Recession-scarred Millennials fuel growing interest in tiny homes

Recession-scarred Millennials fuel growing interest in tiny homes

Chapter One


There are apartments, condos, mansions and now, increasingly — tiny houses.

Millennials, some of whom watched their parents struggle to pay mortgages or hold onto their homes and jobs — or lose them —  during the Great Recession, often relish the chance to funnel money toward paying off student loans and to live debt free. A small, but growing number of them are opting for a pared-down way of life residing in structures no bigger than roughly 400 square feet.


There are now an estimated 10,000 tiny houses as people look to take on less financial risk. This has become especially popular for millenials who are looking for cheaper options as they deal with an inconsistent job market and student lone debt.

The number of people living in tiny homes is still, well, small. There are now an estimated 10,000 tiny houses in the U.S. But that's up from just a couple hundred less than five years ago, according to Ryan Mitchell, a tiny house dweller, blogger and author.  The tiny-house life is particularly popular with those under the age of 35 and Baby Boomers, and has sparked a wave of TV shows, blogs and even an annual conference dedicated to this alternative way of living.

“Millennials saw their parents and friends lose their homes and work in jobs that they didn’t really like," says Mitchell, who founded an annual tiny house conference that held its third-annual gathering in April in Asheville, N.C. For Baby Boomers who saw their retirement savings take a hit during the recession, “Tiny houses give them the option to still retire, and they can live where they like. ... It’s an elegant solution to a lot of problems that a lot of people are facing today. It’s not for everyone, but for some, it’s just right."

“I guess my main goal in living this type of lifestyle is to not have a lot of debt.”

Brad Allain

Those taking part in the budding movement often embrace the lifestyle because it allows them to leave a smaller environmental footprint, live mortgage free, and because the houses are often on wheels, to pick up and pursue a new career or passion without worrying about having to sell or find a new home.

“I guess my main goal in living this type of lifestyle is to not have a lot of debt," says Brad Allain who lives in a tiny house in Massachusetts.


Brad Allain shows how he cooks inside his tiny house. Tiny homes are a rising trend, especially among Millennials looking for financial freedom.(Photo: Michael Struening, USA TODAY)

But, he adds, his tiny house has given him much more.  “It’s definitely a lot of work, but the payoff is knowing you have a small environmental footprint, that you’re living a simple life, and I wake up in the woods every day and it’s beautiful and peaceful. Not to mention my house is paid off, so I don’t have any mortgage."

Chapter Two

Do you have what it takes to live tiny?

Do you have what it takes to live tiny?

Moving into a tiny house has positives and negatives. Do you have what it takes to live small?


 No mortgage. Most tiny house dwellers yearn to live with as little debt as possible, and so finance and build their own structures. That's also often a necessity because lenders don't usually grant loans for such pint-sized houses.

• Low utility bills. It doesn't cost as much to heat or light a small space, so electricity, gas and water bills are likely to be low, or even non-existent if you're using devices like solar panels.

• Waste not, want not. In addition to not overtaxing the electric grid,  water system and other local resources, tiny house dwellers often have to cull their possessions, not using more than they need or can store, cutting down on waste.

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• Chores. You may have to do more than mop and sweep. Regular tasks could include hauling water, buying fuel for a gas heater or emptying a composting toilet.

• Life on the move. Tiny dwellings are often deemed too small to meet the fire, building and safety codes applied to more traditional houses. That means it may be hard to find a place to settle, and you'll have to move from time to time to different parking spots or properties.

• Limited space for guests. There will likely be only enough room for you or your family to fit. So when you want to socialize with friends, you'll need to head to the nearest restaurant, bar  — or maybe, to their house.

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