A self-proclaimed Tiny House Jamboree drew an impressively large crowd of 40,000 attendees in Colorado Springs earlier this month. The event included a selection of 28 model houselets for visitors to peruse or buy, along with a series of practical panels on topics like navigating oft-restrictive zoning policies and “determining size appropriateness for your lifestyle.”
The turnout was evidence of a growing fascination with the tiny living concept. Some people make the switch to tiny houses because they’re cheaper than traditional single-family homes and require less upkeep. Others have more of a philosophical attraction to minimizing one’s footprint on the world. Tiny homes also offer a potential way to add density to urban spaces without the need to build expensive new highrises.
“You can own a house that is the price of a car,” says Coles Whalen, one of the event managers. “They allow for much less responsibility, which usually gives you more time to enjoy things like community, the outdoors, hobbies.”
The jamboree chose a cutoff of 200 square feet to qualify as “tiny,” says Whalen. That made for some long lines to look around the diminutive abodes, as turnout quadrupled the 10,000 that organizers were expecting.
As the workshop topics indicated, zoning remains a major challenge to tiny home owners, because they don’t fit neatly into existing categories. Many tiny houses come on wheels for mobility. That often puts them in the mobile home category in the eyes of zoning policy, Whalen says, but whereas camper communities tend to be temporary and migratory, people want to live in tiny homes year-round.
Tiny housers frequently point to environmental reasons for downsizing, too. The houses minimize reliance on material possessions because you simply can’t fit as much inside them. Tiny House Dating, a group that sponsored a meet and greet at the jamboree, advertises itself as a community of “people who care about their values more than their stuff.”
That nuance doesn’t always register; anchors at the local 9News TV station, for instance, ended their segment on the jamboree by bantering about what people could buy with the money they save on a tiny house. But, Whalen says, not everyone comes at it from the minimalist perspective: the petite domiciles are also attractive to families seeking an affordable vacation house.
”Every niche movement needs mainstream allies,” she says.