The Why Behind Tiny Houses

by | Mar 19, 2017

The Why Behind Tiny Houses

Find out what’s fueling the tiny house trend and what it means for municipalities like yours.

If you read our last post about “Keeping Up with the Tiny House Trend,” you know that these little dwellings are posing big challenges for municipalities across the nation. Although tiny houses continue to rise in popularity, most municipalities have not adjusted their building codes and ordinances to accommodate and regulate them, causing confusion and strife for community leaders, municipal staff, and residents.

The good news? Municipalities like yours can beat building code challenges that come with tiny houses by preparing ahead of time and developing regulations specific to these small housing structures.

As your municipality considers how to approach tiny houses in your building codes and ordinances, it helps to understand some of the motivations driving this trend, the possible benefits for your community, and the main reasons to be prepared.


Affordability is a primary motivator for people who practice tiny living. Yet it’s also a potential benefit for growing communities. Offering affordable housing is a struggle for many cities and towns across the country, and tiny houses can provide a practical solution for communities facing this all-too-common challenge.

According to the US Census Bureau, the cost to build an average size home is approximately $272,000. Add $209,704 in interest on a 4.25 percent 30-year loan, and the grand total for a standard American home comes to $481,704. For most Americans, this means that one third to one half of their paycheck goes toward their house. Meanwhile, the average tiny house costs a mere $23,000 to build (if constructed by the owner). It’s not surprising then, that 68 percent of tiny house owners are mortgage free, compared to 29.3 percent of all US homeowners.

Environmental Impact

Homeowners and municipalities can share in another feature that’s pushing tiny house popularity. Because they consume less space and fewer resources, tiny homes tend to have a smaller environmental footprint—a possible plus for both residents and communities that value sustainable living.

The average tiny house not only requires far less lumber and land space to construct, but also consumes 85 kilowatts per year of electricity compared to the 639 kilowatts used to power a standard size home. Additionally, these dwellings can be entirely self-contained and built off-grid, generating their own water and electricity.

The freedom of simplicity

Yet another powerful motivator for homeowners to go tiny is to experience the freedom of simpler living. Tiny homes require minimal interior cleaning and maintenance, letting homeowners spend less time keeping up their house and more time doing things they love to do. And because many tiny homes are mobile or built on very small lots, owners of tiny houses escape the responsibility of excessive yard maintenance.

The mobility of many tiny houses also allows homeowners to travel freely—taking the comforts of home right along with them. Plus, advocates of tiny living say that being forced to par down one’s possessions is liberating in its own right and helps one focus on what’s really important.

Tiny houses might offer a range of attractive benefits for homeowners and communities, but they also come with a smattering of logistical challenges when municipalities aren’t ready to deal with them from a building code standpoint.

To stay ahead of tiny home problems and take hold of the potential perks for your community, read our next post about ways to brace yourself for the tiny house movement.


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