Tiny home trend gains traction, raises questions in Eagle County
Special to the Daily
Take tiny for a test drive
If you’re thinking that tiny might be an option for you, it might be worth taking one for a spin for an overnight or weekend. Here are a few options around Colorado where you can see if tiny is right for you.
✦ WeeCasa Tiny House Hotel in Lyons — Tiny hotels are becoming a thing. The Caravan in Portland, Oregon, opened in 2013 with several small homes in a circular formation. WeeCasa in Lyons is the biggest (in terms of square footage) tiny house hotel in the country, with 10 individual units. Most of the “homes” contain less than 200 square feet but are equipped with beds, bathrooms and kitchenettes. Rates start at $139 a night.
✦ Tiny House Rental in Colorado Springs — Experience tiny in a big way at Garden of the Gods RV Resort in Colorado Springs. Built by the Tumbleweed Tiny House Co., this tiny house is located in the RV resort but can be rented by the night, starting at $129.99 per night during high season (May to September) with a two-night minimum. Fully equipped, this tiny house will give you a taste of the experience without the commitment of purchasing.
✦ Tinyhousevacations.com" target="_blank">Bold">Tinyhousevacations.com and Airbnb — The listings range from cabins to yurts and everything between, but they all have their small size in common. At tinyhousevacations.com, search by location and you’ll find a variety of options for small space adventures. Airbnb is also a good option for finding unique rentals: Check out http://www.airbnb.com/wishlists/little-listings for options around the world.
If you’re simply looking for a walk-through or to learn more about tiny homes, there are plenty of resources. Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. in Colorado Springs is offering a workshop in Boulder, April 30-May 1, and EcoCabins, also located in Colorado Springs, has online webinars. Tinyhomebuilders.com sells a guide to designing and constructing your own tiny house. Or make plans to attend the Tiny House Jamboree, Aug. 5-7, in Colorado Springs.
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories about the tiny house movement and its potential in Eagle County.
The tiny house movement, which has gained momentum in the mainstream in the past five years, refers to people who choose to live in homes that range from 100 to 400 square feet. Some are on wheels, allowing the owner to pick up and travel, while others are on a foundation, just like a traditional home. And, while the reasons for going tiny vary from person to person (economic, lifestyle and environmental are just a few motivations), tiny homes are big news.
In Eagle County, there’s a small contingency talking about tiny. And while a tiny house has yet to be built, placed or pulled into the valley, it’s a lifestyle that’s causing a buzz across the state.
Tiny home, big plans
Two years ago, Ashley Weaver was teaching history at Eagle Valley High School and owned a condo in Miller Ranch in Edwards. After realizing that she was working so much that she was unable to enjoy the lifestyle that she moved to the area for, she decided to quit her job to travel for nine months.
She did, and returned with more dreams. She’s now focusing on the next one: building a tiny home that she hopes to move to Eagle County.
“After traveling for two years, I’ve made a couple of decisions and one of them is a desire to be debt free and to live a simple life, free of stuff,” Weaver said. “I want to spend time doing the things I love, to spend time with friends and family and travel and not be tied down to a mortgage.”
Weaver also was looking for a way to keep a home base in the Vail community, near the mountains and people she loved, without having to move every season or rent storage space while she pursues her other dream: opening up a hostel on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. The plan: She’d put her condo in Miller Ranch on the market, put that money into a tiny home and starting the project in Spain and, ultimately, be debt-free.
She started drawing up plans for her tiny home on a grocery list. Long and skinny, each line represented a foot of space; that’s how it all got started. Weaver had her wish list and drew up her own design, but she said that she was constantly looking at what other people where doing. A trip to the Tiny House Jamboree in August also gave her some interesting ideas.
Meeting of minds
The Tiny House Jamboree was an inaugural event in 2015. Created by a tiny-house building company in Colorado Springs called EcoCabins, the event exceeded all expectations.
“We expected 10,000 people and had 12,000 on the first day,” said Coles Wayland, marketing director and event director for the Tiny House Jamboree. “We estimate that we saw 40,000 over the three-day event.”
Guests were able to see 27 tiny houses that were on display and speak to more than 20 vendors about tiny houses and sustainable lifestyle, which is another component to the movement. Even if you decide that tiny is not quite right for you, you can live a more sustainable lifestyle, Wayland said.
“The Jamboree is not totally focused on a 200-square-foot house, but more the tiny house lifestyle,” Wayland said. “We (EcoCabins) build tiny houses, we design them; we think it’s possible and beneficial to live in a 200-square-foot dwelling. We support that. But we want to be as inclusive as we can. It might not be best for a family of four … but we still want to help you explore the lifestyle.”
The Tiny House Jamboree will return to Colorado Springs this year on Aug. 5 to 7 and will have more than 40 tiny houses on display. Early-bird tickets (buy by June 30) are $27.24 for a three-day pass.
The tiny house lifestyle is one that is appealing in mountain communities for a variety of reasons. One reason is the cost: Depending on the design and materials, a tiny home can be built for approximately $30,000 — a far cry from anything on the market in Eagle County.
Tiny homes can be extremely energy efficient; many homes feature other eco-friendly elements such as solar panels, composting toilets and other options for living on a small part of (or entirely off of) the grid. Add in the outdoor living space enjoyed by so many residents, and maybe a tiny house isn’t such a crazy idea after all.
If the number of tiny home communities being planned around the state is any indication, this trend is taking off in Colorado.
Tiny-home builders, such as EcoCabins, are planning most of these communities. The company is in the beginning stages of putting a 399-square-foot house in Summit County in the next couple of weeks, Wayland said. There are also plans to develop the entire community into a micro community, possibly by the end of the year.
Sprout Tiny Homes, based in La Junta, has purchased land for a community in Walsenberg and has leased land in Salida for a community there. There are also plans for a development in Glenwood Springs this summer, said Diane Graham, executive assistant at Sprout Tiny Homes.
“There are a couple of demographics that are interested in tiny homes,” Graham said. “In the mountain areas, part of the reason that it’s being talked about so much is the lack of workforce housing. So there are people (who) want to live closer to where they work.”
The idea that tiny homes could be an answer to the housing crunch in Eagle County is one that is being discussed, albeit tentatively.
“From a policy perspective for the county, I think it’s worth looking at to see if it might be an option here,” said Kathy Chandler-Henry, Eagle County District 2 commissioner.
Avon Town Council member Jake Wolf got involved in the tiny house discussion when a friend asked about the viability of getting tiny homes in Avon or the Vail Valley.
“Knowing that we have such an awful housing problem and seeing that might be a temporary or possible permanent solution for some people, I started investigating to see what it would take to get that going on,” Wolf said. “Talking to people more and more, I discovered that there’s a larger interest in tiny homes up here than I thought.”
At this point, the discussions are just that: discussions. There is interest, but not enough to really look at overhauling the land-use guidelines to specifically address tiny houses, said Bob Narrcci, community development director at Eagle County. However, “every question brings up more questions,” he said.
There are a lot of gray areas in the regulations, such as whether the home has wheels, and there are also variances between town and county.
“Part of the problem is that there is no clear delineation of what to call these things,” Weaver said. “It’s not a mobile home, it’s not an RV, so it’s a little bit of a challenge. I hope that the county can make some guidelines or regulations so people can build safe (tiny) houses that would be welcome in the county.”
Ashley Weaver is in search of a land owner who will let her park her home in Eagle County. She has a portfolio, including a cover letter, resume and specs of the house she’s building. Her goal is to bring her home to Colorado in November.
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