27 Jun Tiny Houses: Helping Solve Our Big Housing Problem?
They’re officially called Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), but you probably know them as tiny houses. They’re small, carefully designed, tidy and, well, adorable. People are fascinated by these little houses for a lot of reasons. They’ve become part of the conversation about the housing crisis that has become a global issue. Our population and job market have grown dramatically, but there’s no place for workers to live. Tiny houses are helping us solve our big housing problem.
Tiny houses share a lot with the main residence
By definition, ADUs share a single-family lot with a larger, primary dwelling, though they can be located within, attached to or detached from the main residence. (Garage apartments and backyard cottages are classified as ADUs.) As an independent living space, an ADU is self-contained, and it may have an open-space floorplan. ADUs are springing up everywhere these days–in cities, in suburbs and in rural areas. ADUs help improve housing affordability and diversify a community’s housing profile without changing the physical character of a neighborhood. They may be completely invisible from the street or to neighbors.
There are many advantages to ADUs
- Retirement income. For retirees or those thinking about retiring, ADUs can create important retirement income. They’re generally managed by the homeowners who live on the premises.
- Downsizing. Older adults can move into the ADU, downsizing on their own property and renting out the larger house, allowing them to age in place.
- As a guesthouse. ADUs can provide temporary or permanent housing options for parents, adult children, grandchildren or an assisted-care provider.
- Community compatible. ADUs are community-compatible because they’re less visible. It can be easier to gain community support to build an ADU than to build a larger complex.
- Environmentally friendly. Measuring between 600 and 1,000 sq. ft., they’re ideal for today’s smaller, childless households, which are nearly two-thirds of all households in the U.S. It takes fewer resources to build and less energy to maintain an ADU.
I live in a tiny house, which also has a tiny patio
I live in a tiny house that’s really quite spacious, though it’s only 400 sq. ft. But living in a tiny house requires adjustment. It’s not for everyone. I don’t cook or host big dinner parties. I have ridiculously limited counter space. We all love our stuff, but living in a tiny house means getting rid of much of it. It means looking for smaller furniture that can serve dual purposes—anything that doubles as storage is golden. Forget buying in bulk, but do buy lifts for your bed—for just $13 on Amazon, I bought six more luxurious inches of storage space underneath my bed.
ADUs and tiny homes are part of an important housing dialog
We’ve simply run out of places for people to live. Rents soar and the cost of purchasing a home continues to rise. Google has pledged $1B to help build workforce housing in their South Bay community. In January, Microsoft pledged $500M to create affordable housing around its Seattle area housing market. Increasingly, communities are looking to corporations to help assume the cost of housing their workforce.
ADUs can be an important housing option for many Americans
Note that an ADU is not to be confused with the miniscule tiny houses that are sometimes mounted on wheels and moved around to different locations. By definition, ADUs share a lot with the main property. At least for now, there don’t seem to be challenging permit issues associated with building an ADU. They’re on your own property and perfectly legal. ADUs are transcending demographics and providing badly needed housing options.
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