Letters to the Editor

Tiny Homes: Sustainable, affordable housing for our community?

While not the total answer to the affordable housing problem, Tiny Homes could be a part of the solution for many people.
While not the total answer to the affordable housing problem, Tiny Homes could be a part of the solution for many people. Handout

Last year the median closing cost for a single-family home in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district was over $442,000, and the median for multifamily home was over $350,000.

We all know that we have a housing-affordability crisis in our community – not only for the very poor, but for young people who will never earn what many of us have earned, for older people who do not have the pensions and savings that many of us are fortunate to have, for people we work with every day at the university and town, and for service people that we rely on that cannot afford to live in our community.

We need all the different affordable housing options we can get. There’s one option that has not been seriously explored and could make a difference: Tiny Homes

Tiny Homes are housing units that are 400 square feet or less. Importantly, they can provide all daily uses of a typical home at a fraction of the cost. While not the total answer to our affordable housing problem, they could be a part of the solution for many people.

Unfortunately, there are numerous barriers in local codes to Tiny Homes on foundations and Moveable Tiny Homes.

Our building code that regulates how a house is constructed – from ceiling height to width of stairs and minimum size of the rooms – is meant for larger traditional housing. Also, the building code requires a permanent foundation, which rules out Moveable Tiny Homes. Development codes also have requirements that limit affordable Tiny Homes – such as minimum lot-size requirements, parking requirements, and zoning district limits.

Many communities have revised or are in the process of revising their local codes to make Tiny Homes an affordable housing option.

We are starting a community conversation about the need for Tiny Homes, and there are two ways you can participate.

First, on Monday, Feb. 19, come to the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town (CHALT) Community Forum, “Tiny Homes: Sustainable, Affordable Housing for Our Community?” During the forum we will learn what it is like to live in a Tiny Home, and what other communities are doing to make them affordable housing options, e.g. Asheville, Austin and Fresno. And we will examine the question: Do Tiny Homes make sense for our community? Whether you are intrigued by this approach or are unsure, please bring your questions about Tiny Homes to this forum. You can learn more at CHALT.org

Second, on Feb. 13, we submitted a petition to the Town of Chapel Hill Housing Advisory Board: “Make Tiny Homes a Legal and Affordable Housing Option.” You can view and sign this petition at CHALT.org . We will take this petition to the Town Council.

Please join this conversation. There are many exciting and inspiring ways that Tiny Homes could help make us a more affordable, diverse, and compassionate community.

April Kemper and Kimberly Brewer are members of the Chapel Hill Tiny Home Initiative.


“Can Tiny Homes be Sustainable, Affordable Housing in our Community?” The Forum will be held Monday, Feb. 19, 6 to 7:30 p.m., at the Town of Chapel Hill Library in Room B.