With Hawai‘i’s housing market so tight, one national trend is looking pretty tempting: tiny houses. You’ve probably seen these in upscale magazines such as Dwell: compact homes and apartments that make the most of just a couple hundred square feet. And, the new market for Accessory Dwelling Units may pump up demand for these little homes.
Sounds like the perfect premise for hopeful Hawaii homebuyers, right? We’re short on acreage, and we’re all about everything kawaii. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There are several factors that make building tiny homes a challenge in the Islands, from permitting hassles, to mobile-home restrictions, to the downright astronomical price of land.
Still, there are a few local companies that are promising to put you in the teeny house of your dreams. They haven’t built many (or, in some cases, any) units yet, but they’re already thinking big—or rather, small.
Take Tiny Pacific Homes, the brainchild of Hawaii-born Brandon Hardin, who saw the trend gaining steam in the Pacific Northwest. Hardin imports his mobile micro-dwellings, which can fit either an on-the-go lifestyle or be established on a foundation, from a Mainland certified RV manufacturer. Step inside and the boxy space, which is the size of a small tour bus, packs quite a few surprises: a full bathroom, multiple rooms, lots of windows and an airy feel you wouldn’t expect in 300 square feet. “Anyone who walks into the tiny house says ‘Wow, I didn’t know it was this big,’” says Hardin. “You see the wheels start turning and going ‘OK, I could do this. I could live here.’” It doesn’t hurt that Tiny Pacific Homes offers all the bells and whistles of comfortable contemporary living, including high ceilings, lofted beds, luxe granite countertops and sleek raw wood shelving.
On the other side of the island, Elevate Hawaii is quite a few steps away from selling units, but their diminutive design is all about sustainability, aesthetics and keeping a tiny footprint. There are no wheels in this two-story setup, which places the larger living area on the top floor, thus leaving outdoor space for parking at ground level. A living wall and lots of windows keep the square structure feeling breezy, inviting and appealing—perfect for warming up cramped, urban spaces.