- Associated Press - Sunday, March 6, 2016

SPUR, Texas (AP) - Benjamin Garcia’s house is pretty small, but hey, that’s the point.

The New Hampshire native’s 96 square feet offer all the living space he needs. Plus, it beats paying a mortgage the next 30 years.

Self-employed as a financial consultant, Garcia can work remotely or from the road. Before he found Spur, he spent some time in San Francisco and elsewhere, bouncing around temporary apartments and friends’ sofas.

So, what motivates a 24-year-old seasoned traveler to build a closet-size house in rural West Texas?

“Well, I wanted to do a tiny house, and Spur seemed like the best place to do it,” he told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (http://bit.ly/1nhAfe1). “It’s a home base - I can travel and come back. I wanted to have my own home, but I didn’t want to pay a ridiculous amount since I’m not always gonna be here.”

Tiny houses don’t have a formal, agreed-upon definition, but you certainly won’t find one above 1,000 square feet. The smallest Spur has seen so far is 86 square feet.

The tiny-house movement has grown in recent years, a backlash of sorts to the McMansion-building boom from the previous generation. Downsizers decide the extra space - and hefty mortgage - is no longer worth the stress.

In most towns, though, they’ll encounter problems at City Hall. City ordinances typically require a minimum number of square feet on new foundations.

But since July 2014, Spur hasn’t been one of them. With a City Council resolution against foundation size requirements, Spur adopted a designation as the country’s first tiny-house-friendly town.

Kay Mardis brought her house to Spur for that reason.

“I had this house built before I realized there were not many places that would want me,” she said.

The local retiree and Muleshoe native learned about Spur’s tiny-house movement online. She toured the town with Dave Alsbury, the founder who originally presented the idea to the City Council. By Christmastime, she had moved in.

“It’s still coming together, (but) so far I’m very happy,” she said.

Even towns that allow smaller homes on wheels tend to confine them to certain zoned areas - think trailer parks - with lots that are often rented.

Denise Rosner, in contrast, claims every inch of her baby-blue tiny house and accompanying land. The new homeowner lived in Florida and Los Angeles before she joined Spur’s growing community of big-city expats.

“I woke up January 1st and I thought, ‘Oh wait, I didn’t pay the rent. Oh wait, the mortgage,’ ” she said. A moment later, she remembered paying cash for her 440-square-foot home with a 100-foot upstairs loft. It’s not big, but it’s cute and comfortable - and it’s all hers.

“I own this,” she said with a hint of pride.

A block or two away, Garcia shares his neighbor’s frugality. Between the $500 he paid the local taxing entities for the lot and the $1,500 or so for supplies, he’s building a long-term residence for the cost of a single month’s rent back in San Francisco.

And after he finishes the house he’s building now, he plans to start construction on a slightly larger one. The new one - a Hobbit-inspired earth home - will contain a few extra square feet on the ground floor, and a basement.

Tiny-house dwellers can use the money they save for something more fun, or simply work less. Garcia plans to use his extra free time for hiking and other outdoor activities and to study foreign languages.

He also hopes Spur’s low cost of living will attract more business-minded folks. Opening a restaurant, for example, would be cheaper and easier than in a bigger town.

“It’s low risk to do things here,” he said.

Spur is a municipality of just over 1,300 residents, an hour east of Lubbock. It’s not located along any major highway, nor down the road from any much larger town.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Rosner still cringes recalling Los Angeles traffic and pollution. She finds her new quiet street almost blissful.

“There’s no stress here - it’s just an easy, beautiful life,” she said.

Garcia, meanwhile, can’t get bored with nearby wilderness to explore by foot and bicycle.

A few other newcomers have joined Garcia’s and Rosner’s cross-country relocation, but not enough to immediately reverse a population decline. A cruise through town reveals a host of vacant lots and empty, dilapidated houses, indicative of the dozens of families who moved away in recent decades.

It’s too soon to say if the tiny-house-friendly designation will turn Spur completely around, but city leaders are optimistic.

The taxing entities have recently sold 40 lots, city clerk Laura Adams said, and a half dozen of those contain tiny houses. At City Hall, she’s quick to present newcomers with a welcome packet containing business listings and a copy of the tiny-house ordinance.

“Everything’s been really positive,” she said. “It’s definitely neat.”

Alsbury, the founder, appreciates the contributions.

“The folks in Spur who had questions at first are starting to get excited and starting to see how it’s gonna help the town,” he said. “The mayor and city leaders of the town have done a fantastic job of supporting this. Everybody’s getting behind it, and it’s proving to be a win-win for everybody.”

It’s worth noting tiny houses aren’t for everyone. If you have a large family, for instance, you might get claustrophobic.

Single owners, though, often find the small space is all they need.

“I didn’t want to be responsible for a big house and a big yard anymore. Why would I - it’s just me,” Mardis, the retiree from Muleshoe, said with a laugh.

Still, a challenge tends to be storage. Fold-out beds and sofas are common, as are cabinets and shelves in places where a larger house would have only a wall.

Without a front door yet, Garcia even gets a bit of a workout by coming and going through his roof.

“You have to be innovative on how it’s designed,” he said.

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Information from: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, http://www.lubbockonline.com

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