By Ron Jones

SONOMA COUNTY (CBS13) — As more people move into homes that are less than 200 square feet, the phenomenon is facing hurdles before it becomes the next big thing in housing.

Dylan Pankow and his wife, Paprika Clark, caught the tiny house bug in 2008 after Clark went to a tiny-house workshop. They’ve since built three homes and sold two of them.

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For years, they used a 162-square-foot home as an office, guest room, and vacation rental. But for the past six months, they’ve been living in their tiny home full time, running their consulting business Bungalow To Go.

“Not only have we had to downsize frequently and heavily before we moved in, but it’s an ongoing process,” Clark said.

“But in the end, it was a wonderful transition. I am so glad we did it,” Pankow said.

But why would anyone want to live in such tight quarters?

It’s about freedom from some of the financial constraints so that they can choose work that they prefer or prioritize more time for other things that they want to do, like art or family or travel or education,” Clark said.

The average tiny house is 186 square feet, compared to the standard U.S. house at 2,100 square feet. The average cost to build is just $23,000, compared to $272,000 for a regular-sized homes. That has 68 percent of tiny house owners with no mortgage, compared to just 29.3 percent of all U.S. homeowners.

Designer Jacqueline Padilla-Perez studied the tiny house movement and the motivations behind it for a project at Sacramento State.

“It seemed like the biggest motivating factor that all had in common was some sort of life-changing event,” she said.

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She found people got fed up with their overworked corporate lifestyles or were affected by an illness. But most wanted to get more out of life by living with less.

“By not being bogged down in a house that has a foundation,” she said. “It’s a house that you can take anywhere with you. You have all the comforts of home no matter where you want to go.”

A majority of tiny homes are built on a trailer with wheels because in most counties and cities, zoning codes don’t allow for permanent homes smaller than 500 or 700 square feet.

“Some of that is just for aesthetics,” said Sacramento State professor Rob Wassmer. “If you’re going to buy a big home, you probably want to live next to other homes that are bigger homes.”

The director of the Urban Land Development Program at Sacramento State says it would be tough getting those minimum square footage codes changed, because it comes down to money.

After Proposition 13, that you know, the property tax was 1 percent on that home,” he said. “So you build a half million dollar home, the city’s going to be getting $5,000 in property tax revenue. as compared to a $50,000 home where they’ll be getting $500 in property tax revenue.”

So for now, tiny homes remain on wheels

“As far as California’s concerned, the state of California, this is a trailer with a load on it,” Clark said.

In many places, you can’t live in an RV or trailer permanently; there’s usually a 30-day camping limit.

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“In a lot of places, as long as the neighbors aren’t reporting you and you’re a very good neighbor and you follow all the other laws, they’ll overlook something like this,” Clark said.