- Associated Press - Friday, August 5, 2016

PROVO, Utah (AP) - Deborah Athay lives and works in Lehi and says she would live in a tiny home tomorrow if there were a place to put it.

“These are as good as a house, they are just small,” Athay said July 16 at the Tiny House Workshop at Cabela’s in Lehi. “As a millennial, there is a cost affordability, and it holds its value. I’ve been looking into these for years, but the only thing - the only thing - holding me back is where to put it.”

The Tiny Home movement is a worldwide change in the way people use their living spaces, reported the Daily Herald (http://bit.ly/2aMVCD9). Instead of homes that average around 2,000 square feet, tiny homes are 100 to about 300 square feet, with their larger brothers - referred to as micro-homes - coming in at 400 to 700 square feet. Tiny homes and micro-homes creatively maximize a small footprint - utilizing lofts, clever storage options, and employing highly efficient and environmentally-friendly appliances and utilities.

“They can be as environmentally friendly as you want,” said Boyd Riding of Alpine Tiny Homes. “The best way I’ve heard it described is ‘live simply so others can simply live.’”

That quote is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, and describes the movement’s most ardent supporters. But if you don’t live out among the forests of the Pacific Northwest or own farmland or some beach front property, where can you put a tiny home?

In some states across the country, there are full neighborhoods specifically zoned for tiny homes. California, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas boast the most so far, with quite a few other states following suit. But where in Utah is a tiny home a practical option?

Though Riding says Utah is always behind what the nation is doing, he and his fellow tiny home builders and suppliers feel there are a few options.

As the first step, Riding is collaborating with cities to give tiny homes their own building regulations or permitting system. All Alpine Tiny Homes are built to residential standards, they just are on a trailer, so he is partnering with companies that will do the tiny home building inspections to city codes, minimizing city worker’s need to do so. His next step is to get more tiny homes into local recreational vehicle parks - an option that many RV parks are in favor of, he said.

“This is more of a marathon than a sprint. We have to take our time and take each step. It’s just going to take a little time,” Riding said.

At the workshop, Athay asked Riding when there will be a local Utah County tiny home community.

“I would love to participate in a pocket neighborhood, even paying an HOA fee if needed,” she said. “I’d absolutely be interested if Lehi, American Fork, or Pleasant Grove approved that type of community.”

This was a question Riding hears regularly. His suggestion to Athay was to join the Utah Tiny Homes Facebook page, encouraging her to also be an active voice within her community.

“There will be a place,” he told Athay. “I don’t know when it will happen, but there will be a place.”

That place may not be as close to home as Athay would hope, though. American Fork has discussed the idea with some tiny home builders, but zoning for a tiny home or micro-home development is not on its master plan, according to Audra Sorensen, American Fork’s director of economic development.

“If a developer had acreage and was interested in that, that’s when the conversation would take place. But are we zoned for that? No. Because these mini homes have never been something we’ve considered, there’s no zoning for it. The developer would need to propose a rezone,” Sorensen said.

American Fork isn’t necessarily opposed to the idea, according to Sorensen, but they haven’t had anything solid proposed to the city yet.

Jamon Scott of TinyVilla.com is also working on that very solution, but his option may not work for Athay either. He is actively partnering with a few cities in southern Utah County, including Santaquin and Payson. These cities, Scott said, are looking to incorporate pocket neighborhoods into their master plans.

Dennis Marker, the Santaquin assistant city manager, said the city is recognizing the trend, and considering changing the city code to allow tiny home planned unit developments.

“Trends are changing from quarter acre lots to smaller lots and smaller units. We’re working to incorporate them into the code,” Marker said. “We recently amended the zoning for the downtown area to allow smaller lots and condos, etc.”

He sees the long road that Scott and Riding have ahead of them, though, because there will always be opposition to housing trends that are different. Some worry that these homes will attract a poorer or more transient sector of society, and not be kept up well. But that is actually the opposite of what tiny home builders are seeing.

“Our clientele is 25 percent women aged 50 to 65, about 21 percent men 50 to 65, and 18 percent men 25 to 45. Overall, our clientele is millennials and baby boomers,” Scott said.

Though on opposite ends generationally speaking, these two groups are looking for the same thing: a place to downsize, live more efficiently and enjoy more of their free time.

“The younger generation wants to come home and relax, or play, not do yard work. As people realize it’s a viable housing option in many areas, I see these types of homes going into very small lots, especially in the older part of town,” Marker said.

Marker said they estimate that 400 smaller homes - not even as small as tiny homes - could fit into the older part of Santaquin, saving 60 acres of valuable agricultural land.

“These tiny lots would be good for those areas,” Marker said.

Scott hopes that his work in the south part of the county will pay off for people just like Athay.

“All we need is just one. Just one community to say, ‘Here’s a solution, here’s what we can permit.’ Once we get that, other cities will see that and say, ‘We can do that,’” Scott said.

And when that happens, people like Athay will be first in line.

___

Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldextra.com

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