5 Reasons People Choose an Alternative Housing Lifestyle

alternative housing lifestyle

Is the alternative housing lifestyle right for you?

Purchasing a house in the current housing market in the United States is unattainable for many people. Mortgage rates continue to fluctuate, leaving many to wonder if they will be able to keep up with mortgage payments. Purchase prices continue to rise, but houses stay on the market longer than we’ve seen in the past couple of years. Sellers, who are selling a larger home, are willing to hold out for their price. The overall inventory is still down from pre-pandemic times. This could change tomorrow, but for now, there has been little reprieve on the cost of housing. 

Alternative housing may be an option for many people, especially those searching for a more affordable housing solution. Alternative housing is any form of housing outside of traditional stick-built conventional housing. This includes different housing ideas like cob homes, shipping container homes, tiny houses, communal living, or cooperative housing. There are houses made of old planes, silos, barns, wood pallets, prebuilt sheds, and other materials. Alternative housing materials are as varied as the people who choose the lifestyle of alternative housing and why they see it as a more attractive option

Why do people choose an alternative housing lifestyle? 

There are a few main drivers that push people to choose an alternative housing lifestyle:

1. High cost of living

While housing prices stay high, many choose to move back into the family home. People are still buying homes. According to the Census Bureau, the homeownership rate in the United States is 65.4%. The rate is starting to work its way back up to its highest since the all-time high of 69.2% in 2004. 

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However, this isn’t necessarily Gen Z and the Millennials moving into apartments or buying homes. This could be that the family has purchased a new home to accommodate the younger generation moving back in with them after being independent for some time or through college. A TD Ameritrade Study in 2019 showed that 50% of those ages 15-28 had moved back in with their parents due to the job market, student loan debt, and high cost of living. 

This multi-generational lifestyle is not necessarily the same as an independent alternative lifestyle. However, it does fall under more of a communal living situation, even if the family is the community.

2. Intentional community

Groups of people choose to share their lives and live in a community with others. This lifestyle has many benefits, such as enhanced well-being and reduction of loneliness, energy savings by having large meals prepared for everyone, and less food waste. Communal living promotes group activities such as community gardens or other environmental work. Many who live in a commune carpool and have a communal laundry showing that you can be together even doing daily tasks. Intentional communities are more likely to participate in pro-environmental activities. 


3. Freedom

The American dream most of us have grown up hearing is to get a good job and buy a house. You will then have your little slice of the world. Unfortunately, what’s not explained is that 2/3 of all houses are financed by a mortgage – essentially putting golden handcuffs on anyone who needs to pay one. Often, alternative housing is cheaper than the typical cost of buying and owning a home. We’ve talked to alternative homeowners in other articles and found a few common themes. Freedom was, by and large, the most compelling reason people wanted to explore alternative housing ideas. This freedom can look like freedom from a mortgage, debt, clutter, location, one job, and more.

Statistic: Number of new house sales in the United States from 2000 to 2021, by financing type (in 1,000s) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

4. Reduce environmental impact

According to the Continuing Education Center Architecture and Engineering, “About 10 million acres of U.S. forest are harvested annually. Over 90 percent of those are private holdings—mostly corporate-owned. Almost 60 percent of family owners have their forest land commercially harvested at some point.” While “40% of that is used for paper.” A common estimate is that a contemporary, 2,000-square-foot, wood-framed, single-family house uses upwards of 16,000 board feet of framing, and about 11,000 square feet of other wood materials, such as sheathing.” That’s a lot of wood.


Alternative housing can reduce the environmental impact by using materials that have already been discarded as recycling, like the materials in an Earthship. Earth berm houses use the ground itself, and houses built out of cob, adobe, and earth bags use the material around them. The best part is if the home is no longer wanted, it can be demolished and become part of the earth again. 

5. Unique experience

Alternative housing can break you away from a conventional lifestyle in a traditional home. While it can be a unique, exciting experience, there are some things to consider. Most people have become accustomed to their “things.” These belongings often bring us the most stress either in maintaining them, cleaning them, or moving them to another place in our home because it takes up space. Alternative housing does not need to be small.


You can stack multiple shipping containers, lock boxcars together, build adjoining walls for multiple silos, or add on any number of rooms with a cob house if you are looking for a large space. However, most people think of the tiny home, which ranges between 100-500 square feet. An RV, van camper, moving truck house, and many others fall into this category. For those housing choices, you will probably need to downsize your lifestyle to daily essentials. However, with unique storage options and compact plumbing and lighting fixtures, you might not be missing much. The following article will discuss the changes necessary for an alternative housing lifestyle

If you’re looking to buy a unique home in the area, you may have difficulty finding one or financing it. Many lenders do not offer mortgages for these homes, so you may have to find other means, like paying cash or taking out a personal loan. When choosing to build an alternative home, it’s important to review local zoning laws and building codes to ensure the idea is feasible.

There are many benefits to living an alternative housing lifestyle. If you have a story you’d like to share, contact us at AlternativeHousingOptions, we’d love to interview you. In the meantime, check out our other articles about the materials for building an alternative home.


Eva is a freelance copywriter specializing in all things real estate, B2B, PropTech, ReTech, CRETech. Owning rental property herself, Eva's love of real estate has turned into a passion for alternative housing options and educating people about the different types of housing available.

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