The “tiny house movement” is a social, environmental, architectural, and counterculture movement that fits within, and is best understood as an extension of, the broader voluntary simplicity movement. The fundamental underlying assumption of downsizing is that living small will allow homeowners to reduce their environmental impact and increase the affordability of living expenses. By rejecting a high consumption lifestyle, proponents aim to lead a more sustainable life with a greater sense of community and increased freedom and mobility. Some proponents are also optimistic that the tiny house movement could address an array of housing issues, specifically combat shortages of affordable housing in the United States. While tiny homes have grabbed the attention of mainstream television shows and the general public, this recent attention has sparked limited but substantial skepticism of the current tiny house movement. Critics have identified several barriers to proliferation, including issues of property rights, zoning laws, over romanticism, and commodification of sustainability. There is great uncertainty as to how to classify, define, and incorporate these homes within existing legal framework.
In order to address the feasibility of potential future tiny house development and proliferation, this presentation provides a comprehensive overview of the types of tiny homes and where they fit within the scope of existing laws. Through interviews with tiny house homeowners across the country and an examination of zoning and building laws, this research aims to improve the understanding of the main motivations and challenges of the movement. This work identifies current municipal and state laws as the most limiting factors to the expansion of the movement and suggests areas of improvement for building codes and zoning laws. Lastly, this research explores various niche housing markets as potential sites for tiny house adoption and proliferation. Student housing and homeless housing markets are found to be the most feasible in development and most successful in aiding the expansion of the tiny house movement.