
lawless encampment of drunks on welfare.

He also give comparative costs of city/state run shelters and housing compared 
to self-governed, self-sufficient communities. I was shocked to find out how 
much city-built projects cost per living unit. It was published in 2014 so 
these are out of date but the ratios are probably still relevant. 

Available as a used book and from the author’s website. Or the Village 

I bought a used copy from ABE Books but it turned out to have a lot of 
underlining, starred paragraphs, and circled words. Grrrrr. So I just ordered a 
new one. I wanted my own.

Highly recommended for furthering the cause of affordable cohousing for all.

Sharon Villines
affordablecohousing [at] groups.io
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