As you may have heard through the FB grapevine by now, a cute little town in west Texas called Spur has passed ordinances to not only allow but encourage genuine tiny houses, both foundation and trailer based, in their town limits. I am so excited to hear this both as a tiny house owner-in-progress and a native Texan, and I wanted to share links both to the official Spur, TX tiny house community website and to a great article authored by Gabriella Morrison of hOMe. She interviewed Spur resident David Alsbury about the town’s plans, and David gave some very encouraging and thorough information for anyone interested in living in or building their tiny house in Spur without all the dastardly restrictions most building codes enforce against tiny houses.
Here’s a link to Gabriella’s article on TinyHouseBuild.com about Spur, TX welcoming tiny houses to their town.
Here’s a link to the Spur, TX blog site they’ve recently created for, as David Alsbury said in his interview, for “evangelizing to the outside world,” with his help.
I’m a lifelong Texan (except for about a year in Las Vegas, which is basically West Texas + gambling hehe), and though we are looking to move to the Northwest corner of the country in a few years, Texas will always be my home. There are many reasons we want to move to Washington – cooler climates, greener landscaping, more year-round outdoor activities, more open-minded politics, and a bigger focus on preserving our environment are just a few – but I can’t help but be both surprised and proud that the traditionally ultra conservative, bigger-is-always-better attitude of collective Texas is gradually giving way to more forward thinking and willingness to think outside the McMansion for a more sustainable way of life for all its residents in the future.
We Texans are known for considering Texas “a whole other country,” and I’ve always felt that this attitude has usually benefitted Texas by being a buffer from the rest of the country’s woes. After all, we were left relatively unscathed compared to many parts of the country when the housing bubble burst, and our collective unemployment ratings have remained lower than most other regions, too, from what I’ve read at least. I’m not savvy enough in politics or economics to explain why or how Texas has managed to maintain most of the status quo while other areas have faltered, but I do credit the people of Texas, no matter their political or religious leanings or their socioeconomic status, for digging in their heels when times get tough, and for the most part they’ve managed to not only survive but in many ways thrive on the hard times only to come out stronger for their efforts.
That very do-or-die attitude is also, I think, one of the things that could very well be Texas’ undoing if we don’t all realize that our traditional means of wealth and trade, namely oil and natural gas, aren’t infinite sources and, therefore, not infinite ways of maintaining the lifestyle and buffers to which we’ve all become accustomed. We can’t keep building McMansions on every inch of former ranch land and expect to have enough resources – water, power – to keep them running. Likewise, we can’t keep drilling for oil and fracking for gas and not expect there to be some kind of environmental repercussions. If we keep building up and out and new rather than taking back our small towns, like Spur, by utilizing existing infrastructure, we will run out of room for shops, diners, grocers, farmers, ranchers, and schools.
There are great places all across Texas that have all those amazing buildings and systems just waiting to be reclaimed and put back in use, and I’m sure the folks of other towns similar to Spur are just as hungry for revitalization of their once booming towns, too. Just like Mr. Alsbury stated in his interview with Gabriella of hOMe, which he attributed to a fellow Spur resident and chief architect of the push to get tiny homes into Spur, Randy Adams, “everyone [is] concerned about maintaining their town, (of which they are immensely proud) and wanting a strategy to do so that also includes bringing the right kind of people.” In their estimation, tiny house dwellers are a perfect solution as they tend to be both young and self-sufficient, among other things, and these two qualities are prized highly in towns that see more young people moving away to bigger cities and those that require a little extra DIY prowess to fully appreciate what the region offers.
I know on our drive back from Colorado Springs with our Barn Raiser we passed a dozen little “speck towns,” those so small they barely register on maps any more, that were once quite populous. There were lovely little town “squares” along the major intersections of US 287 and whatever main street ran through each little city that were all nearly empty and shuttered. I can imagine bustling little stores and grocers in each one catering to the local farmers and ranchers as well as those traveling across the state. R.A.D is a huge fan of Disney’s “Cars” movie, and while it laments the loss of business for the towns along old Route 66 when I-40 was built, I can empathize with them after seeing so many of the little towns we used to stop in on our many, many road trips when I was a child. Even my own hometown of Pampa has seen a steady decline in population since the 1960s when it peaked around 25k, and while it’s still in the 5-digits (17,994 according to 2010 Census info), towns we used to frequent like White Deer and Skellytown have less than 2,000 people between them.
Now as I said, I’m a native Texan, so I also know that some of my neighbors would read this post and grumble, “We don’t need you liberal hippies to save our small towns! We’re doing just fine on our own, thank you very much!” Some of them are probably right, too, that the more free-wheeling lifestyle many tiny house dwellers tend to live – ones commonly lived with higher emphasis on social justice, environmental responsibility, and often better-living-through-technology – might be off-putting to folks who are several generations deep in small town rural Texas life where people have at times both literally and metaphorically pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and made due with little assistance from outsiders or even the government during hard times. I’m not saying tiny house dwellers are the end-all-be-all solution to consistently declining populations, increasing number of buildings going into disrepair, or loss of local businesses and employers. What I’m suggesting is that easing the way for tiny house communities to form in towns suffering from the aforementioned declines is just one reasonable and viable step toward returning residents and hopefully families to areas that could benefit from fresh perspectives and increased traffic to local businesses.
And speaking as one of those hippy-dippy liberals treading water in the ocean of staunch conservatism in my home state, I’m here to tell my fellow Texans that we could ALL use a little dash of optimism, hope, and forward-thinking to continue the legacy of the Great State of Texas well into the future. We all have a lot to learn from each other – young and old, natives and transplants, farmers and bloggers – on how to keep our great state Great and our small towns from dying off little by little, and I think the citizens of Spur are paving the way toward a bright future for all kinds of Texans! I genuinely hope more towns across Texas, both small and large, will follow their fine example and work toward finding ways to not only encourage but appreciate the freedoms and benefits that come with downsizing our physical addresses from McMansions to more ecologically and economically friendly smaller dwellings, reinvigorating existing small towns in need of a population and commerce bump by welcoming the tiny house community et al and others who can appreciate small town life, and opening our minds and hearts to the benefits of fresh ideas from younger generations. My dad and I were actually discussing finding a way to have a winter spot here in Texas recently, and if the residents of Spur will have us we might just have to become a family of resident snowbirds!
Yee’haw to that!
Here’s a fun map showing Spur, TX compared to our respective initials (M, B, R) over the different places we’ve all lived in Texas. Brandy moved first to Van, TX from Illinois, I was born in Lubbock (but we actually lived in Pampa), and R.A.D was born in Denton, TX.
Oh, and incidentally – there’s not enough room on the map to mark all the suburbs around Dallas-Fort Worth-Denton that we’ve both lived in over the years. I figured hitting the “big 3″ was good enough! -M :)