An internet billionaire, a retired grandmother, a formerly incarcerated security guard, and a dyed-in-the-wool hippie have more in common than you might think: They all live in tiny houses.
Saying “tiny house” usually evokes one of two reactions—delight or dismissal. Either you’re glued to every HGTV show with “tiny” in the name, or else you’re rolling your eyes, convinced tiny homes are the biggest scam to hit real estate since subprime mortgages.
But tiny houses are quickly evolving beyond their reputation as a quirky lifestyle fetish. They’re being used to solve some of the biggest issues afflicting cities today, like gentrification, urban sprawl, homelessness, and affordability. While the strategies around deploying tiny houses are still experimental, many of them are maturing and inching toward acceptance thanks to enterprising risk-takers and policy changes. We’ve set out to document the shift, visiting “tiny towns” in four American cities to understand how the movement is mainstreaming.
Curbed’s video series first visits Detroit, where an enterprising community activist is building tiny houses to help impoverished people become homeowners. Then it heads to Reno—where tiny houses have allowed young families and retirees to rediscover the city’s downtown—before a stop in nearby Las Vegas, where Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has built a community of airstreams, micro apartments, and tiny houses. The journey ends in Portland, Oregon, where a tiny home village has emerged in a backyard as a way to outwit the city’s affordability crisis.
Will tiny houses become the new normal in a decade? Probably not—but more people will surely call them home, perhaps inspired by what they see here.
Executive Producer: Tina Nguyen
Supervising Producer: Alex Schepsman
Senior Producer: Justin Brooks
Producer: Emily Pojman
Field Producer: Lindsey Davis
Editor: Glenn Gapultos
Writer & Voice Over: Diana Budds
Director of Photography & Shooter: Wes Reel