Small Houses Find Big Following in Cascadia

In a photo essay on small homes and the people who love them, Sightline Fellow Alyse Nelson explains the attraction of compact living and the ways in which small homeowners are living it up by scaling down.
January 3, 2013, 6am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Motivated by a range of factors - from affordability to sustainability to connectivity - a diverse cross-section of residents are moving into "doll houses" that range from 800 square feet to less than 100 square feet — "a far cry from the 1000 square feet per person that has become the North American norm."

Denizens of the Pacific Nothwest have a particular affinity for the increasingly popular housing type. According to Nelson, "Seattle and Vancouver both adopted rules for backyard cottages in 2009. Portland has allowed accessory dwellings since 1998; but when the city relaxed size restrictions and waived development charges in 2010, it unleashed a renaissance in small home building."

Aside from the benefits to homeowners, such developments are a boon to their wider neighborhoods by "allowing schools to stay open, giving neighborhood businesses more customers, making transit service cost-effective, and saving on infrastructure costs." Plus, adds Nelson, "[i]nfilling neighborhoods with backyard cottages helps add more people to a neighborhood, without altering its character."

"The recession and housing crisis, combined with changing demographics, have led many of us to reevaluate what we want in a home," explains Nelson. "More and more folks are looking for homes within walking distance of jobs, stores, and transit—and have proven willing to trade square footage for a vibrant neighborhood. At the same time, millennials increasingly look for alternatives to the car; baby boomers have reached the age where they don’t need a big home in the ‘burbs; and more and more families are choosing to live in multi-generational households."

"Tiny houses are a great solution for all these needs."

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Published on Thursday, December 20, 2012 in Sightline Daily
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