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Tiny Homes May be the Answer to Rising Housing Costs


Tiny Homes May be the Answer to Rising Housing Costs

The Tiny Home Lifestyle Costs Less But Requires More Creativity

When it comes to creativity, nothing requires thinking outside of the box quite like shrinking your living space.

Over half of the population in the United States would consider living in a tiny home, according to a recent housing survey. That number rises to almost two-thirds among millennials.

As concern grows about climate change and people feel a greater sense of urgency to live a sustainable lifestyle, tiny houses are an environmentally sound choice compared to their larger, less efficient counterparts.

Tiny homes are sustainable and affordable

But sustainability isn’t the only reason people are turning to tiny homes. It’s also less expensive.

That’s nudged people in some of the most expensive cities in the nation—like Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Washington, DC—to trade in some of their earthly possessions for a simpler, smaller lifestyle.

In D.C., within the past decade, median home values have doubled, according to Micro Showcase, a D.C.-based organization devoted to helping people live a micro lifestyle. Rent for a one-bedroom unit has increased 50 percent.

With more than a quarter of D.C. renters spending more than half of their income on housing, D.C. has earned the unfortunate status of one of the least affordable places to live in the nation.

Many people are turning to tiny homes as a way to experience the American dream of homeownership without the stifling burden of expensive, 30-year mortgages.

Zoning plays a part

In 2016, the Washington, D.C. Board of Zoning loosened regulations on tiny house construction, making it easier to build and rent out micro-homes to people who don’t qualify for affordable housing programs but can’t afford to keep up with the rising costs of homeownership in D.C.

Brian Levy, a builder and architect with Micro Showcase, believes that tiny homes are helping to change the way people look at housing in D.C.

Levy says, “The past decade has seen a wave of gentrification in D.C. that has made it difficult for anyone to live cheaply. So be it low-income residents, recent graduates, interns, retirees, or anyone without an $80K/year job, the city is not getting more affordable.”

He goes on to say, “When we’re all putting in long hours just to survive, it seems we become worse neighbors/spouses/parents/friends/lovers, and often just a bit less interesting. Is it possible we could have a small-scale, affordable, attractive urban infill?  Could we eventually develop a D.C.-based network of small house contractors building and financing mobile studios with a $300 monthly payment?”

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Good design is key to micro-housing

Tiny house architects and builders recognize micro-living as an accessible path to sustainability and affordable housing, but the benefits don’t stop there.

Many people believe that comfort and convenience must be traded in exchange for tiny house living. The team at Micro Showcase disagrees. They seek to discredit the perception that tiny houses are second rate. They do so by amplifying design, livability, and convenience. Therefore, these become equal factors to affordability and sustainability when choosing a micro home.

According to their mission statement, “…smaller housing can be recognized as more affordable, simpler, functional, greener, and modest, but until it’s cool/sexy/hip, there will be limited mass appeal and demand. Thus, excellence in design and architecture (making small beautiful + livable + affordable) and effective marketing to promote cultural acceptance of micro-housing are the priorities.”

As the cost of traditional D.C. housing continues to rise, tiny living will likely continue to make a big impact. Ideally, this impact impacts the accessibility of homeownership with a smaller footprint on our planet.

Where tiny homes are taking root

  • Seattle: With more than 3,000 units across the city, Seattle is the nation’s micro-housing pioneer. Seattle permits living units down to 90 square feet.
  • NYC: has a 400 square feet minimum apartment size rule.  The city waived that zoning rule for the NYC Adapt project, which has 55 units of 370 square feet.
  • DC: is home to a growing number of tiny homes. A recent project includes PN Hoffman’s Wharf. It has 170 micro-units of 330-380 square feet. In addition, several other developers have micro-units in their pipeline. 
  • San Francisco: The city recently approved a trial of 375 units, some as small as 220 square feet.
  • Boston: is developing 195 units, with a size of 350 square feet.

SOURCE: Micro Showcase

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