A tiny house movement timeline - How did we get here?

The history of the tiny house is, arguably, long. You could trace the tradition of small living back to the first days humans spent in caves, but the modern-day tiny house movement—the act of rejecting more spacious dwellings in favor of pared-down, efficient homes—is easier to track.

Writing extolling the benefits of tiny living emerged in the 1980s, and gained traction in the late 1990s. Over the next few decades, tiny house enthusiasts started design-and-construction companies, wrote blogs and books evangelizing their lifestyle, appeared on television, and generally helped get the word out about the possibilities of living small.

The 2009 housing crisis—and the dramatic rise in foreclosures across the country—only helped push the idea forward. And advocacy work in recent years promises more changes in housing policy and zoning to accommodate tiny houses on a state level.

 Alexis Stephens, co-founder of Tiny House Expedition, about some of the most significant events of the tiny house movement since Henry David Thoreau published Walden, his ode to life in a 150-square-foot cabin near Walden Pond outside Concord, Massachusetts, in 1854. Stephens points out the main players of the movement, showing how their advocacy led to a mainstream conversation about the benefits of limited square footage.


The American Tiny House Association is founded as a nonprofit in Florida, with the mission to promote tiny houses as a viable, formally acceptable dwelling option for a variety of people. The organization establishes chapter leaders in many U.S. states.


Zoning legislation is unanimously approved in Rockledge, Florida to allow construction of a tiny homes “pocket” community. The Rockledge Tiny House Community group is established on Facebook with the goal of building a collection of tiny homes on a vacant lot.


Fresno, California, passes new zoning laws that allows for mobile tiny homes to be treated as permanent backyard cottages--previously, mobile units could only serve as temporary lodging. “We are the first city in the nation to actually write into its development code authorization for ‘tiny homes,’” Fresno mayor Ashley Swearingen says at the time.


The International Code Council (ICC) announces that a tiny house specific appendix will be part of the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC), which will allow people to receive a Certificate of Occupancy for their tiny house when built to meet the provisions of the adopted code. A lack of recognition of tiny houses in the IRC was considered a major hindrance to the creation of legal tiny houses across the United States.


Idaho’s state code board votes for an early adoption of the IRC’s tiny house appendix, becoming the first U.S. state to embrace the relaxed code regulations for tiny houses.

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