Lauren Trambley

Volume 72, Issue 3, 919-958

Although California was by no means an affordable state to reside in prior to 2008, Californians are still experiencing the reverberating effects of the collapse of the housing market in its present affordable housing crisis. As a result of the spike in home foreclosures following the 2008 collapse, the rental market remains “tight” with low vacancies, while housing development has only slowly increased. Combined with stagnant wages, rising housing costs, and growing demand, California has failed to address its shortage of not only housing, but affordable housing.

Recent state action demonstrates the desire to increase housing density. But by focusing solely on density, the California legislature ignores the critical issue: affordability. While new housing development may help to reduce tight rental market conditions, it does not guarantee affordability and may in fact lead to further displacement of low-income residents.

To address the issue of density as well as affordability, California must amend its single-family zoning laws to permit the construction of smaller housing units, such as tiny homes. Without the financial barriers of high construction costs, land value, down payments, and mortgages, tiny homes address both issues of density and affordability.

While tiny homes may not solve the affordable housing crisis outright, they may help to alleviate the ever-increasing demands in the rental market and remove the staggering barriers that those seeking to become homebuyers face when looking to exit the rental market. With nearly two-thirds of renters declaring that they will never be able to achieve the American Dream, it is time for California to reimagine the American Dream—in terms of square footage.