Marie and Alan Boucher have two houses. One fits into their suburban Charlotte, N.C., neighborhood. The other could nearly fit into that house’s sun room.

The Charlotte Observer reported that at 130 square feet, their house is not much bigger than a couple of parking spaces. Duck inside the 6-by-2-foot doorway on a 97-degree day, and you’ll find that a single window air conditioner keeps it quite cool. Climb up a painter’s ladder, and you’ll see a cramped loft bedroom with a roof so low that Marie and Alan can only sit up one at a time, in the middle of the bed, while they listen to the rain hit the tin roof just inches above.

The couple aren’t solitary eccentrics. They’re part of a growing “tiny house” movement taking root across the U.S. that has inspired websites, blogs and multiple reality shows. And here, as elsewhere, the movement is outpacing public policy, growing through the cracks of zoning codes.

Before the Bouchers started building their house, they knocked on neighbors’ doors toting “The Small House Book,” by Jay Shafer and a 22-ounce bottle of craft beer.

The book was a way to explain to neighbors the rationale behind building the diminutive dwelling in their side yard. They’re seeking a sustainable, debt-free lifestyle, with less space and less stuff.

Alan Boucher is 34 and wants to be financially independent by age 40. The nearly built tiny house in his side yard would help him do that. Trailer and all, it’ll cost about $27,000 once finished.

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