Little Living Goes a Long Way

As Seattle continues its efforts to expand its affordable housing stock (and housing options), tiny so-called cottages are popping up in its backyards. The city recently changed its zoning rules to allow these cottages to be built in single-family neighborhoods. It also rejected a proposed cap of 50 cottages per year. The move helped spark a design competition for reasonably priced plans. Seattle’s cottages are certainly less isolated than the tiny houses we started seeing a few years back popping up on the prairie in Texas, some as small as 12 by 16 feet, but they produce similar results: reasonably priced units at a space premium.

Indeed, living small is apparently catching on. In Southern California, known for its sprawl, the Los Angeles Times reports that RV-sized apartments, replete with innovative design that allows for central air, high ceilings, and other modern amenities, are allowing people to live in their neighborhoods of choice without spending market-rate rent. There’s even something of a national trend afoot: the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the median size of a U.S. home, which skyrocketed from 900 square feet in the 1950s to 2,277 in 2007, has begun to wane — down to 2,161. Not tiny living yet, by any means, but maybe it’s a start in that direction.

Shelterforce is the only independent, non-academic publication covering the worlds of community development, affordable housing, and neighborhood stabilization.


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