Tiny house movement moves into Tri-Cities; some local zoning departments concerned

Backlund's family bought this 399 square-foot tiny house for $45,000.

TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL) – The tiny house movement is making its way into the Tri-Cities region, but some local governments have concerns about the tiny homes. A tiny house is typically described as a home that is 100-400 square feet. The trend is becoming popular with tiny homes and communities popping up across the nation.

A Tri-Cities couple recently made the decision to go “tiny”.

“There are things that we want to do and places that we want to go and see and we can do that now,” Tammy Backlund said.

She said her small family started the process four years ago when they were living with relatives in North Carolina, “It was very crowded and very tense and so we decided we wanted to be in a little place all by ourselves.”

Earlier this year, Backlund’s family sold their 1,800 square-foot home with three bedrooms and bought a $45,000, 399- square-foot, tiny house with one bedroom. It has a living and dining area, full bathroom and kitchen.

Backlund said, “I think the American dream is really not such a great thing all the time because you have a big house, you have a high mortgage. It takes a lot of money and your time and that’s not really what we’re interested in.”

“Tiny homes are for down-sizers, for people who want to un-complicate their life,” said Todd Garland, sales manager for Green River Log Cabins in Campabello, South Carolina.

The company has been making small cabins since 1996 and started making tiny homes in 2012.

“I think since the economic downturn [it] really focused people’s attention on what’s important in life and big homes aren’t as important as they used to be,” Garland said.

Tiny Home in Spur, TX (Source: Denise Rosner)
Tiny Home in Spur, TX (Source: Denise Rosner)

He says they build about 10 tiny homes a month and mostly sell to people who are over 50 years old or to people in their early twenties.

But Garland said tiny homes can come with some problems, “There [are] some real zoning issues with tiny homes.”

Some cities are embracing the trend. Spur, Texas declared itself the nation’s first tiny house friendly town in 2014. But Hadley, Massachusetts recently rejected a proposal that would have allowed tiny homes, forcing a tiny homeowner out of her house last month.

Washington County Planner and Development Administrator Jordan Clark said tiny homes are a gray area and he has some concerns about them.

Inside a tiny home in Spur, TX (Source: Denise Rosner)
Inside a tiny home in Spur, TX (Source: Denise Rosner)

“Our zoning codes are designed to address RV’s and mobile homes and the tiny house kind of falls in-between there,” Clark said.

He said while people may want to live in tiny homes permanently, they might not meet all the building code requirements and certifications to allow it.

“We don’t want to start allowing these things to come in as permanent residences and they may be substandard in some way,” Clark said.

It also depends on how a tiny home is classified. Mobile, modular, stick-built, and park model RV homes have different zoning restrictions and building code requirements. Garland said some land has square footage requirements and tiny houses are too small in some cases.

Clark said his department is discussing whether or not to allow tiny homes in the county. But some tiny home experts think change is inevitable. He said, “I think they are so popular and there are so many people want to explore this as a possible lifestyle that they’re really pushing the local building departments and municipalities to accept these.”

 

Backlund advises people to do their research before deciding to go small, “On the TV shows, you see that people are pulling into their friends or family’s backyard. There’s not anything addressed about trying to find land for it. So, I think searching for land should be the first thing and then have your tiny house built. Find your land, because it’s going to take quite a while.”

To find out more about the tiny house community in Johnson City click here.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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