Category Archives: Places to Stay

12/29 In Rapid City, Tiny houses are a step in right direction

Rapid City Iowa Mayor Steve Allender

Rapid City Iowa Mayor Steve Allender. Photo from his Twitter profile.

Mayor Steve Allender is thinking big and out of the box these days as he begins to tackle Rapid City’s affordable housing shortage.

Allender is looking at tiny houses as part of the solution in a community where jobs that pay even $14 an hour are difficult to find.

But now, the mayor is going from the talking to the doing stage in an unprecedented effort to open more doors for those working-class residents who want to call Rapid City home.

The Journal reported last week that Allender is working with a private developer and Neighborworks Dakota Home Resources to build five tiny townhomes near the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

They would be from 360 to 968 square feet with attached garages. The prices are expected to range from $100,000 to $142,000. Those who seek to purchase a unit could receive help with the down payment and closing costs, assistance that likely would come from Neighborworks, an established nonprofit that helps local residents buy, repair and keep their homes.

If all goes as planned, work could begin in February or March on the townhomes. Mayor Allender hopes the project eventually will pave the way for 100 or more tiny homes in Rapid City, which would be a remarkable achievement.

Read more –

12/28 Florida’s tiny house movement embraces some big ideas

A tiny home repurposed from a U-Haul trailer

A tiny home repurposed from a U-Haul trailer.

Adam Money (also known as Adam Scott) looks deceptively boyish, with a surfer’s tan, blue eyes and a ready smile. Now in his 30s, he could be paying a big mortgage on a suburban ranch home, but instead Money is restoring a kitchen in the clubhouse of the RV park he owns, Orlando Lakefront. He’s built several tiny houses in this mobile home community, bought a few more, and he gazes at them lovingly, like family, as he tours the property.

From Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando Lakefront looks like any other ordinary mobile home park. But these tiny homes, like the movement itself, are secreted inside the more conventional picture of Americana. The standard American dream is a job and a house and a yard and a dog and a kid or two, but Money would rather build a neighborhood, one tiny house at a time.

Tiny houses are trendy, and yet they’re nothing new – wetuash, wattle-and-daub, log cabins and soddies were the original American tiny houses. Giant houses are still rising at a furious pace, and if that’s your choice, there’s nothing wrong with displaying your success writ large. For more and more people, however, something’s missing, and a big empty house is small comfort.

Money’s College Park tiny house village started on the western edge of Lake Fairview and is bit by bit spreading inland, back into the park. Money gambled on his intuition that people crave the look and feel of a traditional house; the brightly colored tiny houses strut like tropical cocktails in between weathered old mobile homes.

He pauses at the edge of the lake. “My first tiny house was that one over there,” he gestures with pride. It looks like the back of a U-Haul truck – and indeed that’s what it is, repainted cinnamon-orange and nestled into an oak-shaded wood deck. “Elaine liked that spot, so I converted a used trailer into a house just for her,” Money says. [Note: The author misunderstood. Elaine Walker’s tiny house was the first one at Adam’s park. Adam converted the U-Haul and put it where Elaine’s house had been when she moved her house to Palmetto, FL in January 2016.]

Cynthia Aimo, a retired attorney and one of Money’s early buyers, lives in a sunny yellow tiny house perched on the shore. She’s busy cleaning it while her friendly dog watches. “Mainly, I wanted something I could manage without gobbling up all of my time,” she offers from the doorway, vacuum cleaner in hand.

Aimo’s choice to stay small was deliberate: “It is a liberating feeling, not having a huge house hanging over my head, or a big rent check every month.”

Tiny homes represent an option for people who intentionally downsize and want to live more outside of their homes than within them. Conditioned to want more and more, many have succumbed to the American Dream spoon-fed to us by advertising agencies, but by redefining what is meant by “more,” people like Adam Money and Cynthia Aimo are reserving less for big houses and more for their own bigger dreams of the future.

With the exploding popularity of books, websites and TV shows (Tiny House Big Living, Tiny Luxury, Tiny House Nation, Tiny House Hunters, Tiny House Builders, Tiny House Arrest, et. al.) dedicated to the trend, “What’s a tiny house?” isn’t a question heard very often these days. But for the record, practitioners generally define a tiny house as a livable structure (walls, roof, kitchen, bathroom) under 500 square feet, about the size of a two-car garage.

The concept of “living little” started to rise during the decluttering/minimalist craze of the ’00s and gained traction when the recession hit, as a way to combat ridiculous mortgages, endless weekends spent on home repair and lawn-mowing, and the bitter reality that your house value can, despite all your work, drop like a rock when the big boys on Wall Street screw up.

The most common tiny dwelling is the kind on wheels. (Those living the life often refer to them as THOWs.) Tiny houses on wheels can go into RV parks (pending park-owner approval), and sometimes into backyards and other properties, if zoning laws let them – it’s all about access to water, electricity and sewerage.

Read more –

12/19 Tiny Villages May Be the Next Big Housing Trend

tiny house village

Photo from the Low Income Housing Institute

Over the past few years, tiny houses have become all the rage across the country. Now, experts say that tiny villages might be the next big thing.

Tiny homes can often be better for the environment and easier on your pockets when it comes to monthly bills. They are also easier to keep clean, giving owners more time for the things they enjoy. The tiny house community is continuing to grow, giving like-minded individuals a place to forge bonds and relationships.

Two researchers at Kansas State University, Brandon Irwin and Julia Day, are interested in the growing trend. They are currently studying what advantages tiny villages might offer residents. The pair are researching if living in a tiny house village will encourage residents to be more physically active, sustainable building design and healthy building materials for tiny houses.

“Design elements and strategies such as solar panels or low-water-use fixtures are part of the bigger sustainability and environmental health picture, but when designing and building a tiny house — or any house — it is beneficial to thoughtfully select building materials without harmful chemicals to increase indoor air quality and health,” Day said. “In addition, there are many known health benefits for natural lighting and fresh air in living spaces, a common theme in many tiny house designs.”

An issue they’ve faced is the perception that smaller dwellings are often viewed as lower class. Laws made by several communities to discourage smaller home also cause issues.

“The biggest challenge with tiny houses is trying to find a place to put them,” Irwin said. “Zoning laws dictate where you can and cannot put a house. Right now, the big question is what is a tiny house? Because how you define a tiny house dictates where you can put it.”

Read more –

12/17 Ma Casita seeks to provide tiny houses as affordable housing in Lawrence, MA

Conceptual model for  tiny steel houses on a Lawrence city lot.

Conceptual model for tiny steel houses on a Lawrence city lot.

In a city where a big chunk of the population, half, spends a big chunk of its income, half, on housing, the chance to own a tiny house with a tiny mortgage generates big interest.

It excites Franallen Acosta, 23, a 6-foot 6-inch Lawrence man who ducks when entering many homes but is keen to build wee houses in this densely settled city of nearly 80,000 souls.

The 2012 Lawrence High graduate wants homeownership for more residents. He has faced housing uncertainty himself; has friends who have battled homelessness; and his mother has for 20 years spent the lion’s share of her pay on rent, likely in the neighborhood of $200,000.

“And she’ll never get that back,” he said.

Acosta also wants to create jobs in his home city, where, according to state labor statistics, unemployment stood at 5.3 percent in October, a major improvement from the 10 percent level of two years ago but still almost twice the state’s 2.7 percent rate in October.

Acosta’s response to unemployment and expensive yet limited housing in Lawrence is founding Mi Casita. Translated from Spanish it means “My Little House.” It’s a small step along a challenging, steep path…

Lawrence’ Director of Business and Economic Development Abel Vargas says the city is working with Acosta on clearly defining tiny houses in ordinance language and identifying a property that meets his needs.

Acosta has filed ordinance language, which upon review will need City Council approval. He has filed survey results, asking residents about the need and their desire for tiny houses.

“He has taken the appropriate steps,” Vargas said. “His idea is promising…”

The next major steps will be to find financial backers — people with capital to support the initiative — and to line-up buyers.

To that end Acosta invited a tiny homes builder to showcase the product at an LCW outside event.

He has also has identified 30 people who are interested in living the homes.

It’s unusual for tiny houses to take root in a post-industrial, urban center such as Lawrence where 11,000 people live per square mile compared to a statewide average of about 840 people per square mile.

Acosta isn’t deterred. The city is sprinkled with vacant lots and the need for housing is here.

Read more –

12/14 Meet the Mobile, Off-Grid Tiny Solar House Traveling Across America

tiny housesWhat happens when a passion for solar energy gets combined with enthusiasm for traveling, facilitated by the small-house movement? Enter the Tiny Solar House, a mobile marketing campaign that gives people a first-hand example of the practicability of living in a home powered by solar.

The Tiny Solar House has been on a surprisingly big tour of America the past 6 months, sharing experiences and inspiration of a solar-powered lifestyle. Logging over 10,000 miles since departing from Austin, Texas, in May, the journey has made stops in 15 states and 10 National Parks.

This 210-square-foot off-grid house on wheels is essentially an RV with a different look. The base of the home is a dual-axle trailer atop a structure was framed, insulated, and enclosed.

The Tiny Solar House features a multifunctional living room/office/art studio, kitchen with full-sized fridge, double sink, and propane oven, shower, toilet, and upstairs sleeping loft big enough for a queen-sized mattress.

But the true beauty of the Tiny Solar House comes from the outside. 6 photovoltaic, 280-watt SolarWorld solar panels adorn the roof and send solar energy to a small metal box above the tongue of the trailer. Inside the box there are 6 deep-cycle batteries wired for 750 amp-hours at 12 volts, a Midnite Solar charge controller, and a clever Xantrex inverter with capability to plug into an RV electrical hookup if needed.

This special feature came in handy recently when stopped at a tiny house community on the outskirts of Austin, Texas.

“We were hit with back to back to back cloudy days which depleted our battery bank and forced us to hook up to grid power,” said Michael Chance, owner of the Tiny Solar House. “It was a sad day, and the first time in six months that we had to rely on non-solar electricity,” he added.

The Tiny Solar House is one of 19 tiny houses currently parked at Austin Live|Work, one of the largest tiny house communities in the nation. This 10-acre, alternative housing community is drawing like-minded individuals together for a number of reasons. Some tenants have chosen the tiny lifestyle to decrease their carbon footprints and get more in-touch with the land, while others see it as a path to financial independence and an escape from rapidly increasing cost of living, longer work hours, and frustrating commutes.

Read more –

12/13 Salida, Colorado, will be the home of the largest tiny home community in the US

the Man Cave by Sprout Tiny Homes

the Man Cave by Sprout Tiny Homes

200 tiny homes, a community building, an exercise facility, a restaurant, and other amenities will be built along the Arkansas River in Salida.

One of the country’s leading tiny house developers, Sprout Tiny Homes, got approval last month from the Salida, Colorado, city council to build 200 tiny house rental units, along with a number of other community features, on a 19-acre riverfront parcel. Once built, the Riverview at Cleora will be the largest tiny home community in the United States.

Although these units aren’t going to fall under the category of affordable housing, they could go a long way toward alleviating some of the pressure on the local housing market in Salida. This iconic Colorado mountain town is a popular mountain biking, whitewater rafting, and outdoor adventure destination, and yet has a scarce number of both short-term vacation rentals and longer-term residential rentals.

“The planned development for Riverview at Cleora is 200 tiny home units; a community building with catering kitchen, exercise facility and management office; a restaurant lot overlooking the river; and 96 storage units. There are plans for a walking trail to be constructed along the length of the river, two resident parks, and numerous pedestrian walk ways, resulting in approximately 2000 square feet of common green space per pod.” – Sprout Tiny Homes

Sprout Tiny Homes, which is also working on a 33-unit tiny house development on a 4.6-acre parcel in Walsenburg, Colorado, believes that its River View at Cleora development “will address the huge need of quality housing of the community of Salida,” as well as serve to attract “sustainably-minded residents who share the active lifestyle decision to work and live in one of the most beautiful places and climate” in the state. These tiny houses, however, aren’t going to be your stereotypical tiny home, with a low monthly payment and the ability to just pick up and move at any time, as they won’t be for sale and they will be built on permanent foundations.

Monthly rents for the tiny homes will range from $700 to $1450 (utilities included).

Read more –

12/11 Tiny house community coming to South Bend?

Nikki and David Stillson's tiny house

Nikki and David Stillson’s tiny house

A group hopes South Bend will become a pioneer in America’s tiny house movement with a tiny subdivision on the city’s near northwest side.

The plans, still in the concept stage, would involve six to eight tiny houses, defined as measuring 250 to 400 square feet, built on permanent foundations across two vacant lots at the corner of Cushing Street and Portage Avenue, said organizer Mike Keen, a retired professor of sociology at Indiana University South Bend and founder of the school’s Center for a Sustainable Future.

“People want to downsize and simplify their lives by building smaller homes with less stuff to put in them,” said Keen. “What they say is ‘smaller house, bigger life.’”

The homes, built on site, would cost $50,000 to $60,000 and would target Millennials and baby boomer “empty nesters” looking to downsize and be closer to their children and grandchildren, Keen said.

Keen recently took early retirement from the university to launch Thrive Michiana LLC, a sustainability and innovation consulting firm.

Working with him to build the homes would be Dwayne Borkholder, president of New Energy Homes, a new division of Nappanee-based Borkholder Buildings & Supply. Aside from their tiny size, the homes would be “zero energy,” meaning they are 70 percent more energy efficient than a traditional home for the same cost per square foot, and rooftop solar panels generate the other 30 percent of power.

Borkholder has been building regular size zero-energy homes for six years, but recently started working to adapt that technology to tiny homes. The pair plan to present their ideas, along with some drawings of how the homes would look, and answer the public’s questions Tuesday at 4 p.m. at downtown’s Union Station, 506 W. South St…

Also planning to attend Tuesday is Nikki Stillson, who lives in a 188-square-foot house in southern St. Joseph County with her husband, David, and their cats, Sebastian, Layla and Melo. They don’t live in a TLC, but rather, in the backyard of David’s mother, for whom they are primary caregivers. Their house is on wheels that are on cinder blocks.

The couple talked with The Tribune in December 2014 when they were still planning to buy the home, and they started living in it in September 2015.

“I absolutely love living in my tiny house,” Stillson said. “It’s just enough space. We don’t find that we run into each other. We tweak little things here and there each year, just like you would in any house.”

The couple uses an RV electrical hookup and water hose from the main house.

“The biggest thing we love about it is the financial freedom,” said Stillson, noting they paid for the tiny house in full with cash from savings. “We’re not paying $800 a month to live in a place that all we do is sleep in. We’ve been better prepared to save for our future. We’re not living check to check. We’ve been able to travel a lot more. We’re enjoying the little things in life.”

She and David, an information technology manager, run the “Michiana Tiny House Enthusiasts” Facebook group

Read more –

12/09 Tiny house community proposed to Athens-Clarke planning commission

map of Athens-Clark, GeorgiaA development proposal that would return part of an intown residential neighborhood to what it was a century ago has captured the imagination of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia planning commissioners, but neighborhood residents are worried it could bring additional traffic and might force their property taxes upward.

Laurie deVegter, an Atlanta-based real estate agent and developer who specializes in smaller houses, is under contract to purchase a lot of less than a half-acre at 1252 West Hancock Avenue near North Billups Street. She is proposing to divide the parcel, which also fronts on Indale Avenue, into six lots. One of those lots would include an existing three-bedroom house, and deVegter is proposing the construction of five additional homes on the tract. As envisioned, the one-bedroom houses would comprise slightly less than 600 square feet, and would include some loft space, according to deVegter…

She would prefer to develop the property as owner-occupied homes, deVegter said, but one of the problems with that is the lot sizes won’t meet local requirements for owner-occupied dwellings. The tract could possibly comprise rental units, either in a single building or duplexes or some other configuration, although it also might not meet local codes in those configurations. But deVegter would not rule out the possibility of pursuing that option if it became the only viable opportunity for developing the tract.

“It’s hard to do the right thing,” deVegter said in noting her desire to see the property developed as owner-occupied housing.

Read more –

11/16 Salida OK’s community of 200 tiny rental homes

row of tiny houses on wheels

Kathryn Scott, Special to The Denver Post Sprout Tiny Homes has received the go-ahead to develop a neighborhood in Salida made up of 200 tiny houses — similar to these at Wee Casa in Lyons, but on permanent foundations. All of the homes at River View at Cleora will be for-rent — some as vacation rentals, others at a reduced rent for local workers.

The Salida City Council on Tuesday approved a plan to build 200 tiny homes on a riverside parcel, marking what could become the nation’s largest tiny-home community and a showcase for a potential solution to Colorado’s housing crisis.

“I think most people are standing back to see if this thing will be successful,” Salida’s interim town manager Steven Rabe said. “It’s a pretty novel concept and from Salida’s perspective it offers a lot of other opportunities that other developments might not be able to provide.”

La Junta-based Sprout Tiny Homes wants to build 200 rentals — ranging from 200 to 800 square feet — on 19 acres the company owns along the Arkansas River. Salida annexed the property in March. The homes will be on permanent foundations. The River View at Cleora neighborhood will include a community center with a catering kitchen, fitness center, community garden, storage units, 5 acres of parks and trails. Rents will run $750 to $1,400, which includes all utilities. About a third of the units will be available as short-term rentals, alleviating the pressure in Salida, where a little more than 100 homes are available for vacation rental.

The tiny homes are considered “attainable housing” more than “affordable housing.” But 12 percent of the units will be set aside with reduced rent for local workers. A recent housing assessment in Chaffee County showed a growing need for workforce housing, mirroring a housing crunch across rural and urban Colorado, where home prices are climbing more quickly than incomes. Salida, with its population around 5,400, has the highest average home price in Chaffee County; around $319,000. But the average wage in the county is $33,143 and the average rent in Salida is between $1,200 and $1,400. The housing assessment found the county needed 556 new homes over the next 10 years to meet existing and future needs.

Sprout Tiny Homes founder and president Rod Stambaugh — who calls himself “chief Sproutologist” — said Salida residents “definitely are on board” with the tiny-home community plan.

Rabe agreed that residents and council members were receptive to the project. Rabe said there were no public comments at the meeting Tuesday.

“I guess that’s indicative that people are fairly supportive,” he said. “There is this whole conversation — not only in the state but in the country — about whether the tiny-home concept will work. I think Salida is the type of community that will embrace the concept. It’s just the demographic here. They are more willing to consider non-traditional concepts and they are certainly not traditional.”

Read more –

11/13 Tiny house movement lands in Lawrence, Massachusetts

tiny house with purple trimStanding in a landlocked lot on Saratoga Street, Franallen Acosta gestured at a landscape of overgrown brush, trees, and patchy grass and imagined the possibilities.

“This could fit five, six houses,” Acosta said with outstretched arms. That is, five or six really small houses. Like, tiny houses.

Acosta is trying to bring the tiny-house movement, a phenomenon more often associated with millennials in hipster-rich communities, to this aging mill city and its largely immigrant, low-income population. With backing from a nearby business accelerator program, he is plotting a test home of just 300 square feet for a city-owned parcel. And he’s persuaded Lawrence officials to buy into the concept so far, agreeing to consider zoning changes to permit houses that are too small under current rules.

“We have these fears of gentrification, these fears of not being able to sustain ourselves in our communities, and these are things that worry me,” Acosta said. “I feel like the only way out of this is if this project comes to fruition.”

A lanky 23-year-old who quit his job selling solar panels to become an entrepreneur, Acosta is still in the early stages with this project. He estimated the costs of building one of his houses will range between $25,000 and $50,000. It will be on wheels so it can be rolled onto underused lots in Lawrence. Ideally it would be off the grid — using solar panels, battery-powered light bulbs, a rainwater collection system and composting toilet.

A city of 80,000 squeezed into 7 square miles, Lawrence has a varied stock of largely older, densely packed homes. The city has built few new homes in recent years, despite a sustained influx of residents.

Though home prices here are lower than elsewhere in the region, so are incomes. The median household income is about $35,000 a year, compared with almost $68,000 statewide. A city study found that nearly 40 percent of Lawrence residents spent more than half their income on housing.

Acosta estimates monthly mortgage payments for his tiny house could be as low as $600, about half the rent of an average apartment in Lawrence.

Numbers like this have Lawrence officials interested. They are working with him by identifying tax-delinquent properties that can be seized and used to host Acosta’s first batch of tiny homes.

“I would be interested to see how it will play out in an urban environment like ours,” Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera said. “This is not going to solve our housing needs, but shame on us if we don’t test something that could work.”

Lawrence is also open to modifying its building and zoning codes to allow Acosta to build his tiny houses, said Abel Vargas, the city’s director of economic development. But he cautioned that to win city backing, Acosta needs to make sure there really is a long-term interest by people to live in such small spaces, Vargas said.

Acosta recently won a $2,000 grant for the tiny house endeavor from nonprofit Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll), an accelerator program in Lowell for socially conscious initiatives to help cities struggling with high unemployment and poverty. The goal for his project, which Acosta named Mi Casita, Spanish for my tiny house, is to build a “village” of about five houses in Lawrence, and then expand it to other communities in the Merrimack Valley.

Read more –