Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Top 5 Biggest Barriers To The Tiny House Movement

I was driving into work today when the idea came to me for this article.  Why does it have to be so difficult to achieve the life so many of us would love to live?  There are no simple answers to our reasons, but we need to face them head on.  Since I don’t like to focus on the negatives too much, my next post will be on some of the possible solutions and approaches to overcome these barriers.

UPDATE:   Here are the solutions to these:   Part 1  and Part 2

 

Land

One of the largest hurdles for people wanting to live in a Tiny House is access to land.  Land is expensive, in growing short supply and people want a balance of having land and being close to city or town centers where they can access services, entertainment and employment.  These things are often in conflict with each other.  The closer to the city center, the smaller and more expensive the lots.  To have a Tiny House, you don’t need much land for the actual house, but you do need enough to be able to obscure the house from prying eyes in order to fly under the radar of code enforcement and curmudgeons.

Loans

At this point, banks don’t feel that Tiny Houses are a viable option because they don’t have a good resale value.  This means their loan isn’t secured with collateral.  It is this dynamic that means for us to get access to loans, we need to get creative.  Some borrow from a family member, some save up years to pay with cash, others use credit cards and carry a balance.  There isn’t a good answer in this area yet, it’s a tough problem to crack.

Laws

Despite the approach of putting a tiny house on trailer, this isn’t the magic bullet that it is often claimed to be.  The issue comes when you look at your municipality’s minimum habitable structure definition.  These definitions almost always exclude Tiny Houses from being a dwelling and give code enforcement a strong leg to stand on when it comes to condemning your Tiny Home and/or levying fines.  This code does serve a good purpose; it prevents abuse on the part of slum lords and gives a mechanism for the courts to hold slum lords accountable.

Social Pressures

In our society today, bigger is better, more is better, we are conditioned to want more and more stuff.  These cultural norms are a very strong current in maintaining the status quo.  Tiny Houses fly in the face of such things, questioning much of what people hold dear.  People can react in a very visceral way when we suggest there is a problem with the way things are.  People work their whole lives to get as much stuff as they can, to suggest that is wrong, in a way, is to suggest their life’s work is wrong.  People can get very defensive and social pressures can make the shift to living a simple life in a Tiny House very difficult with some people.  We need to be sure not to come off as judgmental or preachy, we want to present it simply as an alternative.

Fear

This ties into a few of the above points, but is none the less a real barrier.  When faced with the prospect of bucking the system, initiating a radical lifestyle change, and spending a good chunk of money to do it, it can be scary.  I know from personal experience when you are close to the moment where you must make the decision, where you have to take the leap, a whole series of self-doubts come to the surface.  You are left trying to decide if these doubts are simply normal big decision jitters or if they are valid concerns your unconscious is trying to make you aware of.  The sorting of these thoughts and processing of them is taxing, a little emotional, and of course scary.  Even those of us who deal with change well will struggle with this significantly, fear is a powerful emotion and we must face it to achieve our goal.

What are some ways we can over come these?

Let us know in the comments!


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119 Comments
  1. Recently my wife and I decided to build a smaller place, so we took a look at sub 1000 sq ft plans and were very surprised to discover several we really like. My brother and I looked at the plans, he’s a house builder, and worked out a time frame, 3 days to dry it in on a slab. I’m gonna video the entire process for those that want to see how we do it, complete with permits, estimating, framing math, etc…

    • To many 1000 sq ft is downsizing, but true tiny houses are much smaller. Good luck with your new home.

      • Wheelan,

        If you look again, you’ll see he said “SUB 1,000 sq. ft.,” which could be all the way down to 200 sq. ft.

    • Rich that is the size we are looking for. I’m having trouble getting code and regularion info from my city and finding plans we like. Where did you get your plans? How did you find out about restrictions? I’d love to see your video and follow your progress. Thanks and good luck!

    • hi Rich, i’m about 1/2 yr behind in finding your post so hope you see this & find time to reply. Building a comfy, cozy, small home has been my dream since 1999 & i hope to be living the dream within 2 yrs. After much thought & extensive research I’ve decided 500sqr’ (give or take 50 or 60)is the minimum I can comfortably live with long term. I’ve narrowed it down to 3 plans ranging 430-550 sqr’. You said you’ve looked at sub-1000 sqr’ plans and so it seems that your vision is much like that of my own. I was wondering what size plan did you go with and where you’re building? I’m very interested in all the details about codes, estimates etc & would like very much to see the vids of your progress & the entire building process beginning to end. I’m thankful i’ve finally found someone of like mind that’s willing to share their experience. Thank you so much in advance!

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  4. Really wish builders in the city would start building tiny home neighborhoods! I’d love it! Could build one in the country but then you’re stuck in a tiny house 24/7 with nothing to do or anywhere to go!

    Don’t see it really taking soon b/c Americans think they “need” 2,000+ sq ft to live!! Sad!

    • Americans are being told incessantly that they are ‘consumers’ as if that’s a good thing – I was at the doc’s today waiting for someone and read a rare Woman’s Day magazine – it was 99% ads hidden as ‘feature articles’ with dozens of pretty things you were encouraged to buy to re-decorate or renovate your house, with price and source handily mentioned. A discussion of weight loss on one page followed by a ridiculously rich dessert on another… it’s obscene. ALL the magazines are like this, encouraging a blatantly costly lifestyle, redecorating to impress people, and the underlying theme is ‘you’re not good enough, your house isn’t good enough, spend more, spend more, spend more. Resisting it all takes an act of willpower on a daily basis, and turning off all commercial (heh) inputs from the teevee to the radio to magazines. Oh, and use ABP (AdBlock Plus) on your computer to block ads there too… I look forward to the day that the building codes are changed to allow a person to do what they want on their own lot (when that flag they’ve been waving in our face actually means ‘freedom’) and when the building codes are changed to accommodate everyone, not just the rich and those with enough money to pay the fees and ‘hookup’ charges that are now required to build even a modest house.

      Someone needs to sue to allow tiny house and off grid housing to be ‘allowed’ constitutionally…

      • “But what about the resale value?” is what I often hear.

        Well, damn. I’m not planning to sell it, I’m planning to live in it.

        When did our dwelling places come to be seen as a supposed money maker?

  5. I have 5 acres of land that I’d love to make into a tiny home village. I don’t have resources of where to begin. It is near Longmont CO on hi way 287.
    Any advice or developer contacts?

    • You might want to contact the local code enforcers/county planning office and ask them what would be involved. It shouldn’t be much different from a mobile home park, but that’s complicated enough. I imagine getting the infrastructure set up, water and sewers, not to mention electricity, would entail big bucks worth of investments. I *have* found though that an ad in Craigslist requesting ‘parking’ spaces for a tiny home, hookup to house water hose and possibly electric with shower privileges if needed are available. People need the money and are willing to deal, especially if they have enough land to hide the trailer on. I had one person respond that they needed an on site ‘guard’ for their avocado farm when they were out of town and were willing to provide parking space for free in return.

  6. I am building regular homes here in Florida and we put solar panels and solar hot water heaters on all our homes. I was thinking this might be something to branch out into since most of these tiny homes are usually off the grid or on a trailer. The solar panels should cover all the energy needs and Im sure you could drill a well (depending on the area) and put an electric pump on it for water. What do these tiny houses typically use for sewer if not available?

    • Composting toilets and gray way garden watering in lieu of sewer hookups… I’ve been wondering if solar panels (in the right climate) would work to source fresh water; there are devices that work the same as a dehumidifier to pull water out of the air and after filtration whether this would be enough for a tiny house’s needs. I’m thinking coastal areas especially, desert not so much but if it worked there, it would work anywhere.

      • Ok thanks for the information. I was thinking about the comp toilets but I think they can get pricey…not sure. Haven’t heard about grabbing moisture from the air. Sounds very interesting.

        On a side note, what is the market like for these tiny houses? Are there a good amount of people actually buying/building their own tiny homes? I’m thinking about possibly building and selling these tiny houses. We already build regular houses with solar and I think it might be a good fit if the need is there.

        • I think the market is just getting going and there will be a real call for these as word gets out and perhaps some towns amend their codes; I’m also quite sure that there are plenty of ‘stealth’ campers out there hiding in backyards and in rural locations, hoping for the best. There are now dozens (an estimate) of tiny house builders out there, do some research on line and you’ll find plenty of them. What is really needed is a way to pay for them since a mortgage is hard to get for something like this, and the main reason people are doing this is because their funds are limited – if you’re willing to ‘rent to buy’ or be paid on=ver time, you’ll have a leg up on the competition. Consider installing a hidden GPS chip in the body of the house to find it if it ‘goes missing’ before you’re fully paid off… as far as the ‘water from air’ idea, I’ve toyed with it but can’t figure out exactly how much water could be sourced that way; much depends on overnight dew levels and fog, as well as water catchment of yearly rainfall but trucked in water is quite cheap as a supplement if you have the holding tanks.

        • Hey Kevin!! I wish you lived closer toMichigan! I have an empty lot on a lake channel and want to build a home there, but they won’t allow a tiny house. Now I want to find someone to build me the bare minimum requirement of 24×24 720 sq ft minimum living space. I’d love to go mostly off grid, but can’t find anyone reasonably priced to do the build!!

          • Kristi,

            Will they allow a tiny house on a trailer with wheels? I have seen some tiny houses on wheels and they might be considered RV’s and fall under different rules. If they do allow it you could have it built anywhere and just drive it to your property. I would love to start building Tiny Houses!

          • Hi Kevin. Trailers are only allowed for approx. 3 months and then they have to be moved. I’d like a ‘tiny house’ on a slab so it could eventually be my permanent residence.

          • Ok, yes then it would have to be built according to all the local building codes. This would add time and costs to the build but it would be the permanent structure you want. What is the cost difference your getting between a tiny home on a slab and other typical tiny homes?

          • I looked into a tiny home here before I found out they were not going to be allowed on the site, and it was $39,000. So far the quote I am getting on a 785 sq ft shell is closeto $80,000. We need the foundation on engineered piers which will cost us about $20,000. I’d love to have just a simple tiny house!!! I wish the county would change their minds and allow it!!! I want to go tiny!! Lol

  7. I have been watching tiny house nation and tiny house big living. Ever since I started watching these shows I have been doing a great deal of research on this houses. I would love to obtain one so much but my issue is where to get one and to put it. I live in upstate NY but my plans are to move next spring to Buck Co Pa. I just research financing tiny homes and some topics came up saying it’s possible. After reading the blogs not so sure now. Does anyone know for sure about this?

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