Real Estate News

Could tiny homes make a big splash in Bluffton?


Tiny houses — anyone who has spent a couple of hours watching HGTV has seen them on their television screen.

But could you see these minimalist stars of shows such as “Tiny House Nation” and “Tiny House, Big Living” sprout up around Bluffton?

It’s possible.

Town officials and staff recently discussed the possibility of taking advantage of the tiny house trend to take a bite out of the town’s big problem with housing affordability and make Bluffton more attractive to young people.

“We could think about adding an option of a tiny home” to the ongoing town initiative to encourage residents to move into new modular homes, town business and community development coordinator Brad Mole said at a meeting of the Affordable Housing Committee earlier this week.

Known as the Bluffton Home Series project, the initiative offers financial and planning assistance to residents interested in building a prefabricated home using designs and floor plans selected by the town.

While there are certainly floor plans in the series that most would consider small — under 600 square feet — it has no tiny home designs.

There is no standard definition for what qualifies as a tiny house, but floor plans smaller than 400 square feet are often used as a good rule of thumb. Some tiny homes are a quarter that size.

Tiny houses “appeal a lot to millenials ... and we are one of those areas where a lot of younger people are looking at (moving to),” Mole said.

Town support of affordable tiny houses would align with Bluffton’s growing reputation as a hip place for artists and creative types, he said, citing Old Town Bluffton’s recent designation as a state recognized arts and cultural district.

Regardless of who a tiny house might appeal to — artists, teachers or car mechanics — one major problem remains: the cost of land in Bluffton.

“The land in the historic district is so expensive, (building tiny houses there) just isn’t going to be practical,” Bluffton Town Councilman Dan Wood said.

Affordable Housing Committee member Sherri Bush agreed.

“I’m not opposed to thinking outside of the box about how we can help accommodate a younger generation in purchasing a home,” she said. “But it’s just the (cost of) land factor. You’d have to have someone come in and purchase a tract of land and make a commitment to putting tiny homes on that property.”

The town has had success buying land and building affordable housing in the past.

The Wharf Street project, a $1.2 million initiative funded mainly through federal grants, saw the construction of six new homes in 2012.

In 2014, it was recognized as the region’s best community revitalization project by Southern Living magazine.

Councilman Fred Hamilton, chairman of the affordable housing committee, said regardless of what size home is built, “we won’t truly address our needs until we figure out to find some land that we can use in the future for building and establishing affordable housing.”