- Elizabeth Illing moved into a tiny home believing it was a long-term solution to Austin’s high rents.
- Illing said her rent and utility bills went up during the two years she’s lived in the tiny home.
- She feels disillusioned by the tiny-home experience and is moving to an apartment in April.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Elizabeth Illing, a 37-year-old general manager for a catering company in Austin, Texas, who moved into a tiny home with her daughter in 2022 but is planning to move out this spring. Her rent increased after the first year in the 600-square-foot, one-bedroom tiny home, and her current 15-month lease is up in April. The essay has been edited for length and clarity.
In 2021, I saw an interview about micro homes and how they were going to help keep Austin affordable and combat rising rents.
I thought moving into the Casata tiny home community was a good idea for my family due to the affordability. I also liked the idea of community and thought it would be a great way for me to socialize, and for my daughter to know her neighbors.
I moved into a 600-square-foot home on the property in February 2022. I got in at a great rate. However, as soon as it was time to renew my lease, they jacked the rents up. My rent increased by $350 a month in the first year — from $1,340 to $1,690.
I’m moving out in April because I can no longer afford to live here.
It doesn’t take much for someone to no longer be able to afford their home. I’m paying $600 to $700 more each month than I was before moving into the community. It’s not livable.
I have a good job and career. I consider myself to have a middle-class income. I make $55,000 to $60,000 a year. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense that I’m in this position.
I should be able to afford to take care of my daughter, set money aside, and not live paycheck to paycheck. I should be able to handle my bills, but I’ve had to cash in on my retirement and reach out to family to help me through this. It’s embarrassing.
My tiny home’s rent increased — and so did my utility bills
I was supposed to lease a two-bedroom unit, but those were already fully committed by the time I moved onto the property. It’s been difficult sharing a bedroom with a 6-year-old.
The unit I live in used to include internet, trash, water, sewer, and electricity, all for $150 a month.
However, they no longer consider the internet as part of utilities. Now, the internet alone costs $65 a month, and there’s no option to opt-out. The trash service is $25. Pest control is $5. After all of that, then you have utilities. One month, my electricity was $100 alone.
So now, in total, my monthly expenses range from $200 to $300, which seems excessive for a 600-square-foot home.
I felt the tiny-home community didn’t live up to all its promises
I’ve lived in apartments where everybody works different hours, and people don’t really venture outside to say hello. So when I moved in, I was hoping to build relationships with my neighbors.
My daughter and I have gotten to know our neighbors, and we’ve enjoyed the social interactions. However, the property no longer has a social events coordinator. Now, perhaps once every three months, they host something that requires an RSVP, but it’s not as open to everybody as it used to be.
The property also started removing amenities, including meeting rooms. Instead of being able to use it for free, they wanted to charge us. The yoga room that was supposed to be for residents was also converted into a leasing office.
I’m moving into an apartment next
Moving here was like a bait and switch. I expected to be here for the next 10 years — at least until my daughter was in her teens, and then maybe I would potentially buy a two-bedroom here — but that’s not the case.
The property management company initially mentioned giving first-time buyers an option to potentially buy, but no talk of that ever happened again.
In April, we’re moving to an apartment complex directly across the street. I’m going to have a two-bedroom home with a fenced-in backyard that will cost me $1,400.
In the future, I would consider living in another tiny home community.
Now I know I need to do a little more investigating. This includes understanding what is considered part of amenities, how they categorize utilities, and what utilities are actually considered.
For others considering moving into a tiny home, I would advise paying attention to your lease and definitely knocking on doors to talk to current residents.
I believe there’s a lot of misleading marketing when it comes to tiny homes, and unfortunately, consumers are often not aware of that.