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Last year’s Tiny House fest in Brattleboro drew a larger-than-expected crowd to Flat Street. This year’s fest is expected to be even bigger.

Town and Village

Big ideas about little houses

As Tiny House Fest returns, organizers hope to spark conversations about housing that is creative, resilient, and equitable

BRATTLEBORO—How can we create more sustainable places to live? Tiny House Fest VT 2017 plans to invite fair-goers to explore this question through a multidisciplinary lens.

The festival runs Friday through Monday, Sept. 1-4. Flat Street will be closed on Saturday and Sunday to accommodate visitors.

Lisa Kuneman, one of the Tiny House Festival VT’s organizers, described the goals of the festival and what visitors can expect.

“We’re trying to be real; we’re bringing the regulators and the voters and the planners into the conversation too. We need to bring in people from so many disciplines.”

She says this is an event “for anyone who has a housing decision to make, or anyone working in housing development, or regulating housing, or design, and/or anything in the way of community planning.”

This year, the festival is focusing on three major areas: creativity, resilience, and equity.

“We want people to think creatively,” Kuneman said about sustainable housing.

As an example, Kuneman highlighted the work of Joseph Cincotta and Julie Lineberger of Wilmington. The designers of the Wheel Pad Tiny House will be giving a presentation.

“They took the whole idea of houses on wheels and put a module on wheels that you can add to a house and click it to a door. It adds a wheelchair-accessible bedroom and bathroom,” Kuneman said. “Instead of having to build an addition to your house, there’s a flexible option.”

Novel improvements are important to the conversation for Tiny House owners and developers, as they offer a range of possibilities to recover from harmful events in home owners’ various contexts.

Resilience is another issue.

“If we were to have a climate change event, are we poised to recover?” Kuneman asked.

She explained that Tiny House Fest organizers are engaging with the Resilient Design Institute, which is currently consulting coast-to-coast about the issue of community resilience.

How could home owners bounce back from hardships?

“In the future, we could be facing climate events, economic events, political events ... So we need to be creative and flexible about how to respond to events as they occur.”

Equity is another facet of the emerging conversation. The hope of the Tiny House movement is to offer more-attainable housing options for everyone, and Tiny House Fest VT ’17 is aiming to further the conversation around attainability, alongside sustainability.

“The housing market as we know it is inadequate,” Kuneman said, “So that’s why we’re creating an event that brings together the best of the DIY thinking between the Tiny House movement and MakerSpaces.”

What can visitors during Tiny House weekend expect to see?

During Gallery Walk on Sept. 1, from 5 to 8 p.m., there will be three Tiny House Fest VT exhibitions to visit amid the collection of art openings and events.

On Sept. 2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., on the grounds of the Brattleboro Retreat, Tiny Houses for Change will join Equity Solutions trainers in a workshop about how Tiny Houses and their occupants fit into the bigger picture of American housing and economics.

Kuneman says the theme of the day is: “What can the Tiny House movement teach us about attainable housing and building a collective force for change?”

The main Tiny House Fest takes place on Flat Street in Brattleboro on Sept. 3 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“On Sunday, enjoy the street fest, where you’ll find the Pop-up Tiny House Village, Housing Placemaking Academy on two stages, Building Arts Marketplace, Building Demos, Speed Design Reviews, Parklets by youth, Kids’ MakerSpace, and more,” Kuneman said.

Everything wraps up Sept. 4 with a local house tour in Brattleboro and Guilford from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“On Monday morning, with map in hand, move from home to home,” Kuneman said. “Meet residents, builders, and designers, and hear their stories as you tour a variety of tiny, small, and efficient dwellings throughout Brattleboro and Guilford.”

More information is available at www.tinyhousefestvermont.com/tiny-house-fest-2017.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #423 (Wednesday, August 30, 2017).

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