Ryan Mitchell lives and breathes tiny houses. He has been running the popular website The Tiny Life for the past five years; is currently planning a tiny house conference for approximately 120 people in Charlotte, N.C., where he lives; and has written a book on tiny living that’s due to be published in July. To top it off, he recently finished construction on a tiny house of his very own.

Grist.org reported that Mitchell’s dream, however, is a community of tiny houses. When asked what that would look like, he describes a grouping of mini-cottages around a large communal structure, which would include space to have shared meals, shows, and workshops. “The community aspect is actually a big part of what we [tiny house enthusiasts] like,” says Mitchell. With The Tiny Life, Mitchell has created an online forum of sorts for tiny house enthusiasts from all over the world. He wants to bring that community out of the virtual sphere and into the physical one.

How idyllic! But as Mitchell has learned firsthand, building a tiny house community from scratch is not as simple as it seems. Local building and zoning restrictions, not to mention securing startup money to buy land, are just a few of the obstacles to achieving a cottage-laden utopia.

Nevertheless, clusters of little huts in line with Mitchell’s vision are beginning to show their heads around the United States – though sprung from perhaps a different direction than he and the legions of tiny house followers might expect. In some areas of the country, a very small home isn’t just a model for the eco-conscious and design-inclined to pursue radical downsizing. Instead, it represents an opportunity for the homeless, mentally ill, and otherwise disenfranchised to get a toehold on upward mobility.

But regardless of origin, tiny house community acceptance faces yet another obstacle: the stigma that tends to surround groups of very small dwellings clustered on a single plot of land. Did somebody say “trailer park?”

The majority of tiny houses are, in fact, built on wheels. Due to common (and likely outdated) building codes, permanent dwellings often have minimum building requirements of around 800 square feet. To skirt the law, tiny dwellers build their houses using trailer bases as the foundation.

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