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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109 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.

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