Tiny Houses and Prohibitive Costs

by Jeremy Fitzgerald

I have been following the tiny house movement for years. The one thing that turns me off is the prohibitive costs involved. Tiny houses would be a great solution for lower income people if the companies that manufactured and promoted them charged less (or used more reclaimed materials). For now, it seems that the tiny home is an option for people with disposable income. (I know this is a broad generalization, but…)

My wife and I own a home in Utah. We have a detached garage (15X22) that sees little use outside of being a storage area. One of our good friends, Dan, lost his apartment in November, and being self-employed, he had neither the credit or money to get a new place. Dan asked us if he could stay in the garage (our home is too small for guests). We agreed.


Dan spent the winter in the garage, heated by only an electric radiator. It was not comfortable for him. Dan is a building contractor. Over the course of the spring months, we began salvaging materials from different restoration projects that Dan was working on.

Dan drew up plans for splitting the garage in half with the intention of turning his half into an apartment. So far, we have spent $10.00 (yep!!) on a window from the Habitat for Humanity store. Over the last few months, we have salvaged enough materials to build the walls, ceiling, and floor. We’ve salvaged wiring, wallboard, framing timber, a heater, and an air conditioner (Utah is hot!), kitchen sink, cabinets, electric conduit, and doors. All we need now is some insulation and we can finish the project.

The cost of running plumbing to the garage is prohibitive, so Dan’s kitchen will feature a gravity fed sink with a gray water bucket underneath. Dan uses our bathroom for showering, etc. When completed, Dan’s little apartment will be around 150 square feet and have all the amenities of a home (with the exception of toilet and shower) including a stove and refrigerator, sleeping loft, living room area, and storage for his tools and other items.

We do not have to get permits for this project as there is no plumbing and the apartment is being built into an existing structure. Once finished, Dan will have a brand new home that he will be proud to call his own, we will have converted an unused space into living quarters, and there will be one less homeless person in our community.

When I get the time, I will take pictures and email them to you. I hope our story can inspire other people to share what they have and take an active part in solving the homeless problem. I see so many structures that could be converted to nice little homes for people in need. The tiny house movement seems filled with people who have to much and want to simplify their lives. I think it’s more important to use tiny homes as a way to share our good fortune with those who have nowhere to call home. If you have to much, give it to someone who has nothing. Thanks for reading our story. – Jeremy Fitzgerald

Living Large in 400 Square Feet

By Alyse Nelson

Jon and Ryah Dietzen’s 3-year plan entailed getting out of credit card debt, establishing an emergency fund, finding work closer to home, and having more family time. Sitting in their 1,700 square foot house, they realized it would not be easy to tackle their plan. So they made a move most people would consider extreme – they converted a garage into a 400 square foot cottage.

Jon and Ryah Dietzen

Jon and Ryah Dietzen look into their renovated cottage – their home for 3 years. Photo by Royce Tillotson, used with permission. Continue reading

Garage Conversion into Tiny Home

Andrea Lippke from the New York Times writes an article about a Seattle women named Michelle de la Vega who takes on the conversion of a 250 square foot garage into a tiny home after a divorce. To save money she takes on the job as the contractor and with lots of reclaimed materials converts this old garage into a beautiful home.

“At that time I was coming out of the ashes,” she said, “and knew I needed to come up with a good survival strategy for starting over as a single person.”

Read Converting a Seattle Garage Into a Tiny Home at the New York Times website.
Photos: Ira Lippke for The New York Times

Michelle de la Vega, a visual and performance artist, turned her garage into a 250-square-foot house for $32,000.

Continue reading