OGDEN — Tiny homes — or mini homes, as she calls them — are coming to Weber County, maintains Jeannie Gamble, head of Habitat for Humanity of Weber and Davis Counties.
“There are roadblocks but it’s going to happen,” she said.
The plans, for now, may be a work in progress. But she’s been pursuing the initiative for three years and she’s eager to see it happen, particularly in light of Utah’s tight housing market and home costs in the state that have trended up and up. Habitat for Humanity helps secure housing for low-income people, and smaller, less-expensive dwellings would translate into more people and families the group can potentially help.
She envisions a 21-acre plot that could accommodate 150 of the small, 450-square-foot to 750-square-foot homes. That’s twice as many dwellings — or more — as would be possible if they were more conventionally sized. The cost for each house will range around $65,000, she expects, less than half the $140,000 or so that a typical Habitat for Humanity home here costs a client.
“It’s a subdivision just like any other subdivision. It just happens to be mini homes instead of full-sized homes,” Gamble said. Habitat for Humanity provides no-interest loans to home buyers it helps, who are required to have sufficient income to pay for the dwellings and must help with construction.
The proposed homes here would sit on fixed foundations, which is why Gamble calls them mini homes. Many traditional tiny homes sit on wheels so they can be towed.
But like tiny homes, the structures Gamble envisions would be small dwellings with minimal space, lofts perhaps, to serve as sleeping areas. “It’s no different than any other home. It’s just a smaller scale,” she said.
She’s eyeing a pair of locations in Weber County — one inside a city, the other in an unincorporated area — and has been in talks with officials about the plans. She’s not yet ready to reveal where the sites are, though, since talks are still ongoing. At any rate, she hopes to acquire the plot of land where the development would occur within six months and to complete the road, water and sewer infrastructure within another 10 months. The land and preliminary development would cost around $2 million, and securing funding is part of her efforts.
Stewart MacInnes, who operates a West Haven tiny home design and build company, Maximus Extreme Living Solutions, said one of the biggest obstacles to tiny home development across the country has been lack of local zoning regulations conducive to the unconventional dwellings. If that were overcome, he maintains, the market for the small structures — appealing to some seeking a minimalist lifestyle — would skyrocket.
“It’s making a concerted effort to create a pathway and that’s all it is,” said MacInnes, who’s sent tiny homes his firm has built all around the country. Planning and zoning officials “get this paralysis of analysis and they don’t want to do anything.”
Gamble can relate. Working with local officials to help secure changes to applicable rules to allow for the small homes has been a key focus. As is, the smallest lot a home can sit on is usually about a third of an acre, but she’d like to build the small structures on lots measuring around an eighth of an acre.
“If I can get that changed, it’ll make life a lot easier,” she said.
Similarly, another local man, Judah Becker, has been pursuing a tiny home project in Ogden, viewing them as an affordable housing alternative for low-income workers. But he, too, is still trying to secure the necessary changes to zoning rules, he said.
‘GOING TO GET BLOWBACK’
Presuming she gets a location, funding and the needed zoning changes, Gamble doesn’t expect that the fight would end there. Then there would likely be questions from the public where the development is to be placed.
“We know we’re going to get blowback on it,” she said. But she’s ready and willing to contend with the scrutiny and also talks of developing a tiny home Habitat for Humanity enclave in Davis County.
Students at Weber State University have designed 12 different home styles for the Habitat for Humanity initiative, so it won’t be a cookie-cutter community, she said. Each style is built to comply with the applicable building codes and sit on a solid foundation, said Jeremy Farner, WSU associate professor of design engineering technology, whose students have helped with the design efforts.
Moreover, the development, Gamble said, would contain paths, a public garden, a playground and a community center, flourishes aimed at fostering a sense of cohesion. She envisions a mix of seniors, military veterans and small families, people who might otherwise have a tough time getting a home.
“We’re hoping the residents will help themselves, take care of each other,” she said.