How Many Tiny Houses Are in Houston?

San Francisco has approved the construction of tiny apartments as small as 150 square feet. Previous zoning required a minimum of at least 290 square feet. New York City is considering a similar measure.

Tiny houses for sale in Petaluma, CA. Flickr photo by Nicolas Boulosa.

Meanwhile, construction of 200-square-foot single-family homes is growing popular in Washington, DC. Homes of 150 to 200 square feet sell for $20,000 to $50,000, or $133 to $250 a square foot.

People buying these homes talk about sustainability and living within walking distance of the shops and services they prefer. The Antiplanner certainly has no objection to people living in tiny homes if that is what they want.

But I have a question: Are there any tiny homes in Houston, where new home construction starts at around $50 a square foot, and used homes can sell for less than $20,000. Well, actually, the answer is yes, but for Houston a tiny house starts at 560 square feet. But, despite all the talk of low-impact living, I have a strong suspicion that tiny homes are far more popular in places with unaffordable housing such as Portland, San Francisco, and Washington than in places with affordable housing such as Dallas, Houston, or Raleigh.

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24 thoughts on “How Many Tiny Houses Are in Houston?

  1. Dan

    I have a strong suspicion that tiny homes are far more popular in places with unaffordable housing such as Portland, San Francisco, and Washington than in places with affordable housing such as Dallas, Houston, or Raleigh.

    Demand for amenities of nice weather, ocean, things to do…

    DS

    Jardinero1 Reply:

    Yes, absolutely. I went to Dickens on the Strand and then the beach yesterday(The air was a comfy 80 degrees). It was a twenty minute drive from my house. Some friends of mine went to the Houston Museum district and the zoo, this weekend.

    Dan Reply:

    That was yesterday. What did you do in May, June, July, August, September? Enjoy the weather, the hills, the mountains, the beach, the park, the river, the nice walk around the neighborhood?

    DS

    Jardinero1 Reply:

    We don’t have any mountains, but we got the rest covered. Summers in Houston, climatically, are not much different than summers on the eastern seaboard from DC to Savannah.

    Dan Reply:

    Right, which is why the property values aren’t as high there as in the west or NY-BOS area, unless you are directly on the water.

    That is: Ricardian and equilibrium rents are really high in places where lots of people want to be – there is great demand for that space.

    DS

    Jardinero1 Reply:

    I disagree that rents are high in the NY-Boston corridor and the West because of great demand demand for that space. In those regions, demand is either steady or declining. If there is growth, it is very moderate. So the issue is with supply. In the NY-Bos corridor, a lack of permitting for new construction maintains rents. In the west, similar constraints on permitting, combined with physical constraints to growth, i.e. level land, adequate water, utility transmission capacity all work to narrow supply.

    Ricardian rents along the gulf coast and southeastern seaboard are kept down because of the relative uniformity of the land and equivalent resource availabity along the entire swath. Almost anywhere you go you have the same access to transport in all of its forms, power transmission capacity, clean water, and flat land.

    Dan Reply:

    I disagree that rents are high in the NY-Boston corridor and the West because of great demand … In the west, similar constraints on permitting, combined with physical constraints to growth, i.e. level land, adequate water, utility transmission capacity all work to narrow supply.

    Ricardian rents along the gulf coast and southeastern seaboard …Almost anywhere you go you have the same access to transport in all of its forms, power transmission capacity, clean water, and flat land.

    You are one of the few people that think that the rents are high in the US NE because of lack of demand. And I agree that the sprawled places do so because there are few constraints such as hillslope, wetlands, water, etc. Likely the most common assertion I’ve made on this site is that the vast majority of empirical analyses find that demand is a stronger driver of rents than lack of supply, although some notable places like the Bay Area have a strong combination of both.

    DS

    Jardinero1 Reply:

    The rent is the point where the supply and demand curves cross. It is never one or the other, it’s both.

    Checking wikipedia, of course, the northeast corridor has averaged five percent growth per decade the last two decades. The Houston MSA has averaged almost twenty-five percent growth per decade for two decades. Demand is essentially flat in the northeast compared to Houston, yet rents rise in the Northeast and stay high while Houston doesn’t budge. That can only be attributed to differences in supply in the two regions. The same growth is evident in the DFW and SanAntonio MSA’s and their rents have been steady. The only outlier is Austin which has rising rents but numerous legal obstacles to development.

  2. C. P. Zilliacus

    But, despite all the talk of low-impact living, I have a strong suspicion that tiny homes are far more popular in places with unaffordable housing such as Portland, San Francisco, and Washington than in places with affordable housing such as Dallas, Houston, or Raleigh.

    These look more like doll houses than anything else – and I think it is safe to assume that orthodox Smart Growth activists and planners presumably don’t like these any better than other detached or semi-detached housing anyway, since their preferred form of housing (at least for other people) is a small unit in a high-rise apartment building.

    At least in Washington, such small buildings adjacent to alleys go back many years. Many row houses had “carriage houses” in the back for parking (horse-drawn) carriages and later, automobiles, and those carriage houses have a long history of being converted to dwellings.

    sprawl Reply:

    The one on the left is a house without any windows? More like t tool shed.

    Dan Reply:

    I think it is safe to assume that orthodox Smart Growth activists and planners presumably don’t like these any better than other detached or semi-detached housing anyway, since their preferred form of housing (at least for other people) is a small unit in a high-rise apartment building.

    Yawn.

    Really, where these houses are, you mean subsidized low-rent co-housing with plug-ins for a grow op and electric car, with a Whole Foods at ground level within the walking time it takes to hit your bong twice.

    What do you think came first, the demand for such units or the propaganda from young planners wearing a knit cap for their dreads that says how killer this pad is?

    Again, do these options arise in places where people want to move to other than some job?

    DS

  3. gecko55

    The developer describes the target market as “young tech workers, fresh out of college, newly relocated to the city, unencumbered by possessions.” Sounds like my kid. He’ll be relocating to the Bay Area this summer when he graduates from college. I could see him in one of these apartments. And while he could certainly get a job in Houston, there’s not a chance he would ever consider living there.

    Jardinero1 Reply:

    Yes, Houston is for people who want to have lives, not lifestyles.

    bennett Reply:

    “The developer describes the target market as ‘young tech workers, fresh out of college, newly relocated to the city, unencumbered by possessions.’”

    I think this is probably a better indicator of the market for small units than planning or geography.

    As for the Houston stigma… it doesn’t really have any negative aspects that can’t be attributed to any city in TX including Austin. It’s hot, it’s sprawling, goddamn frontage road nightmares, and the overly abundant aggressive drivers start driving into light poles if it rains more than 1/32 of an inch. As far as I can tell it’s about the same in Dallas, San Antonio and Austin. Houston might win the miserably humid award for major TX cities, but it ain’t all that bad with the utterly low bar that is TX urban living.

    sprawl Reply:

    When I visited Texas, I loved the frontage roads, it made it a pleasure to drive on.

    I have relatives that live in Texas and they love it. The best part of living in Texas is, no one forces you to do it, or not.

    bennett Reply:

    Ahh yes, the ole’ Tiebout sorting, it’s a free country, vote with your feet illusion. That’s why so many libertarians and Antiplanners live in the peoples republic of Portland. In reality we often live where we live out of a combination of choice and necessity. Austin is by no means my top pick for places to live.

    Also, frontage roads in TX have one, and only one, redeeming quality, the TX turn-around (the easy u-turn on highways). Other than that they are dangerous, double/triple/quadruple the footprint of the highway, compound the congestion during rush hour making for worse travel times (counter intuitive, but ask any traffic engineer with half a brain at TxDOT and they’ll let you know), create obnoxious exits like “exit 204b 6th st – 42nd st”, etc. The frontage roads in Austin play a large part in why many people who visit and drive on the highways during rush hour think 2 million people live here (really 824k).

    Jardinero1 Reply:

    I agree with Bennett about feeder roads. They are a cancer. They exist merely to enrich the property owners who are so lucky as to own property adjacent to them.

    sprawl Reply:

    Frontage roads make it possible to follow the rout of the freeway, for a short distance and not get on the freeway, if you don’t need to.

    Jardinero1 Reply:

    Exactly, so you can go to the strip center on the side of the freeway without getting on the freeway. The strip center and your need to drive along the freeway, without getting on the freeway, only exists because the feeder road, itself, exists. Conversely, without the feeder road there would be no strip center and you would not need to be on the feeder road avoiding the freeway.

    Dan Reply:

    In reality we often live where we live out of a combination of choice and necessity. Austin is by no means my top pick for places to live.

    Tell that to the stalkers here that have a problem with reality.

    Conversely, without the feeder road there would be no strip center and you would not need to be on the feeder road avoiding the freeway.

    This comment is related to the other post here recently about congestion. I’m in FL and my mom lives near one of these. The traffic is horrible, much of it due to Violet and Lenny getting off the feeder on to the highway in an….erm…elderly manner or Billy Ray getting on like a jagoff.

    The highway is old-school, built under the old ways. We don’t build these any more because they are stupid. I can’t imagine how high the small-business failure rate is along this cr*ptacular highway.

    DS

  4. LazyReader

    Despite these micro houses. This is just a trend of simple living type people. None the less for the first time in the U.S. the size of the average home has declined for the first time in years. But now as we enter a new age of pragmatism and practicality, all the former housing goodies that we swooned and drooled over that were once deal makers have backfired on sellers. Fully loaded homes are now unaffordable. Builders looking to avoid risks and mitigate the costs of extra barely used rooms and 3-4 car garages are at a crossroads as to what to do. But some are. The “Home for the New Economy”. Designer Marianne Cusato hired by Builder to design the house.

    http://www.neweconomyhome.com/Site_2/New_Economy_Home_2.html

    Of course developers have not had to worry of the concept of risk for years. Millions of dollars of beachfront property swept out to sea is proof of that. Of course if disaster’s are common, you’d think they’d enhance safety measures to protect homes. Instead of building plywood McMansions, build houses on stilts in the flood prone areas. Build houses without pitched gables and and dormers and construct flat roofs for hurricane proned areas. No flammable materials in places where wildfires occur. If it’s risky to build there (which begs the question why are you building) the insurance prices will rise. Do one of two things. Build there or not. More specific, if you build, accept the risk and pay a high fee and fewer people will build there and the people that do without the fees, if your house is destroyed then you don’t get reimbursed, well that’s life. Or don’t build or they’ll be less building going on. If people knew they’re going to be federally reimbursed by the government of course more are willing. You turn a local problem into state or federal problem and taxpayers…..who may live in the desert or mountains where they don’t really get floods or hurricanes are the ones bailing them out asking lower, middle class people to pay to rebuild million dollar+ homes. It’s not fair, it’s not good economics and what we undermine is the principle of measuring risk, people end up doing things they wouldn’t normally do like build right on the edge of the sea. Cities like New York would not exist if not for huge subsidies. Hugely subsidized mass transit system, subsidies and tax breaks to encourage developers to buy lots, exemptions to build high rises with additional floors. Meanwhile Manhattan has a surplus of office space, a shortage of living space and yet they’re “planning” to account for growth of an additional million people by 2030 with infrastructure decades old that they’ve no means to pay for.

  5. Sandy Teal

    I have a house just like that. It is where my lawnmower lives. My neighbor’s tree house is larger.

    I will be surprised if The Antiplanner doesn’t use that picture on the cover of his next book.

  6. orthodoc

    150 to 200 square feet is just about the size of the living space per person in a boarding house, residential hotel, or SRO. You know, the living arrangements that were aggressively and repeatedly regulated out of existence in the last few decades. Amazingly enough, the target demographic was the same: young white collar workers, fresh out of college, newly relocated to the city, unencumbered by possessions.

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