Bigger is better, right? At least that’s how the old saying goes.
But when it comes to helping solve housing affordability issues, some say thinking small — tiny, in fact — could bring outsized results.
Ben Kennedy, president of Bluffton-based firms Brighton Builders and Driftwood Homes USA, believes tiny homes — the diminutive domiciles featured on television programs such as “Tiny House Nation” and “Tiny House, Big Living” — could help provide much-needed housing for local workers.
“My dream is create a tiny house village in the area,” Kennedy said earlier this week.
Despite the demand for such a project — as demonstrated by the success the inaugural last week’s Tiny House Show held on Hilton Head Island — Kennedy acknowledged the challenges associated with that dream.
Finding land for the homes is challenging due to the scarcity of undeveloped or unplanned parcels near Bluffton’s core residential districts.
Also, because the concept of tiny homes — typically built between 100 and 400 square feet — is relatively new, many local zoning and building code regulations don’t provide provisions them.
Robin Butler, president of National Organization of Alternative Housing, said Thursday, that those looking to develop a tiny home project typically “do have to get some kind of zoning change because there’s usually nothing on the books.”
“Its really up to each municipality to determine if — and how — they want to let tiny houses in,” he said, “What I’ve seen that seems to work best is for a resident (with a plan for tiny homes) to approach (local officials) with an open mind and discuss their options.”
Kennedy said he has been in contact with local officials about his ideas, and even brought a tiny home to a meeting of Bluffton’s Afforable Housing Committee to help familiarize members with the concept.
“You have to get your local government on board,” he said. “Once they get educated and realize this is a good way to address the affordable housing issue, they’re quick to embrace the idea.”
Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka said earlier this week town leaders “are all about thinking of unique ways of dealing with” housing affordability, adding that she “love(s) the idea of a (tiny home) village.”
But, she agreed that building such a neighborhood would likely require amending zoning and development regulations.
“There’s a lot of work that has to go into,” Sulka said. “But if anyone is going to start something like this that’s so out of the box, it’ll probably be Bluffton.”
Heather Colin, Bluffton’s growth management director, said if a specific proposal for a tiny home village was made, town staff would determine how the plan fits into existing zoning codes and what regulatory changes might be necessary. Any code changes would have to be approved by Bluffton Town Council.
Kennedy isn’t the only one hoping to establish a tiny home village in Beaufort County.
James McGrath, who owns Tiny Homes of Hilton Head and participated in an episode of DIY Network’s “Building off the Grid” show, said earlier this week that he is working to bring together investors for a “pocket community” of tiny houses on Hilton Head Island.
Like Kennedy, McGrath said these homes will help fill the affordable and workforce housing void in the local real estate market.
Butler, whose group has developed a certification for tiny homes ensuring they meet generally accepted building code standards, said the challenges of getting a village-type project off the ground are by no means insurmountable,
“Around the county, (local officials) are getting pressure from their constituents to allow tiny houses,” he said.
Last month, the city council in Lake Dallas, Tex., approved a zoning change to allow for a one-acre, 13-lot tiny home park that would, according to a recent report from the Denton Record-Chronical.
City officials in Salida, Co. approved a proposal late last year to build 200 tiny homes, with plans calling for some to “be set aside with reduced rent for local workers,” the Denver Post reported.
Closer to home, the Savannah City Council passed a zoning change last year to allowing the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless to move forward with plans for a tiny home community that would house military veterans.
Butler said he’s confident the tiny home movement will continue to gain steam and these types of communities will be become more common.
“I think there a whole paradigm shift going on in terms of attaching your identity to how big your house is,” he said.