Debris from Hurricane Matthew could help resolve low-income housing shortages on Hilton Head Island, an island businessman claims.
Tiny homes — generally defined as a house 400 square feet or less, either on wheels or a foundation — built from reclaimed wood is the solution, says James McGrath.
“One log from Hurricane Matthew is enough to do an entire living room of a tiny home,” McGrath said in an interview Friday with The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette.
Plans to build a tiny-home community on Hilton Head Island are already in the works, said McGrath, owner of McGrath Custom Hardwoods. The homes could total in size from 196 to 312 square feet and cost $30,000 to $70,000, he said.
Chefs, musicians and other key workers in the island’s tourism industry could rent the homes for a low cost or rent them to own, McGrath said.
“We can affect a lot of people with this,” he said.
McGrath said he plans to launch his tiny-home business — Tiny Homes of Hilton Head — on Jan. 1. He’s planning his first community on Jonesville Road.
In his existing business, McGrath has been reclaiming wood, creating custom furniture and selling local lumber on the island for about five years.
It’s a way of life taught to him as a child by his grandfather, he said.
“My grandfather taught me about the trees,” McGrath said. “He taught me how the trees protect us and how they help our crops grow.”
McGrath said he later spent a few years learning how to use reclaimed wood with the Amish in Ohio before settling on Hilton Head Island.
Following Hurricane Matthew, McGrath said he knew he had to help people. He said he spent the first few days clearing roads and cutting down dangerous trees.
“I couldn’t believe the devastation to this island,” he said.
Luke Lesic, a Hilton Head Plantation homeowner, said he first came in contact with McGrath soon after the hurricane.
“My daughter was on Facebook, and we were trying to figure out any information about our house and saw that he was driving around in his truck showing the devastation,” said Lesic, who evacuated before the hurricane. “Our daughter contacted him and asked him to check on our house.”
McGrath agreed to do it and sent a video of a tree on the house, Lesic said. He removed five trees from the property, Lesic said, adding the cost was well below the price most contractors were charging.
McGrath said he moved many of the trees he cut following the hurricane to his property on Hilton Head. He now plans to use them in the construction of tiny homes.
Ann Cyran, the town’s senior planner, confirmed the company has met with town officials regarding a tiny-home community on Jonesville Road, though she noted specific plans for the community have yet to be submitted to the planning department.
Chris Yates, a town building official, also said McGrath has met with his staff about possibly building a tiny-home community.