Is the tiny house trend practical?
- While the average size of a single-family home in 2018 was about 2,600 sq. ft., a tiny house usually does not exceed 500 sq. ft. and is typically 400 sq. ft. at most.
- The concept of tiny houses is said to be rooted in the simplicity championed by author Henry David Thoreau; however, it wasn’t until English architect Sarah Susanka wrote “The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Live” in the 1990s that tiny houses gained a popular cultural following.
- In 2015, AARP estimated that two out of every five tiny-house owners were over the age of 50, a trend attributed to financial savings. “The average cost of a standard-sized home in the United States is $272,000 (plus an additional $200,000 or so if the price comes with a 30-year mortgage at current interest rates). The average cost of a tiny house is $23,000 if built by the homeowner. The price tag typically doubles if a builder is used.”
- In the US, California is the state with the most number of tiny houses, followed by Colorado, Florida, Texas, Oregon, and Washington.
One of the main reasons people seek out a tiny-house lifestyle is that tiny houses are supposedly cheaper than regular-sized homes; however, this is not necessarily the case. Tiny houses often cost more per square foot than their larger counterparts primarily because a smaller build tends to use materials less efficiently. Additionally, building a tiny house usually requires a steady income or a large sum of cash savings, making the tiny-house lifestyle harder to attain for lower-income individuals. Even the financial benefits that come from owning a tiny home, such as owning fewer assets, are a short-term individual solution, rather than one that addresses the larger economic problem of wages becoming less livable.
The construction of tiny houses can also come into conflict with local zoning laws. Few councils allow tiny houses, and many homeowners do not support them because they are perceived as a depreciating factor in neighborhoods.
Finally, tiny houses are often built to be mobile. The burning of fossil fuels for mobility is a factor that counteracts the initial green impact of the smaller house. In terms of the bigger picture, however, the burden of environmental responsibility should be on the companies which create the majority of emissions, rather than on individual homeowners. Similar to the economic issue, tiny houses are a misguided way of trying to resolve at the personal level issues which demand actual policy changes to create a real impact.
In terms of cost, a tiny house can be a very affordable option. Prices can range from about $5,000 for a basic home to $150,000, which buys plenty of luxury. Those with the skills to do some or all construction labor and incorporate repurposed materials when building their tiny house can spend far less than the average tiny house cost of $10,000 to $30,000.
If located in temperate climates, tiny house design features can utilize outdoor areas to extend living space beautifully. And incorporating a garden into the overall design--especially taking a high yield, square foot gardening approach--can help reduce day-to-day living expenses. Using renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power also adds to the practicality of tiny-house living. Energy costs can be significantly reduced via smart planning and design, which is better for our environment and our nation’s aging power grid.
The affordability of tiny house living offers many exciting potentials for solving a wide range of social problems. In the right setting, tiny houses can be an invaluable resource for housing the homeless and helping those being released from prison to reintegrate into society. Tiny houses can also be a practical means of helping the aging retain as much of their independence as possible in an assisted-living style community.
While it is certainly possible to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a tiny house, the fact remains that tiny homes can be highly economical to build, power, and live in. Environmentally conscious while offering solid solutions to a variety of housing issues, tiny houses are full of real practicality and exciting potentials.