Given the extremely high cost of housing in some of the major metropolitan areas in the US, there has been a spurt in the tiny house movement, where very small available parcels of land are being used to build tiny homes, some as small as 120 square feet. There are even TV shows that feature these homes. These houses are quite ingenious in how they maximize the use of space.
On the surface, this option looks appealing for people who like to live a minimalist lifestyle. But it does have its drawbacks, as this person recounts about her own experience in living in a 240 square foot one. She was forced into this option because of high rents rather than it being a lifestyle choice.
I recognize the value of this type of tiny house, called an accessory dwelling unit or ADU, in theory. In built-up cities with little extra land and residents who fight development, adding tiny cottages in backyards is one way to help address the housing shortage. The small size saves energy and curbs my shopping habits, since there literally isn’t any room for, say, another pair of shoes.
It’s small enough that doing anything—getting the vacuum from a tiny closet or something out of a drawer in the kitchen—often involves a Tetris-like game of moving multiple other things out of the way.
My bathroom, a 3-by-6-foot “wet room” with a walk-in shower, is so small that it doesn’t have a sink, and I have to use the nearby kitchen sink to brush my teeth.
To be fair, the house is beautifully designed, with huge windows and a full, if diminutive, kitchen. For a few days or a couple of weeks, it would be a very comfortable place to stay.
Tiny houses are being offered as a solution to the crisis in affordable housing and even as an option for the homeless. The crisis is only going to get worse as housing prices in these areas rapidly outstrip incomes.
In the 1960s, the average homebuyer in the Bay Area paid around twice their annual income for a house. Today, it takes around nine times the median household income (in the area, that income is around $100,000).
One report found earlier this year that renting a two-bedroom apartment is unaffordable for minimum wage workers in every state.
This bit from the sketch comedy show Portlandia looks at tiny houses.