Talking Green: Tiny homes topic of Tuesday meeting
November 10, 2017
Tiny homes business owner Cheryl Coates worked with a client in Routt County who was ready to purchase a 380-square-foot home built atop a 30-foot gooseneck trailer. The customer’s ranch property already included necessary water rights, electrical service and a sewage system.
However, current Routt County zoning regulations present a stumbling block since a tiny home on wheels cannot stay on a property for more than 180 days and is currently regulated as a camping use instead of longer term housing.
Coates, Colorado chapter leader of the American Tiny House Association, said communities across Colorado are slowly coming to terms with this growing tiny housing segment popular with millennials and some single individuals and retirees who want a place of their own that is both space and energy efficient.
"It's a new industry that is evolving for communities to accept rather than deter this mode of affordable housing," said Coates, owner of Tiny Diamond Homes in Littleton.
Routt County Planning Director Chad Phillips said his department is open to working with tiny home builders since "the county master plan supports alternative housing options."
"If there is interest from the local community in having tiny homes on wheels for long-term occupancy, community members should approach the county planning department," Phillips said.
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This is one of the topics planned during an educational panel and public discussion at Yampa Valley Sustainability Council's second Talking Green program on tiny homes at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday Nov. 14 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Steamboat Springs. The evening program is a follow-up to a well-attended tiny homes program hosted by YVSC in May 2016.
Individual tiny homes can be found in Routt County and across Colorado, and Routt County leaders attended discussions on the topic during a Colorado Department of Local Affairs program in October 2016 and during an August training by the Colorado Chapter of the International Codes Council. ICC trainer Tom Meyers from Hotchkiss equated the growth in tiny home living to the increase in people reading books on e-readers. Owners of moveable tiny homes need mobility due to economic and work situations and do not want the baggage of a large mortgage or lots of home maintenance responsibilities.
Tiny homes on foundations on individual lots face hurdles in Colorado communities due to subdivision covenants or house size minimums in some towns, Coates said. Owners of moveable tiny homes might apply for a zoning variance for their units to serve as an accessory dwelling unit that observes setbacks and easements.
Tiny home neighborhoods are planned in Walsenburg and Salida and proposed for Yampa. Aspen Skiing Co. established a well-received neighborhood of wheeled tiny homes in Basalt for seasonal employees.
Coates explained that tiny homes on wheels differ from recreational vehicles because they are meant to be permanent residences rather than road warriors and meet performance-based building codes. She said tiny homes on foundations differ from mobile homes found in trailer parks because they are built with similar techniques as single-family homes with thicker insulation packages.
Builders of moveable tiny homes can have their products voluntarily certified through the National Organization of Alternative Housing (NOAH), a trade association established in 2015 for manufacturers and do-it-yourself builders.
At the Nov. 14 Talking Green, Routt County Building Official Todd Carr will discuss the appendix Q building codes for tiny home construction that will take effect Jan. 1, 2018 in Steamboat Springs, Oak Creek, Yampa and unincorporated Routt County.
Ryan Cox and Darrin Fryer, co-owners of SmartPads prefabricated homes built in Utah and Idaho, will discuss a new down-payment assistance program accepted by Yampa Valley Bank that allows a borrower to qualify for a construction loan with 10 percent down with an additional 10 percent assistance from SmartPads or another third party.
SmartPads products include a 400-square-foot tiny home engineered for Routt County, and a model will be available locally for viewing in late January. The realtors estimate with the tiny home price of $70,000, $30,000 in site infrastructure and the availability of lots in smaller towns for $30,000, a customer could get into a new tiny home for $130,000.
"We are talking to more and more people sick of condo living. They are looking for something that gives them the feeling of a single-family home but without the large price tag,"
Suzie Romig is the Energy Outreach coordinator for the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.