The tiny house, an eco-responsible alternative to traditional housing

The tiny house, an eco-responsible alternative to traditional housing

“I live in a house smaller than some people’s closets.” Jay Shafer, the author of The Small House Book , has the meaning of comparison. It was in 1997 that this American architect created the astonishing concept of tiny house , the tiny house. Since then, the phenomenon has grown, particularly in France. It’s hard to believe that these accommodations, most of which do not exceed 4.20 meters in height and 2.55 meters in width – or a maximum surface area of ​​20 m2 – can find buyers. And yet! While the price of real estate continues to increase in our country (+30% between 2013 and 2023), demand is growing for these houses that are easily transportable by a passenger vehicle. “From young people who are completing their studies and do not have the means to buy land to workers who want premises for their professional activity, the customer profiles are varied,” explains Rodolphe Duranceau, manufacturer in Deux-Sèvres. There tiny house is an option for first-time buyers. » Thanks to its price of between 45,000 and 75,000 euros turnkey and the time required for its construction (between 600 and 1,000 hours) this housing now offers in the eyes of some an alternative to traditional housing. The proof: today there are nearly 150 manufacturers in France.

A home full of tips and savings

Florence and Simon took the plunge. Five years ago they bought a tiny house of 11 m2 which they installed near La Rochelle. Designed with high ceilings, their accommodation is full of tips for optimizing space. Accustomed to living in an apartment, the couple had to adapt their consumption to their new home. “The surface area forces us to be careful about what we buy,” explains Florence. We consume much less and more responsibly. » This half-constrained, half-voluntary sobriety has allowed the young couple to save money: they spend no more than 25 euros on electricity per month.

700 km away, Alexandra rents for 350 euros per month a tiny house in the Lille suburbs. A modest rent, certainly. But the 26-year-old young woman finds the size of her house quite restrictive. “Even if the space is well optimized, I spend most of my time outside,” says this young graduate in architecture and urban planning. I just sleep and eat at home. I don’t have enough room to invite several people. »

A cocoon against precariousness

By its simplicity and ease, the formula has even given ideas to those who help… the homeless. In 2016, Vincent Aussilloux, the president of the Abri Cocoon association, presented his project of tiny houses to the participatory budget of the City of Paris “to allow homeless people to bounce back from the street to other housing as quickly as possible”. Since then, thanks to subsidies from the municipality, the association has been able to set up two houses of this type in the 12th arrondissement of the capital, which only needed an electrical connection before being placed on the ground. “The cocoon, as it is called here, can be placed near where the person on the street is located,” explains Vincent Aussilloux. Often, these people have habits and do not want to go too far to the outskirts. In a third of cases, they also refuse collective emergency accommodation. »

Philippe, for example, who has difficulty moving around and expressing himself, wanted to find a “home”. On the street for seven years, this sixty-year-old finally feels safe in the tiny house which he has held for a year. Its 7 m2 can only accommodate a bench seat, a fridge, a microwave, a shower and a toilet. “It’s small,” he concedes. But it’s much better than before. » Although temporary, this shelter offers a space for reconstruction to its beneficiaries. Thanks to the association, Philippe should soon gain the status of disabled adult and receive an RSA supplement, which would allow him to leave his tiny house for permanent housing.

By opening up to people on the street, tiny houses reconnect with the initial ambition of their designers. Appearing in the United States in the 2000s, they were intended to quickly rehouse people who were victims of the subprime crisis and Hurricane Katrina. They then arrived in France, around 2010. Rodolphe Duranceau still remembers the television report where he discovered the concept. He was immediately excited. “This type of housing helps you refocus on the essentials while reducing your ecological footprint as much as possible,” explains the manufacturer. Built using lightweight, biodegradable materials such as spruce wood, these homes require no foundation. Some owners prefer to be connected to water, gas and electricity networks, others choose to make their house autonomous by installing solar panels, a wood stove and a tank to collect rainwater.

Very easy installation

THE tiny houses have another interest: they can be placed almost anywhere. We find them in areas where regulations do not allow the establishment of other housing. “In this case, customers benefit from a breathtaking view of the sea, a lake, mountains or a forest,” argues David Letellier, general manager of Slow Village (holiday accommodation throughout France).

According to manufacturers in the sector, the popularity of this type of “home” illustrates a real change in vision among owners. “Some people no longer see the point of owning a large house where they only occupy part of the space,” assures Denis Demaegdt, builder near Lourdes. “The majority of our customers want a tiny house to make it their main residence, continues the builder. But some are also considering it for their second home, a house extension, a rental investment or even professional premises. » The age of the audience varies from 25… to 86 years old. These tiny homes are no longer built high up but arranged on one level so that people with reduced mobility can benefit from them. A solution for a lower-cost retirement?

The great vagueness of regulations

Regulations in France do not require obtaining a building permit when the micro-dwelling has less than 20 m2 on the ground.

A simple prior declaration of work is sufficient: this is a planning authorization required for certain works to be carried out. Beyond this threshold, final installation on land requires obtaining a building permit. In a non-buildable space – a natural or agricultural area – things become complicated. In these territories, local town planning plans can define very limited zones in which constructions with other purposes will be authorized: Stecal (sectors of limited size and capacity). Since the Alur law of March 2014, these Stecals can accommodate demountable residences intended for permanent housing. In this case, check with your community to find out if, in its regulations, it authorizes these tiny houses.

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