Tiny houses get a lot of attention – including this recent Parade story – but rarely are numbers provided about how big (or small) this trend really is. The Parade story did provide some data (though without any indication of how this was measured) on the number of tiny houses in the US. Ready for the figure?
Without much context, it is hard to know what to do with this figure or how accurate it might be. Assuming the figure’s veracity, is that a lot of tiny houses? Not that many? Some comparisons might help:
–Between February 2016 and March 2017, there were over 1,000,000 housing starts in each month. (National Association of Home Builders) Within data going back to 1959, the lowest point for housing starts after the 2000s housing bubble burst experienced about 500,000 new housing starts a month. (Census Bureau data at TradingEconomics.com)
–The RV industry shipped over 430,000 units in 2016. This follows a low point of shipments in recent years back in 2009 where only 165,000 units were shipped. (Recreation Vehicle Industry Association)
–The number of manufactured homes that have shipped in recent years – 2014 to 2016 – has surpassed 60,000 each year. (Census Bureau)
Based on these comparisons, 10,000 units is not much at all. They are barely a drop in the bucket within all housing.
Perhaps the trend is sharply on the rise? There is a little evidence of this. I wrote my first post here on tiny houses back in 2010 and it involved how to measure the tiny house trend. The cited article in that post included measures like the number of visitors to a tiny house blog and sales figures from tiny house builders. Would the number of tiny house shows on HGTV and similar networks provide some data? All trends have to start somewhere – with a small number of occurrences – but it doesn’t seem like the tiny house movement is taking off in exponential form.
Ultimately, I would ask for more and better data on tiny houses. Clearly, there is some interest. Yet, calling this a major trend would be misleading.