New Year, Fresh Excitement: Tiny Home Movement Status
Hello Friends, Happy New Year!
My name is Alaska, aka the Tiny House Concierge. If you're just tuning in, I'm a writer and tiny house dweller who pops in a couple of times a month to share my experience of the tiny house lifestyle. We have just been gifted a new year, and to that end, I feel that an orientation is in order. What is the current state of the tiny home movement? Where is it headed? And (most importantly!) how can we do our part to move things forward?
Knowing where the industry stands is tricky; after all, there is a ton of conflicting information out there! On internet forum A, Jane says that tiny houses are illegal; meanwhile, on internet forum B, John says he's been happily living in one for years. Oh, and that he lives down the street from Jane!
Maybe you've heard that tiny houses are four hundred square feet or less, but if this is true, then why are people referring to their six hundred square foot vacation cabins as "tiny homes?" Do RVs count? Is a tiny house an RV? And why does Sandra at the DMV insist that the DMV doesn't handle houses, while your mortgage loan officer won't give you a traditional mortgage because a tiny home is not, in fact, a house?
It is enough to make you Lose. Your. Mind.
How do I know? Because last year was my first year living tiny, and I had to sort through every single one of these pieces!
So what did I learn about the current state of the tiny home movement? Well, for starters, I learned that it is still in a pioneering stage.
This surprised me! I'd been hearing about tiny living for years, so I assumed that the industry was relatively well established. I came to learn, however, that the rules and regulations for handling tiny houses were actually still being written. You should know that this continues to be the case heading into 2022.
While we still have a lot to figure out, there is one thing we do know: that we are desperately seeking a simpler way of life. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, we Americans were up to our ears in debt and stress. More than ever, we want to feel in control of our lives. We want to have enough, whatever 'enough' means, and we want a sense of well-being that here-to-fore has not existed in our purview.
I believe that tiny houses- and perhaps to a greater extent, the tiny house lifestyle- could very well hold the key to the things we seek! That being said, there is still plenty that needs to be done to make tiny houses an easily accessible option.
So what needs to happen for the movement to flourish? Well, I'll get to that, but first, let's have a moment of gratitude for all that has been accomplished thus far.
Coming into 2022, we can celebrate tiny home movement accomplishments so far...
- Tiny houses on wheels have been invented! Woo hoo!
- Tiny houses have (pretty much) been defined. There are still a few particulars to be worked out, but industry leaders largely agree that a tiny house is four hundred square feet or less and built using traditional housing materials on a foundation or chassis (trailer).
- Appendix Q, aka "tiny house building code," has been written into the International Residential Code. This addition addresses tiny-house-specific features like ladders or compact stairs, reduced ceiling heights, and smaller square footages. It does NOT, however, address the wheels aspect of tiny houses on wheels.
- The city of Los Angeles has recognized movable tiny homes as legal ADUs (accessory dwelling units). In other words, you can legally park a tiny house on wheels in most backyards in Los Angeles, provided there is also a traditional home on the property.
- Maine recently legalized tiny homes! Individual cities can still find ways to forbid them, but at least Maine has recognized movable tiny houses as a viable housing option at the state level.
- More tiny home communities (for THOWs) like Lake Dallas Tiny Home Village in Texas are starting to crop up.
- Organizations like the Tiny House Industry Association have been created to give us a resource library that features tiny house vendors of all kinds.
- And more!
Whew! Just fifteen years ago, tiny houses were simple, DIY structures built by pioneers like Jay Shafer and Dee Williams. Today, they are responsible for a rapidly growing movement that attracts everyone from affluent millennials to retirees looking for simple solutions to age in place.
So, where do we go from here? What are the next steps to be taken in the tiny house movement?
Well, recent tiny house forum polls suggest that two main things hold people back from going tiny: money and parking.
Therefore, I humbly suggest we focus on those areas.
As far as money goes, let's do our best this year to financially educate ourselves. Some of us will need to raise our credit; others will need to change our spending habits or reduce debt to become qualified borrowers. Some of us will need to save or increase income to afford a downpayment. Bottom line, the more financially educated we are, the more equipped we will be to solve our most expensive problem- housing.
As far as tiny house parking, I think we need to be patient as well as proactive; planning department officials do not have magic wands. Let's trust that they want what's best for their citizens, and let's not underestimate our power to help them in the legalization process! For laws to be passed, officials must understand what tiny houses are and how they could benefit the community.
You- tiny house enthusiast reading this article- might just be the spark your city needs to get the conversation started! Suppose you have it in you to lead the charge.
In that case, I recommend you start by watching the free, two-part documentary series on YouTube called Living Tiny Legally. (Part 3, coming soon!) This series was created by Alexis and Christian, the amazing humans behind Tiny House Expedition! I promise you; there is no better source for learning how to approach your planning department from a position of strength.
None of this will be easy, but I maintain that the tiny house lifestyle is worth the effort.
A tiny house has played a significant role in reducing the chaos and stress in my life. My life finally feels manageable because my house has taught me to live within my circle of control.
In fact, when I think about what I want for the world going into 2022, it's that: that we all live within our circle of control. May we have clarity on the things we need and value, and may we have access to the tools necessary to obtain those things. It's this clarity that will keep our lives from growing too big again.
Life will always be a work in progress, but still, I feel significant change on the horizon. Moreover, I'm confident in the ability of the tiny house movement to teach us what we need to know about creating well-being in our future. Our lives belong to us, so if you agree, grab your pioneering spirit and let's step into our power; it's going to take a village.
Until next time,
Alaska is a writer, realtor, and tiny homeowner living in the great state of Colorado. She is the founder of The Tiny House Concierge, a company that provides education and consultation services for people looking to re-think their housing and re-write their lives. You can find her on Instagram: @tinyhouseconcierge.
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