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Tiny homes show that less is more

A green 144-square-foot home with a yellow-trimmed door is at the center of the image surrounded by green grass and two kittens playing in the yard.
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The Copeland’s 144-square-foot tiny home in Buckingham, VA

Meet a couple that loves their 144-square-foot tiny home. One of the growing options for affordable housing is getting really small. 


MELANIE COPELAND: My name is Melanie Copeland. We are sitting in a 144-square-foot tiny house on wheels that my husband and I and three friends built in seven days. So, it's 18 feet long, eight feet wide, it's 13 feet, six inches tall, which is road safe, like can't have them any taller than that without permits to move them.

We both did go to college. I have two degrees, my husband has two degrees. I had gone through a multitude of layoffs, six in seven years. And I'm thinking, I did all this education for what? I can't even, I'm just going to get laid off again. I'm going to get outsourced. And we were working five jobs between two people. So we were not being lazy, and we were still not making it. The rent, the student loans, the car payments. As soon as you would get some money up in savings and get going, it's like, oh, well the car would break, or the dog needs this.

I came home, it was right before Christmas, I had had another layoff, and I said, I'm done. I don't feel anything in my soul anymore, because I'm just trying to pay the next bill. And I'm like, if we stay in this, we're going to lose our marriage. We had no chance at retirement, zero. Retirement was die. Work till you die.

All right, here we go, heading on to East 64.

So I built the tiny house, and I sold everything, and I said, well, guess what? I don't have anything to lose anymore. Now I can go do what I want to do. And right now, for a lot of people, they're priced out of homes, completely priced out of homes. So if you can't afford a 200, 300, 400, $500,000 home, maybe you could afford a 30, 40, $50,000 tiny house. And it's a place to start.

So the garden has corn, which is our first time growing that this year. And we have spaghetti squash, along with butternut squash coming up this trellis. Obviously, we have tomatoes, and then we have kale and green beans and all kinds of stuff growing.

The kitchen's pretty easy space to work together out of the whole tiny house, because we each have a side. So he can cut on one side, I can cook on the other. It's actually pretty usable space. I believe tiny homes is an excellent solution for many, many different people across the board. I mean, it can certainly help people who are just getting out of college and don't know where their permanent jobs are going to be yet. So they may graduate in one state, take their house, and travel to another state, and live there and start working before they buy a home. Traveling nurses can do the same type of thing. There's so many benefits to having tiny houses or tiny houses on wheels in your community.

And I'm the national spokesperson for the Tiny House Alliance USA. I speak at a global level. I deal with local level zoning officials and building inspectors all over. I talked to them about codes. So tiny houses on wheels are different than a tiny house on a foundation. Tiny houses on foundations usually have to follow state building codes. It's time to change zoning laws and build smaller homes or create communities that benefit people, and not the dollar at the end of the day.

And we did it. So we took the chances and they paid off for us. And now we travel, and we'll retire early, and everybody should have that chance.


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