Tiny house movement laying foundations

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Seligman resident asks permission to build tiny house

In a society increasingly seeking to find ways to tighten its budget, another resource has arisen -- the tiny house movement.

The social movement is gaining ground in the housing industry, saving significant dollars on housing and living expenses by downsizing living space.

According to statistics posted on www.thetinylife.com, the typical American home is about 2,600 square feet, whereas the typical tiny house is between 100 and 400 square feet. While there are all shapes and sizes, the idea is they enable people to live simpler and use space more efficiently.

The subject of tiny houses recently came up close to home in Barry County, in the city of Seligman, when a resident attended a city council meeting to inquire about building one of the small houses in the city.

"People are buying storage sheds and converting them to houses," said Brian Nichols, Seligman city clerk. "It's quite a big movement, but it's low cost. At $25-$35,000 you can equip them with full-sized baths and also lower your cost of energy consumption. It's actually pretty neat. Just think of how much space you don't use."

The catalyst for the movement, which has garnered international attention on CNN, NBC, Oprah and PBS, are financial and environmental concerns, the desire for more time freedom, and getting out of the cycle of debt, which most Americans are entrapped in.

It is also spurring people to rethink how they use space, how they view clutter and the religion of "stuff."

Tiny house dwellers like Ryan Mitchell, managing editor and owner of thetinylife.com, who lives in his 150-square-foot tiny home in Charlotte, N.C., claim they have less financial stress and debt, more peace of mind and more time to spend with family, friends, and pursue their bucket lists.

"The tiny house movement has helped people learn about another way to live their lives," Mitchell said. "Every month, I have thousands and thousands of readers come to my site and I know other sites experience the same.

"People are joining this movement for many reasons, but the most popular reasons include environmental concerns, financial concerns, and the desire for more time and freedom. For most Americans, one-third to one-half of their income is dedicated to the roof over their heads. This translates to 15 years of working over your lifetime just to pay for it, and because of it, 76 percent of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck."

Mitchell proposes living smaller as one solution to that problem.

"While we don't think tiny houses are for everyone, there are lessons to be learned and applied in order to escape the cycle of debt in which almost 70 percent of Americans are trapped," he said.

Locally, Nichols said the concept is a "win-win" for residents and cities.

"It protects quality of life and property values," he said.

Nichols said the resident's tiny home didn't meet the city's minimum 800 square feet zoning requirement for a residential neighborhood.

"They were told they have to conform to the 800 square feet and a foundation," Nichols said. "They didn't argue, but just asked for a variance and permission to do the project. The primary purpose of the planning and zoning rules were to stop all the trailer parks from popping up. The rules were put in place in 1998. Back then, it was deemed your house must be 800-square feet, and be on a permanent foundation in order to build a house in a residential zoning area."

As part of the tiny house discussion, Nichols was asked by the board to make calls to see if other cities have regulations on the diminutive houses to determine if it's something the city wants to add to its planning and zoning rules and explore the concept further.

With a smaller living space, the small houses save on utility bills, too, Nichols said, which equates to less money spent on living expenses.

"You're not heating and cooling a large house," he said.

While some seek to lay foundations in a residential neighborhood, others opt to go mobile with the tiny houses, saving even more money.

"A lot of people are using campgrounds and flatbed trailers and building houses on these trailers, and drive to camp after camp, hook their water up and live in it. Many are wanting to put one in one place, but those doing it mobile are getting out of paying personal property taxes, so there's a yearly savings that goes with it as well."

Eric Freeman, previous alderman and part-time staff with the city, said he has observed the small house concept gaining ground as well.

"There are several [tiny houses] going up, with people trying to get these storage shed-type buildings," he said.

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