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By Cody Green

Tiny homes are becoming big business

When the real estate landscape changes, so too does the landscape of neighborhoods. This is especially true with the recent boom in tiny houses. These houses are typically between 200 and 500 square feet with a price tag of $50,000 on the high end of the spectrum. The attraction stems from the fact that the millennial demographic is the fastest growing home buying demographic in the United States. This group typically does not have a family yet, and these homes are the perfect size for one or two adults. The way this trend is redefining some neighborhoods is interesting as well.

While there is a growing market for these tiny houses, zoning codes in municipalities are trying to keep pace with the change. The main reason for this is the different uses that tiny houses can realize. You can put more of these houses on the same amount of land that you can use for houses that are three or four times bigger. This fact fosters a group home use,and group homes typically fall into a business zone classification. Whether that group home is for senior citizens, recovery centers or transitional living, they are typically in business or mixed-use zones. But then a group of small homes is not the typical way these types of group homes operate.

Another, more superficial, reason that city councils may have to change things around is the way these houses look when mixed with the typical 2,000 square foot home. People still look at these structures as if they are not quite a real house, but something more like a novelty. They would just look out of place and the aesthetic continuity of neighborhoods would then be compromised. The average city council board is acting like an HOA board, and this is very limiting in terms of growth and diversity. There are not any specific building codes for this, as this is a new phenomenon, but that doesn't stop city councils around the country from balking at allowing building permits to go through.

While silent battles like this are taking place, the demand for these homes is not subsiding. So in the meantime, these homes are popping up on the outskirts of towns and on county "islands," tracts of land that are either in a city or on the outskirts of one and that have not been incorporated into the city yet. This bypasses zoning regulations, making it easier to build, and it then gives an incentive for cities to incorporate those islands so as to receive more tax dollars.

These are the reasons why professionals in the field are saying that these tiny and very affordable homes are changing the landscape, both figuratively and literally. Unique-looking houses are going to make for unique-looking neighborhoods when enough are built in close proximity to each other. And when this happens, cities and municipalities will have to change the way they do business in this regard. If they want growth and change in their communities then they have little choice.

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