Is Tiny the New Big?

In Buzz, December 2021/January 2022 by Lauren Kruchten1 Comment

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How small is affordable in Raleigh? A new law regarding tiny homes could address Raleigh’s affordable housing shortage.

Big houses are big business right now with nary a home to spare—and the housing market is setting price records monthly. Enter the potential game changer: tiny living.

Now, joining the popular pocket-size living craze, the City of Oaks may be seeing more tiny houses, thanks to recommended zoning rule changes that would allow for the construction of tiny homes—meaning sub-600 square feet. (City Council will hear public input on Dec. 7.)

So are tiny homes the future of Raleigh real estate? Well, as these residences are typically half the cost of a standard house—if not more—it would certainly come as good news for those struggling to afford a home in Raleigh’s current market, providing locals with a cheaper (albeit smaller) option when it comes to housing. 

But Tiny Homes Raleigh owner Dexter Tillet isn’t convinced. “I don’t think it’s going to be the future,” he says, “but I think there’s going to be space for it. A lot of people really value it. I think it’s just gonna give Raleigh citizens more options, and that’s what we really want.” Tillet adds that, if you look at cities across the country with similar growth as Raleigh—like Portland, Oregon, where he lived for about a year—almost every house has a tiny house addition. It’s just one way in which city officials can handle the density and growth that Raleigh is facing.

Besides price, smaller spaces are also attractive in that many people aren’t looking for huge living spaces right now. During the pandemic, we saw people make a mass exodus for the burbs and bigger spaces—because quarantine and WFH—but since the world has reopened again (pause for applause), we’ve seen a rapid rewind, if not reversal, in that cultural shift. Now sick of their four walls, people want to mix and mingle… and just want a place to lay their heads—and spend their dollars on experiences. 

But when it comes to tiny homes, functionality and outdoor space aren’t a compromise—in fact, it’s the most attractive aspect, according to Tillet. These small residences offer a little front yard, a backyard, plumbing and their own HVAC unit. “I think tiny homes give a really good option—especially for multifamily—for a different type of living,” he says.

And tiny living isn’t confined to tiny houses. Take Midtown’s newest development, Raleigh Iron Works, which is offering 430- to 865-square-foot micro, studio and one-bedroom units in its multifamily rental building that put an emphasis on amenities and location rather than square footage—providing yet another option for cheaper, smaller living. The developers say their goal in the design of these efficient floor plans is to provide right-size living to fit the needs of today’s renters.

So what’s next? If City Council approves the tiny homes changes, it would allow these petite pads to be built as standalone buildings or in tiny-home communities with shared open space. “So just like a housing development you would have for a subdivision for a neighborhood, it’s the same thing, but just a smaller footprint and more density,” explains Tillet. “It’s just a lot more people utilizing that land. So I think that’s what we have to do as a growing city, and one of the benefits of living in a tiny home is knowing what you want, knowing what you don’t want and kind of just simplifying your life.” After all, a simple life is a happy life. 

  • $398,500
    Median sales price of Wake County real estate
  • $209 million+
    October real estate sales (of transactions worth $30+ million) in Wake County
  • 17th
    Highest millennial homeownership rate in U.S. 
  • $52,000 
    Average cost of a tiny home nationally in August
  • 600
    Max square footage of Raleigh tiny homes

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  1. This looks like an option for people who will not mind living nearer to their workplace to avoid long-distance driving expenses. When I was a child we spent our summers in a 15 1/2 ft ironwood trailer for a family of four. It worked!
    It would also work for one person or starter home.
    We need to keep brainstorming about other options. Such as remodeling of warehouse spaces as spaces for tiny efficiencies, or apartments.

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