After the McMansion era, perhaps it’s an idea whose time has come.

The tiny house movement (also known as the “small house movement”) has been adapted by advocates of living a simpler life in smaller homes. The concept behind the idea: more financial freedom, greener living, lower utility bills, and shared community experiences. It’s a sharp shift away to the postwar American consumer idea of “bigger is better.”

Tiny homes come in all kinds of shapes, types and even sizes. They can be rented or owned, on wheels or set on a foundation. They can be independent structures or part of a larger home or property. Tiny homes can be designed by the owner or purchased by companies who produce them.

Curbed reports that Escape Tiny Homes, a Wisconsin-based manufacturer, saw business grow as much as 200 percent over the last few years. The company plans to add two more factories and ramp up production to a thousand units a year.

The ultimate goal: living better in smaller, more efficient space.

In the culture at large, tiny houses have become big — an actual social movement. People are consciously choosing to downsize their space and live in — and with — less. To many, this is equated with freedom.

According to The Tiny Life website, the typical American home is around 2,600 square feet; the definition of a tiny house includes a typical square footage of between 100 and 400 square feet.Of course, one of the major advantages of the tiny life is financial. For most Americans, ⅓ to ½ of their income is dedicated to shelter, and a great deal of stress comes from figuring out how to afford to pay rent or the mortgage. The Tiny Life website figures that you spend at least 15 years of your working life paying for a place to live, and that 76 percent of all Americans are officially living paycheck to paycheck as a result.

The movement is believed to have started when Sarah Susanka published a book called The Not So Big House in 1997. Of course, we can also go back to Henry David Thoreau’s plea for a simple life in his book Walden, published in 1854. Thoreau detailed his experience living for over two years in a small cabin he built near Concord, Massachusetts. The book became a bible for modest, humble living, close to nature. It resonates with the culture to this day.

According to Compact Appliance, here are the most tiny-house friendly towns in the United States:

  • Spur, Texas: the town has decided to allow the construction of tiny homes under minimal restrictions in-order to attract new residences. Spur does not require any special permits to build a tiny home (but the home must be built on a foundation).
  • Fresno, California: Fresno was the first city in California to allow secondary dwelling units with wheels on residential lots, with no caregiver requirement. The city amended its code to allow tiny homes to be built on trailers.
  • Walsenburg, Colorado: the city changed its zoning rules to allow tiny homes to be built on residential lots. These houses must be constructed on foundations permanently (not on trailers), and they must hook up to city utilities.
  • Brevard, North Carolina: a tiny house built here must not exceed 800 square feet. The city has published a specific guide to building a tiny house, listing steps for permitting and building a secondary dwelling on an existing property.

 

Although, every trend has its downside. Not every city or state in the country welcomes tiny houses with open arms. In fact, zoning codes may be specifically designed to prevent tiny houses from happening.
Travel Well magazine reports that buying fewer things often means more packaging per ounce/item, since buying in bulk is usually a better way to reduce wasteful packaging. Minimal storage means less room for leftovers and less room to prep meals for the week. General storage space could be in short supply, and not as easily accessible as you might like or need. Tiny houses may not be an ideal place for pets, especially dogs, and could make for a lot of the extra cleaning you were hoping to avoid.

However, the pros may outweigh the cons for some people. Tiny House Statistics reports that 9 percent of tiny house owners have less credit card debt than the average American; 60 percent of tiny house owners have no credit card debt at all; 55 percent of tiny house owners have more savings in the bank than the average homeowner. Also reported: 68 percent of tiny house owners do not have any mortgage.

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