Tiny Houses Turn Out to be No Big Deal in Minnesota

It’s a small thing which is why it’s such a big deal. The media’s infatuation with tiny houses turns out to be less than monumental with the public. It seems there’s no big or little housing boom here when it comes to tiny houses, baffling affordable housing proponents and city planners, according to the Pioneer Press.

“To date, no one (in Minnesota) has responded to the tiny house market in any sort of viable,reasonable or comprehensive way,” said Jay Nord, general contractor at Singular Inc., and an affordable housing advocate.

Despite the need for affordable housing in the Twin Cities, the desire to keep downsized baby boomers close in the metro, and the millennial spurn of excess, the tiny house industry has stalled here, and no one is quite sure why.

“It’s not taking off, for whatever reason,” said Travis Bistodeau, deputy director of the Department of Safety and Inspections in St. Paul.

Apparently it hasn’t occurred to the proponents of the diminutive dwellings that size just might matter after all. Most people evidently prefer to live in a place bigger than a fish house or tool shed, regardless of its environmental footprint.

There are a few theories — zoning issues, building code hurdles, concerns about depreciation, and possibly the promise of upscaled downsizing not living up to hyped expectations — but no tiny hook to hang a plausible reason on.

The out of proportion amount of media attention on the squirt-sized homes raised expectations that haven’t always panned out for those who tried it.

Numerous blogs and articles illustrate that some customers have been disappointed with their tiny house experiences, finding them more expensive than imagined, more difficult to find a location to place them, and living with less isn’t as fun as they thought it would be.

But that doesn’t mean the tiny house dream is dead.

Bistodeau said St. Paul continues to get applications for attached dwelling units, the umbrella under which fixed tiny home structures would fall.

So despite the continuing efforts of elites to downsize the American dream, most Minnesotans still aspire to live in a house with more square footage than a booth at the state fair.