Green construction and design for sustainable living

As Interest In Tiny Homes Grows, Shrinking Their Environmental Footprint

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Why Tiny Homes For Rent Is The Key To Sustainability

Rental properties have long offered foot-for-foot sustainability advantages, packing more people into less space and promoting a lower degree of waste than individual homes. But with the rise of the tiny house movement, are apartments still relevant? A combined model that allows residents to rent tiny homes may offer the greatest green potential.

Tiny Home Basics

For those interested in the tiny house movement, the first question is often, “just how tiny are they?” In general, a tiny home is a residence under 500 square feet, though many are under 250 square feet and most are on wheels. This mobility is critical because a lot of municipalities require permanent structures to have traditional heat, running water, and be over 300 square feet. Anything under that is basically just a vehicle, even if you rarely move it.

From a construction-perspective, tiny homes also offer several advantages over other forms of sustainable housing. When buying a full-size home, if you want the benefits of eco-friendly features, you can expect to pay a premium and may even have to build it yourself. With tiny homes, on the other hand, sustainability is built into the system. They’re highly efficient, often solar-powered, and reduce inhabitants’ energy and water use. Certainly, you can be wasteful and live in a tiny home, but the practice curtails waste.

But Why Rent?

More millennials are renting than in the past as they struggle with low earnings, and many consider that fact a driving aspect of the tiny house movement – they buy a tiny home instead. Still, interest and commitment to the home tend to fluctuate as life circumstances change, which is why, according to the Houston property management company Green Residential, tiny homes make ideal rentals. Someone else – the property managers – handle the housing code logistics and buyers don’t have to commit long-term to this innovative housing model.

Tiny homes may be affordable, but they’re not so affordable that people want to buy one, only to discover that they hate the confined space or move out as soon as they start a family. While some people find they can easily fit a family of four (or more) into a tiny home, others quickly find that the lifestyle isn’t for them. Suddenly, they’re stuck with a house they hate, a much-diminished amount of furniture and other personal possessions since they had to downsize, and a need to move on and likely repurchase many of those items.

Renting tiny homes can be a greener alternative to ownership because it better allows people to fit their home’s scale to their lifestyle. From a construction perspective, it obviously doesn’t make sense to build homes that are then going to be unoccupied because people shed them like fast fashion or used cars. Landlords, on the other hand, can shift unused tiny homes into short-term residences (either month-to-month leases for people between traditional residences, or vacation housing). In fact, tiny homes are actually quite popular as vacation getaways since they’re fully equipped with kitchens and leisure space and give people more freedom than an average hotel room at a lower cost.

The Future Of Tiny Homes

Will tiny homes make a move to the rental market, remain primarily in private ownership, or fade away entirely? There’s a lot of demagogueries out there about the movement, but now that there are so many tiny homes out there, it seems like the structures are here to stay. And there are many ways of transferring these small, mobile properties to rentals could benefit their future.

Many families find that placing an auxiliary housing unit on their property can facilitate care for aging parents, without fully embracing multi-generational housing. Rental tiny homes have these families covered, allowing them to temporarily use a tiny home where they need it and return it when it’s over. Similarly, college grads on a tight budget might take the same path, living out back to avoid fully living with their parents. These applications would likely extend the lifespan and overall use of tiny homes and maximize their value both environmentally and to individuals.

Tiny homes are, in many ways, a replacement for other low-cost housing alternatives, so it only makes sense that they would be a rental market – most people won’t want to live in them forever. Sustainability-minded property managers should emphasize acquisitions in this area if they hope to meet future market demand.

Jeff is a contractor specializing in residential construction and construction management in Chicago, Illinois for over 20 years. He deals exclusively in new construction and remodeling for residential projects and can act as designer, builder, and general contractor as well as preliminary estimates, cost vs. benefit analysis.

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