The tiny house movement began long before the pandemic, as early as the 70s. Today, a tiny house measures around 400 square feet or 37 square meters or less, with an average height of eight feet. They are built like houses with all the customizations that the owners need. Most are built on trailers, some are made from container vans, and others are built on foundations. Those who build their tiny houses with wheels usually intend to travel around the country with them.
Affordability of Tiny Homes
During the pandemic, the steep increase in rent and the price of houses in the market has led more people to consider tiny house living. In May 2021, the price of a typical home reached $278,148, which is 13.2 percent higher than the previous year. In April 2021, single-family home rents increased by 5.3 percent from April 2020.
Prices of tiny homes have also increased, but they are still more affordable, with an average cost of about $60,000. DIY tiny houses can cost as low as $8,000, while more luxurious builds can cost up to $180,000. There are further savings from energy costs because it is much cheaper to heat or cool a tiny space. Some owners install solar panels for even more energy savings.
For people who cannot afford a big mortgage or do not want to keep on paying rent, it is a viable option. A study found that during the pandemic, 56 percent of respondents in the U.S. stated that they would move into a tiny house. Among first-time home buyers, 86 percent chose a tiny house as their first home.
Streamlining and Eliminating Excess
Because of the size of a tiny house, owners have no choice but to pare down their belongings. Whatever they keep must be well-thought-out, ideally serve multiple functions, and be of the best quality to last long. Thrift is, after all, a large part of the tiny house movement.
For instance, a kitchen in a tiny house can have a small oven and stove but only a pot and a grill pan. Both have to be fit for use in the oven and on the stove. Many dishes and meals can come from these two items alone.
Clothes and shoes must also be kept to the essentials since closet space is limited. People who choose to live in tiny houses must have a minimalist mindset and turn their backs on mindless consumerism. The space also naturally leads to a more contemplative, mindful, and intentional lifestyle. Owners of tiny houses carefully consider and value every item and provide it a specific place. Hence, there is no clutter. They use every inch of space wisely.
Legal Standing in the U.S.
In some parts of the U.S., zoning laws do not recognize tiny houses and, therefore, do not allow them on private property even with the property owner’s consent. California, however, mandated in January 2020 that cities and counties must promote and incentivize the building of accessory dwelling units (ADU) as low-rent options for low-to-moderate-income households.
The state legally recognized tiny houses as ADUs, thereby permitting them to park on a zoned property. Tiny houses, however, must have a minimum of 100 square feet of inside living space on their first floor. There are also separate requirements for tiny houses with wheels and those without wheels on a concrete foundation.
Other states have varying laws. Tiny houses are allowed in Maine, but they must be less than 400 square feet with adequate sleeping accommodations for all their occupants. In Colorado, certain cities and towns are open to tiny houses and do not set a specific size for them. Most areas in Nevada allow tiny houses, but they must have a minimum of 200 square feet of interior space.
In South Dakota, a tiny house for a single occupant must not be less than 190 square feet, with 50 square feet more for every additional occupant. In North Carolina, a tiny house with a single occupant must be not less than 150 square feet, with 100 square feet more for every additional occupant.
In Florida, five cities have no minimum size requirements for tiny houses. These are Longwood, Oviedo, Casselberry, Winterpark, and Orlando. St. Petersburg requires a tiny house to be between 375 to 750 square feet. Orange County has a minimum requirement of 400 square feet. Dixie County and Pasco County have a minimum requirement of 450 square feet. Other areas allow tiny houses but require them to be larger than usual.
Downsize to the Right Size
Downsizing to a tiny house is not a downgrade but rather a move to the right size for the owners. For some, it may have been for financial reasons at first. But inevitably, the move leads to a complete shift in perspective and lifestyle.