Tiny House Neighborhood in Rhea County, Tennessee

tiny-house-tiny-homeBy Sara Sidery

Compliments of: WRCB TV

A new kind of neighborhood is being built in Rhea County. They’re all tiny homes — just a couple hundred square feet. But these new “micro homes” are helping fight homelessness.

“This is a tiny house or micro house, they’re actually I guess the ‘new thing’,” said Laura Olmstead of We Care in Dayton.

Tiny House Neighborhood in Rhea County Tennessee

It’s the first one of its kind in the region — a fully furnished, 200 square foot ‘micro’ home that’s equipped with power, heating and air.

Olmstead said it’s more than having running water and a safe place to sleep.

“They don’t have to worry about someone coming in their room on them, they don’t have to worry about someone stealing their items. They don’t have to worry about the safety of their children, and it just gives them time to psychologically and emotionally rebuild,” she said.

There’s a misconception that homelessness doesn’t exist in Rhea County, but it’s a problem in rural areas across the country. On top of higher poverty rates, there are fewer options for the homeless in rural areas.

“Just because you don’t see it under the bridges as much, doesn’t mean it’s not there. They find a way. They sleep in cars, they go to Walmart,” said Olmstead, who was homeless as a teen and young adult.

“I loaded up what I could in the car, and we left,” said Karla Grun. She and her kids were once homeless.

A victim of domestic violence, Grun was forced to leave her home and lived in cars and on other people’s couches.

“I couldn’t protect my children anymore, so I had to go,” she said.

Grun wishes micro homes were around during her crisis, but is happy someone else can have that option.

“With this home, you don’t have to be ashamed. You can say ‘I have an address.’ You can go home after work and feel like, ‘I’m secure. I’m doing well. And I’ll be on my feet soon’,” Grun said.

“Once they get out of here, they’re gonna be OK, and then they can in turn reinvest and help the next family,” said Olmstead.

We Care is planning to build a micro home community with about 15 other houses. A family will be moving into the one that’s currently built next month.

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Transformable mobile tiny house designs

tiny-house-tiny-homeBy Derek Markham

Compliments: Tree Hugger

Tiny houses are captivating to many of us, perhaps in part because our homes are too big, or because we own too much stuff, or because we’d love to find a more affordable dwelling that would also better fit our green lifestyle.

There’s no shortage of tiny house designs, ranging from scaled-down versions of a traditional house to the outlandish and unfeasible, and most of them are conceived with the intent that the homes would remain stationary. However, mobile tiny homes, such as those built onto trailers, are also gaining in popularity, due to their ability to go where we go, which is right in line with the current trend of a more nomadic lifestyle, in which we aren’t tethered to a specific location, but instead move to where the next job or opportunity takes us.

Aero-Mobile-by-Jennifer Siegal-Office-for-Mobile-Design-Kaneko-tiny-house-alternative

With that in mind, the entries for an exhibition recently held at Kaneko, in Omaha, Nebraska, may be a harbinger of things to come in the future of architecture for the urban nomad, as each of the designs aims to be not only versatile and comfortable to live in, but also truly portable.

The Truck-A-Tecture exhibition, which is said to “examine architecture as redefined by mobility and technical expansion,” featured full-sized versions of tiny house designs that can carried on or in a vehicle, or built into one, offering a new perspective on modern mobile housing.

See the Rest of the Story … to learn more about The Aero-Mobile, designed by Jennifer Siegal, of Office for Mobile Design, The PNEUMAD, from Min | Day, The Self-Lifting Mobility Project, from Mark Mack and the Mobile Dwelling Support Structure (MDSS), from Jones Partners.

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Tiny House Trend Hits the Scenic City

tiny-house-tiny-homeWind River Custom Homes provides small, mobile homes

By Chloé Morrison

Compliments: Nooga

Chattanooga carpenter and budding entrepreneur Travis Pyke is building a business around the idea that the American dream of homeownership doesn’t have to come with a lengthy, expensive mortgage.

“It really does make life simpler when you don’t have so many bills to pay,” he said.

Pyke and his wife, Brittany, live in a 200-square-foot home that Travis built. They spend $35 a month on water and power costs.


Their tiny home sits on an 18-by-8-foot trailer, so it’s mobile. It cost about $14,000 to build.

The Pykes and their business partner, Jeremy Weaver, are joining the tiny home trend with their business Wind River Custom Homes.

“I heard about [the trend] about three years ago,” Travis said. “My wife and I live here … [and] we both didn’t want to have a mortgage.”

Tiny House by Wind River Custom Homes cozy interiorThe tiny home trend has been growing in popularity over the last decade, according to a Country Living article that recently featured Wind River Custom Homes.

The movement is also making news because leaders in Portland, Oregon, are considering building tiny houses for homeless and low-income citizens. Closer to home, the trend has begun in Rhea County.

The benefits

Travis built his home for $14,000 because he got good deals on supplies, he said. For example, he purchased reclaimed wood for 75 percent off, and he bought a relatively inexpensive used trailer, which acts as the home’s foundation.

Without those deals, Travis estimates that other homes will cost between $15,000 and $18,000 to build. Add in labor costs, and customers could get a dream tiny home for between $30,000 and $40,000.

“You could pay for one of these in rent in about three years, depending on how much you pay for rent,” Travis said.

In addition to the low cost, there are other benefits of living in small spaces, Travis said.

For the Pykes, living in the smaller space means they spend more time outside in their garden. And Travis said a deep clean of the entire house only takes about 30 minutes.

The mobile homes can also make travel easier, he said.

They can be hooked up at campgrounds the same way RVs can, and, in many places, they can be parked on private property without special permits—although the rules vary depending on the area, he also said.

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Woodburn-Heron’s 144 Square Foot Tiny House

tiny-house-tiny-homeCompliments of: The Gazette

Natalie Woodburn-Heron’s whole house is smaller than some people’s walk-in closets. When she stands in her living room and stretches out her arms, she can almost touch the walls on either side. There’s no place for a bathtub or even a full-sized fridge.

But don’t feel sorry for her. Woodburn-Heron’s 144-square-foot house, which she built in her parents’ backyard in Dorval, takes less than half an hour to clean and costs hardly anything to run. Her “tiny refuge,” as she calls it, is a pretty, cedar-clad cabin with fabulous views onto a shady garden and two cozy lofts — one for sleeping and the other for meditating. Best of all, she’s entirely debt free.

144-square-foot-tiny-house-Natalie-Woodburn-Heron-7-x-20She is part of a growing “tiny house” movement inching its way across North America. Compared to most new homes (1,900 square feet, on average, according to the Canadian Home Builders Association), these dwellings might seem Lilliputian. But to their owners, they are the reflection of a simple, considered and measured life, an escape from the time and expense of running a conventional home.

“For some of us, it’s about simplifying life, getting rid of debt and living more sustainably,” Woodburn-Heron explained as she took us on a tour of her mini-house, which measures just over 20 feet long and 7 feet wide. She began building it last fall with the help of a local carpenter and moved in at the start of summer.

To squeeze into a house so small, with hardly any storage space, Woodburn-Heron had to get rid of mounds of stuff. Now, everything she owns must have a useful purpose or a special significance. Many of her possessions serve dual purposes. She watches television on her computer, for example. And her dining table folds up to become an end table.

There’s a somewhat Buddhist element to the exercise, Woodburn-Heron said.

“There is more intention to everything I do, to everything I buy.”

Woodburn-Heron said tiny-home owners are in it for different reasons.

Most can’t afford the rising cost of real estate. Others are living small while they save money to buy a bigger house later. Others are committed to leaving a smaller environmental footprint.

Woodburn-Heron, who has travelled extensively with her work as a theatre stage manager, has already owned two more conventionally sized homes, one in Charlottetown and the other in Winnipeg.

“I’ve never been comfortable with debt, and the burden of a standard mortgage was becoming too heavy to bear alone,” said Woodburn-Heron, who is single and between jobs right now.

She could have downsized to a small condo or rented an apartment, but even then the monthly costs were not insignificant. Through friends, she heard of a new kind of house, a teeny-tiny one that could be built for as little as $20,000 or $30,000, often on a trailer base so it can be moved. Her parents gave her their blessing to take over their backyard. She built her $40,000 house on wheels so that it is not considered a permanent structure, which means she didn’t require a building permit.

Don’t think for a minute, though, that Woodburn-Heron’s house looks or feels like an RV. It is more like a long, narrow country cottage, built on sturdy two by four framing and outfitted with good-looking windows on all sides and decorated with spare and beautiful touches, like octagonal floor tiles and generous kitchen countertops. It has vaulted ceilings, open areas and ample windows, which let in sunlight and lend the place a surprising spaciousness.

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Tiny Houses in Portland for Homeless

tiny-house-tiny-homeBy Andrew Theen

Compliments: The Oregonian

Portland is preparing to endorse the construction of communities of tiny houses on publicly owned land to get homeless people off the street and offer low-income residents safe, clean and cheap places to live.

Josh Alpert, Mayor Charlie Hales’ director of strategic initiatives said the question isn’t whether the so-called micro-communities will happen, but when.

Tiny houses offer a cheap and replicable method of trying to address the city’s nagging homelessness problem, Alpert said. “Let’s figure it out.”

Alpert said the city plans to ask TriMet, Portland Public Schools and Multnomah County to share their surplus land inventories to provide options for suitable sites. Hales’ office also has organized a task force to investigate the legal and zoning challenges of making the micro-communities a reality.

“Lets’ be bold,” Alpert said, saying that the city is partnering with Multnomah County to make the micro-community vision a reality. According to county officials, representatives from the mayor’s office and Chair Deborah Kafoury’s office met Monday and agreed to “put it on the front burner.”

“Before people can get back on their feet and take advantage of job training and drug and alcohol counseling, they need a place to live,” County Chairwoman Deborah Kafoury said Wednesday. “This helps accomplish that.”

The actions from City Hall are a strong signal that the city sees the tiny house concept as a small investment with potentially big returns — helping to get dozens of the more than 2,000 people sleeping outside on any given night off the streets.

The concept could also be part of the solution for Right 2 Dream Too, a homeless encampment that the city has struggled to relocate from its prominent home at the gate to Old Town/Chinatown.

The Portland Mercury first reported Hales’ interest Wednesday.

Alpert said lots of unknowns remain, including the city’s financial role, but he said few obstacles are in the way. He hopes the first micro-community can be in place by February 2015.

Portland is already home to a growing tiny house movement catering largely to the young and the hip. Few options exist for residents living on the fringe. But earlier this year, a Portland housing advocate teamed with a metro area company to start pushing for what the partners say is a cheap and eminently doable idea.

Their plan calls for 25 housing units on a given property, with additional buildings for laundry, administrative offices and others services. The buildings would be roughly 16 feet by 12 feet, or 192 square feet total, and cost $250 to $350 per month to rent.


The prototype is engineered by TECHDWELL, a Sherwood-based company.

Mike Withey, a Portland housing advocate and executive director of the nonprofit Micro Community Concepts, teamed with the TECHDWELL founders to push the idea.

Alpert said Hales became “infatuated” with the idea after Withey testified before the City Council in June.

Portland and Multnomah County officials have already begun conversations with TECHDWELL.

Withey said his nonprofit and TECHDWELL are excited the city is moving ahead.

“If they want us to take the reins and run,” Withey said, “that’s fine.”

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