Tiny houses are taking over the world. People aspire to live in them, vacation in them, and build them from scratch. Tiny houses are affordable, sustainable, and represent an increasingly liveable version of that old artistic ideal: to escape the grid and reduce your footprint. (Or, at the very least, to spend less being plugged into the urban grid.)

As Amazon is wont to do, they have jumped on the back of this new trend. Teaming up with MODS International, a third-party Wisconsin-based seller, the mega-site is now offering shipping containers that have been fully converted to accommodate a tiny house lifestyle. Barring utility connections and a solid plot of land to sit on, the 29.7-square-metre containers pack in all the amenities of a house: bedroom, shower, toilet, sink, kitchenette and living room.

The catch? They might not be entirely legal.

The sale page for MODS International’s tiny houses have been a hotbed for reviewers concerned about the potential legal issues associated with such a sale. If there are legal ramifications for the purchase of such homes, that in itself is a comment on the accessibility and affordability of housing – an issue that is far from specific to America.

As criticism more specific to the MODS International variation on tiny houses, reviewers have also been quick to question their sustainability credentials. The $36,000USD pre-fabricated homes are converted from new shipping containers, which fails to address the current excess in shipping yards and represents the unnecessary manufacturing and use of resources.

However, the fact that commercial giants such as Amazon are beginning to recognise the power of tiny houses is, arguably, a step forward for their availability in the market – and hopefully towards their legal protection. As both demand and supply grow for such affordable and accessible housing typologies, and as they come to be distributed by such international institutions, we inch closer to a model that eliminates the distance between producer and consumer.