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Atlanta students join 'tiny house' movement, but Dee Williams has tiniest house

A midtown Atlanta parking garage is the home of three 135-square-foot-sized homes created and designed by students at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), which is the result of a micro-housing experiment, according to The Weather Channel on May 2, 2014.

Students and adults are venturing into tiny house living, with some doing it in parking garages, like this SCADPad showcasing a fold-up hammock bed by artist Trish Anderson (shown) and Kristi Jilson (not shown).
SCADPad Launch Photo courtesy of SCAD

The effort, which required collaboration between 135 students and 12 staffers (as well as three dozen SCAD alumni) seeks to help people rethink their perceptions about living with less and leaving less of a footprint environmentally, especially since the World Health Organization is predicting as many as 6 out of 10 people will live in cities by 2030.

In keeping with the college's penchant for artistic flair, they are calling these very small homes SCADPads. And some of the participants are excited to be able to try them out as residences. And those interested in seeing what they look like for themselves can do so this Sunday, May 4, from 1-3 p.m. ET.

But up in Washington state, Dee Williams of Portland Alternative Dwellings, has been conducting her own experiment of sorts with tiny house living, long before the Georgia school got into the effort. Williams built her own special tiny home a decade ago with zero assistance from anyone for the most part--other than one or two people who happened upon her in the midst of her building phase, offering to lend a hand once or twice.

Williams did benefit from the help of some friends, too, of course, off and on, according to her memoir. But it was she who hand picked each piece of wood for inclusion, and it was she who attempted to build her 84-square-foot wood abode without troubling anyone else. And she has lived in it for more than a decade, earning the respect of other would-be tiny home builders around the nation, as she has definitely come to personally learn from day-to-day what it means to live in a house that small.

Williams parked her tiny creation in the backyard property of some close friends after moving it from Oregon to Washington, rather than building and leaving it in a parking garage, like the Savannah school is doing in Atlanta. And since Williams' tiny house is attached to a trailer, she can move it again anytime she wants to, which is a definite perk when it comes to mobility.

All-in-all, the tiny house movement is really gaining steam due to people coming to realize it not only offers a wonderful and less expensive alternative to high-cost apartment living, but it also makes practical sense for those who wish to downsize, like Dee, from their larger homes. The Washington tiny home owner went from living in a larger and more expensive home residence in Portland, which cost her approximately $1,400 a month in mortgage and utility expenses, to paying less than $10 a month for utilities. And she doesn't owe a mortgage payment to anyone, paying $10,000 outright to buy the materials to build her home.

Tiny houses are not just for those seeking to downsize, or students seeking to get ahead of the expected population growth, as these small residences could help alleviate the homelessness issue in the nation, providing affordable housing for those who need a better alternative to getting back on their feet--and staying there--compared to a temporary homeless shelter.

U.S. News and World Report offered money tips this week to college graduates to help them get off on the right foot financially, but how much better would those tips work for students and others if people followed the money recommendations while living in a tiny house? After all, housing expenses, including utilities, really drain a budget.

To learn more about the personal struggles and triumphs one can face by choosing to move from a larger residential home to a tiny house, check out Dee Williams' "The Big Tiny" memoir published by Blue River Press, a member of the Penguin Group.

The Atlanta Top News Examiner will be also be publishing a book review on the "built it myself" memoir in the coming days, and will share some interview questions she asked Dee about her experience. So be sure to check back for those Examiner exclusive updates. And don't forget to stop in and see the SCADPad houses on Peachtree on Sunday, May 4 from 1-3 p.m. if you can. It is free and open to the public.

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