If you watch HGTV or the fyi channel, chances are you’ve seen one of the many programs touting the tiny house movement. Homeowners are downsizing to live in a few hundred square feet or building a movable tiny home on small pieces of land – or even the backyards of friends and family.
Tiny houses can be incredibly affordable – $40,000 to $60,000 seems to be an entry level price – and are customizable for whatever the homeowner might want – bigger kitchen, bigger bedroom, larger sleeping loft, for example. Some tiny house building go “off the grid” running their small home from solar power, rain catchment systems and compost toilets.
Atlanta got its first taste of what micro-housing might look like thanks to the innovative SCADpads built last year by students in the parking garage of the Savannah College of Art and Design in Midtown. The 135-square-foot homes challenged emerging artists and designers to push the limits of adaptive reuse, sustainability, furniture design and intelligent home systems.
Of course, micro-living is nothing new in bigger cities like New York and London, where a 225 square foot apartment in a hot area can fetch $200,000 and up. But there’s also been a movement toward creating micro-apartments for students, seniors, singles and the homeless.
The tiny house movement has been stymied in metro Atlanta thanks to the building codes requiring at least 750 square feet for a single-family home. However, that might be about to change.
Last month, the Atlanta City Council approved legislation introduced by councilmembers Kwanza Hall and Carla Smith to conduct a feasibility study into the construction of tiny houses and micro-unit apartments in the city.
According to Hall, the study would help identify impediments to smaller housing and apartment footprints in the city code. The study would also help increase the variety of housing stock across the city. Hall said in most Intown neighborhoods there were plenty of large single-family homes and one- and two-bedroom condos and apartments, but not enough “starter home” or “efficiency/studio” options.
By allowing a smaller housing or apartment footprint, it would make homeownership more obtainable for many. Hall said there was a misconception that the tiny house movement is driven strictly by young people. He said baby boomers and seniors are also looking to downsize, especially as savings diminish.
Hall was on hand last month in Little Five Points as the TV show Tiny House Nation constructed a tiny house on wheels on Euclid Avenue. After the unveiling, it was moved to a piece of land in north Georgia.
The interest in the tiny house movement was evident to Will Johnston, who founded the meet-up group Tiny House ATL. More than 600 have joined and anywhere from 60 to 70 people show up each month to discuss tiny house ideas.
Johnston said micro-housing is an important component to making cities sustainable for the young and old. He worked with Hall and Smith on putting together the language for the feasibility study legislation.
“I envision tiny homes and micro-housing along the Atlanta BeltLine,” Johnston said. “It would help build a more walkable community.”
He recently attended a tiny house event in Colorado where 40,000 people showed up. “It’s definitely more than a fad,” he said. “Tiny houses have caught the attention of those who want to live differently.”
Johnston recently relocated to Boston, where he’s working in television broadcasting, building his own tiny home in a converted Airstream trailer and has been appointed to the National Tiny House Association.
Writer Jemille Williams contributed to this article.