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Tiny house trend picks up as people downsize

SAN DIEGO -With the sputtering economy, more and more Americans are living with less and some are living in homes the size of spacious walk-in closet.  You could call it part of a tiny house trend.

“We really don’t need to have all this space,” said Candace Vanderhoff who recently developed a 64 square foot cyber hut.  “It’s all a part of that movement, I think, of simplifying and using fewer resources.”’

Vanderhoff’s hut sits behind her home in South Park as a meditation room or office but her hope is that people would actually buy them and make them home – possibly putting two together.  It features recycled newspaper walls, and it’s fire resistant as well as insect resistant.  It also features a green roof.

“Next February we’re going to focus more on designing and building these small structures primarily for San Diego because of our housing issues,” she said.

She said she’s seeing more and more people living with less.

“It’s come along with consumerism and people finding out that all their stuff doesn’t make them happier,” she said.

Tiny homes are being sold online in all shapes and sizes.  Some are just 65 square feet and are sold complete with a kitchenette, a toilet/shower and sleeping quarters.  Other options are closer to 150 square feet and even feature fireplaces.

Beth Lanzi is working in Solana Beach to save up to finish building her 100 square foot tiny house complete with a bathroom. Her budget is $20,000 and construction is half-way finished.  She said it just made sense for her.

“Like a lot of people in my age group, we didn’t make great plans for retirement,” she said.  “I feel really happy that I’m not going to have all that financial stress of having to come up with a lot of rent every month.”

Officials in San Francisco are considering 220 square foot apartments – the tiniest in the nation.  New York and Boston are launching pilot programs to test them out.  Advocates believe the tiny house trend would work well San Diego but it’s not without its challenges, namely existing building size requirements and the question of where to put them.

“One of the things I would like to see is a community of little tiny houses and how do we do that and right now.  We don’t have the zoning for that sort of thing,” she said.

People also have to get used to the idea of such a small space and owning fewer things.

“The theme of this tiny house movement is building small and living in a small space so that you can live big,” said Beth Lanzi.  “I think it does really free you up for a lot of other opportunities in life.”

Advocates believe the small way of living will be in Southern California before long.

“We have to,” Vanderhoff said.  “Everything is changing. The way we live is not sustainable.”

Vanderhoff’s cyber hut is priced at $12,000. You can find out more about them at the Cyberhut website.

Ready-made tiny houses online usually sell from about $35,000 to $45,000 depending on size and style.