Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Katie Kilroy-Marac (University of Toronto Scarborough)
Many residents of Toronto struggle to make ends meet because their stable incomes do not align with the skyrocketing costs of living. While the situation for homeless and street-involved individuals is particularly grave, people living just above the poverty line likewise fall through the cracks and experience a lack of institutional support. Rental costs are prohibitive, and aspirations toward home ownership are difficult—if not impossible—to achieve. In this paper, I track the recent rise of grassroots discussion related to alternative housing models in the Greater Toronto Area, paying particular attention to those centred on the ability of tiny houses to address the affordable housing crisis. Drawing from a larger SSHRC-funded ethnographic research project that critically examines the Tiny House Movement in North America, I show that people of different ages, backgrounds, and social statuses choose tiny houses as their preferred dwelling to be able to escape the burdens of long-term debt and still fulfill their dream of home ownership. I focus my discussion on stories of individuals like Katerina, a single mother whose move into a 600ft tiny house permitted her to accrue savings and invest in a business, thereby counteracting urban poverty. While Katerina and others celebrate the transformative potential of tiny houses and their ability to serve as affordable housing amidst a veritable housing crisis in Toronto and beyond, my paper also considers the challenges, drawbacks, and unintended consequences of this model.