Tiny homes are the new affordable housing!
Jewel Pearson is a product manager in education technology turned tiny home advocate. The journey began in 2013 when she learned of tiny houses through architectural designer Macy Miller, widely considered a pioneer in the movement. By 2015, Pearson had made the decision to finally downsize her life, packing up her four-bedroom home in favor of a less than 500-square-foot tiny home on wheels.
“I whittled down to all my favorite things,” Pearson recalled.
While beautiful, the journey became increasingly challenging, Pearson designing and building the house from the ground up over the course of two years. Once it was finished, she quickly realized that a location to park her house was going to be just as arduous as building it. Even more frustrating was the fact that the places available to park her tiny home were usually fraught with racism.
“Most cities and counties don’t allow tiny houses on wheels [due to zoning rules]. The areas that are most accepting of tiny houses are RV parks, farms and more rural locations, which aren’t always safe spaces for Black people and people of color…I realized my tiny house experiences were going to be quite different from my [white] counterparts simply because of my race,” said Pearson.
Eventually, Pearson decided to create her own space to share her experiences, connecting with visual artist and tiny home owner Dominique Moody. Tiny House Trailblazers was launched in 2016 to build an even larger community of Black tiny homeowners.
“We felt that there was a need for a space where we could discuss the things that weren’t really being discussed in the more general arena of tiny house living. Tiny House Trailblazers became the space where we could encourage others to join in on these conversations and fellowship,” said Moody.
Inside Pearson’s tiny house. Photo Courtesy of @glynastanleyphotography/Instagram/Shareable
Now Pearson has created the Cooperative Communities project and the Collective Communities project under the Tiny House Trailblazers umbrella. The cooperative “offers Black tiny homeowners access to safe locations to rent and park” their homes in partnership with Black farmers, another industry impacted by “decades of state-sanctioned discrimination.”
Meanwhile, the collective offers resources for Black tiny home owners, van dwellers, and RV travelers, giving out a list developed by the African Americans That RV & Camp (AARVC) group listing a list of Black-owned spaces to set up shop at. Pearson also hosts regular shows via YouTube and offers consultations for those interested in getting into the tiny house life.
“There are so many people who’ve said to me, ‘until I saw you, I didn’t know that this movement was even for Black people,” Pearson said.
Now Pearson spends her days advocating from her tiny home located on a farm outside of Charlotte, North, Carolina. Her goal is to provide a viable and more attainable option for communities of color looking to achieve the goal of homeownership. According to the National Association of Realtors, Black homeownership numbers are consistently low in comparison to their white counterparts, resting at just 43.3 percent in 2020 in comparison to 72.2 percent among white Americans. Pearson wants to increase those numbers by making buyers aware of a new more cost-efficient option and ensuring that it’s inclusive for all.
“Racism isn’t going anywhere, unfortunately. I’d like to see Black and brown communities really view tiny houses and this movement as a viable option for quicker access to homeownership and generational wealth building. Racism cannot be the reason we’re not in the movement,” she explained.
To learn more about Pearson’s work with Tiny House Trailblazers, visit their website here.
Photo Courtesy of @glynastanleyphotography/Instagram/Shareable