Tiny house could be an opportunity to serve affordable housing

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COLUMBIA — Tiny houses could become a potential solution for affordable housing issue in Columbia. The Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA) will hold a tiny home display on Sunday April 24. 

"We've been working with a wide spectrum of people in our community who are interested in tiny homes to address both homelessness and housing affordability," said Lisa Goldschmidt, energy and housing manager at CMCA. 

The CMCA is an organization focused on empowering individuals and families to achieve self-alliance and move people out of poverty.

"There’s a lot of ways to move people out of poverty. You could have them increase their income, or you could have them to decrease their expenses. Housing is a huge chunk of a lot of our customers' expenses," CMCA Executive Director Darin Preis said.

He said Columbia has struggled with homelessness and it is becoming harder to build a house for less than $100,000. He said profitable housing developments come in the $200,000-300,000, which is not affordable for people with lower incomes.

"Tiny homes give us an opportunity to serve a person who just needs an affordable home and we’re talking about homes that might be in a range of $5,000 to $10,000 total purchase price," Preis said.

Steven Eidson, Missouri State coordinator for the American Tiny House Association, said "tiny" homes are under 200 square feet, while "smaller" homes are under 1,000 square feet. Sometimes people lump them into the same category.

Randy Cole, housing program supervisor for the City of Columbia, said there are some challenges with the city's current zoning code ordinances as well as building codes, which could limit how tiny homes could be implemented.

"For the building sizes are at least 650 hundred square feet, but some tiny houses go lower than that," Cole said.

He said the city is doing education outreach about what tiny homes are. At the same time, the city is trying to engage neighborhood support for such homes and issues around them.

The City of Columbia, American Tiny Home Association and local businesses will sponsor 2016 COMO Tiny Home Fest June 25-26 at the Activity and Recreational Center in Columbia. 

"We will have tiny homes in all different styles and sizes as well as smaller homes to look at," Eidson said.

Nicole Crespi is the owner of a smaller home under 700 square feet in Columbia. She said her it is an Accessory Dwelling Unit built next to a primary house. Crespi said there are restrictions on space  so the homeowners can resell the unit.

"The effect is that the lot is very small, and they can't be split up. You can't sell one house, and then the ADU separately. They have to be sold together," Crespi said.

Cole said tiny homes and smaller homes could be a potential option and just a broad range of tools that Columbia could have.

"Tiny homes might work well for a specific population or different groups, but it might not be an end all solution to the affordable housing, but we definitely need to use as many tools as possible," Cole said.