Kids Do the Darndest Things: Teen Builds His Own Teeny-Tiny Home

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Austin Hay in his house in the works.

For some 16-year-olds, planning for college consists of choosing the best party school. For Austin Hay, it consists of building the house he’ll be living in.

The teenager lives in Sonoma County, Calif. and for the past year has been designing and building his very own tiny house. Measuring 130 square feet, the house, which sits atop a set of wheels, was started as a school project, but the industrious Hay has continued to build away. By working two jobs, Hay has managed to earn enough to fund the $12,000 project.

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So why would someone want a house that you can’t swing a cat in (if swinging cats was your thing)? Well, it seems that Hay is just the latest and youngest member of the Small House Movement, a social movement that touts the environmental advantages of living in fully functional compact houses. By living in smaller spaces, people use less energy for heating and cooling and lighten their carbon footprints. As Hays points out, beyond having his only own mortgage-free house to live in throughout college, he’ll have the added bonus of low house costs. “Living small means less bills, living big means more bills,” he tells “I don’t want to pay big bills.”

Obviously, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that Hay isn’t a typical teenager. That is, until you learn that even though his house is less than a tenth of the size of his parent’s 1800-square-foot home, he’s perfectly content to live in it while he works. “Like any other teenager, I want to move out,” he says. Which, yes, sounds like every other teenager we know.

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