11/21 Tiny home trend takes hold around Madison

tiny house with yellow sidingOn a modest lot on Commercial Avenue, you won’t see any house hunters or celebrity renovators.

There is no camera following the carpentry work, nobody chronicling the do-it-yourself projects installed in each living space. But there’s a common thread between this Madison College construction and remodeling program and some of the latest home improvement reality TV shows.

“Not a lot of people know that we’re here,” program director John Stephani said.

Stephani, who is also an instructor, said building smaller homes was a perfect way to give students hands-on experience.

They started constructing the quick, compact units about 10 years ago after another instructor saw small cabins in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Now they work on tiny houses that range from about 400 square feet to 600 square feet.

“They are really a great fit for what we do,” Stephani said.

Before the tiny house movement gained popularity, Stephani said it wasn’t easy to get the transportable houses off the lot. He said from the late 1960s to the late 1990s, homes trended bigger and bigger, often serving as a status symbol. Even this year, the U.S. Census found the median home size across the country is 2,500 square feet, more than six times the size of some of the tiny houses built at Madison College…

Along with the savings in energy bills, Stephani said a tiny home unit can cost as little as $25,000. Even once the house is set on a foundation and basic needs (like water, septic and electric) are hooked up, Stephani said it runs around $110,000 to $120,000.

According to the Wisconsin Realtors Association, the average single-family home in Dane County costs $244,000, double the price of a tiny home.

“Is it a fad? Yes,” Stephani said. “But I think it also is a sign of a movement toward downsizing in homes.”

Lucas Ketrykowski sought out Madison College’s program after deciding he wanted to downsize.

“Just living a more simple life, downsizing, decluttering,” Ketrykowski said. “And really just having things that are more meaningful instead of a lot of things that don’t mean much.”

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