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Society

States, Towns Ban Affordable Tiny Houses

| by Michael Allen

Popular and affordable, tiny houses are an alternate way to live and the homes are usually 500 square feet or smaller.

Some cities have welcomed the homes, which have appeared on HGTV reality shows such as "Tiny House, Big Living" and "Tiny House Hunters," while other state and local governments have banned tiny houses, reports PBS.

Tiny house owners may be less materialistic than large homeowners, prefer not to have a lifetime mortgage hanging over their heads or may believe in protecting the environment.

Some large home owners fear that tiny houses will drive down their property values.

"People using affordable housing are a diverse group," Robert Silverman, of the University of Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning, told PBS. "You’ve got retired people, disabled people, families. A 300-square-foot trailer with a loft up top may not be suited for all those groups."

Sarah Hastings said some folks in Hadley, Massachusetts, were afraid of her 190-square-foot home because it might cause the town to be overrun with people who don't conform to traditional-size houses.

"There was kind of a backlash," Hastings said. "It only takes a few people saying 'Oh, there’ll be 500 of them.'"

The Wall Street Journal noted in June that the median size of a new single-family house was 2,467 square feet in 2015, based on Census Bureau data, which is a 61 percent increase from 1975. Close to 96 percent of the new homes built in 2015 had at least two bathrooms, compared to 60 percent in 1975.

Bill Rockhill, the founding president of the American Tiny House Association and a tiny house builder in New York, told PBS that tiny house builders try to follow building codes for houses or RVs. But not all zoning requirements can always be met. Rockhill said that some code enforcers are flexible on certain safety rules.

Dan Buuck of the National Association of Home Builders insisted that some tiny houses are dangerous because smoke can gather more quickly in buildings with low ceilings or lofts, while ladders and small windows make it difficult for people to get out of a tiny house fire.

PBS noted some of the other challenges that tiny houses face:

Most communities have minimum square footage requirements for single-family homes mandating that smaller dwellings be an "accessory" to a larger, traditional house. Many also have rules requiring that dwellings be hooked up to utilities, which is a problem for tiny-house enthusiasts who want to live off the grid by using alternative energy sources such as solar panels and rainwater catchment systems.

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