A tiny mobile house in Olympia, Oregon. (Creative commons)
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Doug Immel recently completed his custom-built dream home, sparing no expense on details like cherry-wood floors, cathedral ceilings and stained-glass windows – in just 164 square feet of living space including a loft.The 57-year-old schoolteacher's tiny house near Providence, Rhode Island, cost $28,000 – a seventh of the median price of single-family residences in his state. Defined as 500 or fewer square feet, tiny houses range from primitive 96-square-foot huts to award-winning displays of sustainable architecture with elegant streamlined design.Even with the micro-trend, the number of tiny houses in the U.S. is, well, tiny – just in the thousands per unofficial industry surveys.Their popularity is growing, however, as the U.S. homeownership rate has fallen to 64.8 percent, the lowest in almost 20 years, and the median size of new single-family houses is the biggest ever – 2,384 square feet in 2013, a 3.4 percent increase from 2012 . In 1950, houses averaged 983 square feet, according to data from the National Association of Home Builders.Google trends shows national interest in the search term "tiny house" surging since May.The largest share of inhabitants, 23 percent, are between ages 31 and 40, according to "The Tiny Life" blog, which surveyed more than 2,600 dwellers in the U.S. Almost 90 percent said they had at least some college education and 61 percent had zero credit-card debt.The planning office recently proposed easing restrictions that could pave the way for legalizing tiny houses in backyards.
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