Op-ed: Is Utah ready for tiny homes?

Cris Kelly, AdobeStock

Tiny homes are popping up all over the country.

The American dream of homeownership has had a rough time over the past 10 years — a housing bubble, economic recession, changing preferences among millennials and now a housing shortage here in Utah.

The number of people who opt to rent rather than buy a home is now at an all-time high, and prices are skyrocketing. Affordable housing has become so scarce that many around the country are looking at a new option: so-called “tiny homes.”

What up until the last few years seemed like a temporary fad has become an ever-growing phenomenon around the country, expanding far beyond the handful of TV shows that have highlighted tiny homes. Young couples just starting out and empty-nesters who are tired of all the upkeep of a large home increasingly see them as a cost-effective alternative.

Tiny homes tend to be smaller than 500 square feet and can be built on the ground or on wheels. They often consist of a loft bedroom, small bathroom, small kitchen and a common area. They can be customized, moved, and used for a variety of circumstances, including being powered using only solar power.

There is just one minor problem: most local governments do not allow them.

Tiny homes offer yet another example of how Utahns don’t truly own their property, but instead can only do what the government gives them permission for. Zoning, city ordinances, building permits and other restrictive regulations provide cities with plenty of tools to block this innovative and affordable housing alternative — and you can be sure that most city officials will be slow to…

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