It’s no secret that more and more homeowners are denouncing traditional housing structures for “small home living.” Tiny homes, microstudios, independent “accessory dwelling units”: Whatever you want to call them, these diminutive residences appear to be growing larger in popularity across the country. In fact, dramatically downsizing one’s home (to as tiny as 150 square feet, in some cases) is becoming so popular that entire communities of these miniature dwellings are beginning to sprout in the United States.
From communities of 150- and 200-square-foot homes in Washington, D.C., to the jewel box-size microstudios in Louisville, Ky., to neighborhoods in Portland, Ore., stuffed with teensy accessory-dwelling units (now ubiquitous after Portland waived the development fee for the small, independent-living units), to tiny home villages in Northern California, there’s no doubt about it. The concept of living small is getting, well, big.
“It’s all about economic freedom and flexibility, and deciding what’s essential and important in your life,” said Lee Pera, 36, one of the founders of Boneyard Studios, a tiny home community located in northeastern Washington’s Stronghold neighborhood. “It’s about moving more of your life to the community and the outdoors rather than designing your home to meet every need you have: Using the local coffee shop, the gym, spending time in parks and other public spaces.”
Boneyard Studios comprises only elfin dwellings no larger than 200 square feet, some still under construction. The houses are built on wheels to skirt local zoning requirements regarding the minimum size for “habitable structures.” Though each home looks radically different — some boast cedar walls, some have loft windows and gabled roofs — each home maximizes every inch of interior living space, and is both eco-friendly and cost-effective.
Building a home at Boneyard Studios using standard construction materials, for example, will cost between $20,000 and $25,000 — less than the average down payment on a two-bedroom apartment in Washington. Some have even been able to build homes for cheaper — $5,000 to $10,000 — by using only salvaged materials, Pera said. Expenses are driven down even further by lowered operational and maintenance costs.
“With the economic downturn that has forced many to lose their houses, and the high cost of real estate, we think small structures like tiny houses and accessory dwelling units are viable [housing] options,” added Pera.
In Louisville, the residents of a two-story redbrick Colonial on Taylorsville Road are also singing the praises of tiny home living. The condo building is comprised of 40 units no larger than 600 square feet each (three times the size of the microhomes at Boneyard Studios, but less than a third of the size of the average American home — 2,100 square feet). According to Patrick Hohman, the president of the building’s condo association, the housing size and shared maintenance costs throughout the building are rare in the affluent neighborhood studded with “stately” houses.
“We are about the most affordable housing in this upscale ZIP code,” Hohman told AOL Real Estate. “Our future is bright because we have more ‘European-size’ living spaces, [reminiscent of] a time of greater economy.”
Though it’s easy to assume that the members of these tiny home communities and buildings are either penny-pinching hipsters or granola hippies, both Hohman and Pera say that tiny home dwellers are a diverse group of quite “normal” individuals. “We are very much an eclectic mixture of retirees; twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings; single, first-time homebuyers; and a few couples,” said Hohman of his tiny condo complex on Taylorsville Road. Tiny-home architect Stephanie Horowitz, of design firm Zero Energy Design, adds that while house hunters’ motivations for downsizing might be similar, her client base is broad.
“We’re seeing homeowners of all family sizes and ages, plenty of ‘regular’ people,” Horowitz told AOL Real Estate. “The common thread seems to be living in a way that expresses their personal values, be it a need for a more compact footprint or a simpler way of living.”