For some people, size matters a whole lot – the smaller the better. That’s especially true with regard to America’s tiny home movement, which began on the population-strangled west coast around the turn of the (21st) century. In all 50 states, in urban and rural areas, homeowners are downsizing. A dwelling of 500 square feet or less is considered a tiny home.
This sort of minimizing, says Chris Short of Tampa Bay Tiny Homes, is “typically a lifestyle change. People are usually trying to achieve something very specific with a tiny house, whether on a trailer or on wheels or on a permanent foundation. It might be financially driven. Sustainability – reducing the carbon footprint – can be a factor. For some, it’s the mobility – they can be where they want to be, travel and take their home with them.
“There’s something to it that’s deeper than just a house. And most people can relate to that – ‘Yeah, I wish I had more freedom and could do what I want.’ That’s what everybody wants, right?”
The allure of dinky domiciles will be the focus of the St. Pete Tiny Home Festival, April 7 and 8 at the St. Pete College Allstate campus on 34th Street South. Along with an impressive cross-section of tiny homes to peruse, visitors will hear from more than two dozen leading experts in the movement. The event will also showcase local food trucks, mobile boutiques, artists and home-related businesses.
“You can come tour a tiny house,” says Short, whose company designs, builds and supplies tiny homes, as well as consulting on the environmental, economic and legal aspects of the business. ”That’s what every tiny house show is about. Everybody wants to walk through one.”
Also on site: Skoolies (school buses converted into living quarters) and converted vans. Tampa Bay Tiny Homes specializes in space conversions (as in turning one’s garage into a tiny home and then, perhaps, renting out the main house), and “accessory dwelling units” (what used to be called mother-in-law suites).
All the other speakers, vendors and spokespeople have different perspectives on the industry, different wares to sell, different advice to give. “I think what everybody involved in this event is interested in achieving is driving the realism of it forward,” Short explains. “The focus is education, engagement, networking and getting folks together. Hopefully, it’s not just touring tiny houses, it’s helping the movement move forward.”
Tiny houses come in several distinct variations: They can be set on a foundation, just like a regular house, with hookups for electricity and sewage. A tiny house can be fitted with wheels, or it can ride on a trailer (in the latter case, it’s considered a recreational vehicle and therefore is exempt from property taxation).
You can buy one totally prefabricated, purchase a shell and have the inside custom-fitted, have it built to order or put it up yourself with a handyman kit.
Tiny homes average between $15,000 and $40,000. Of course, if you’re looking for a permanent site, you’ll need to own the land, too. Which can be especially tricky if you’re looking to put up a tiny in a crowded urban setting.
“There’s a lot of different ways to achieve the same thing,” says Short. “It depends on what your motivations are.”