Tiny homes

Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018 4:55 PM
A Colorado tiny home.

Tiny homes are big right now. Not just in Colorado but all around the West. And while affordability and necessity are two big reasons for their popularity, they are also attracting great interest for their attractive, ingenious architecture and environmentally-friendly construction.

They are also providing solutions to housing dilemmas. A rural school district in Arizona has built a tiny home community to provide affordable in-district housing for teachers. In Denver, the Beloved Community Village, a tiny home enclave in the RiNo neighborhood built to house homeless residents, just celebrated its one-year anniversary, fulfilling its original intent of providing shelter for those most in need.

Tiny homes are here in Durango as well. Some are parked on private land while others are nestled in local mobile home parks. Down on Sawmill Road, Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses is building and selling beautiful, customized versions within the city limits.

Tiny home dwellers accumulate experiences instead of possessions, they say. Owners are free to pursue the lifestyle they envision in places like Durango instead of spending all their time working, sometimes at multiple jobs, to afford traditional housing.

Tiny home options work for young couples looking to own their first home, and can also work well for seniors who no longer need so much space and cannot maintain the traditional, larger home they once needed for a family. For those well-versed in the tiny home mantra, these compact dwellings are the answer to our affordable housing crisis.

Critics are far from convinced. They decry the tiny house movement as a millennial trend that will soon pass, and label tiny house developments “gentrified trailer parks.” Close analysis reveals that tiny houses may not be a good investment at all, critics say, and a mix of tiny homes and traditional housing in a neighborhood will likely result in a sharp drop in property values for owners of the larger, traditionally built homes.

Those points might be debatable, but this is not: The “tiny” lifestyle does not work for everyone, even in planned communities that provide parks, gardens and other shared amenities in addition to spaces for tiny homes. A tiny house may seem ideally romantic to a young couple in love, but the arrival of a first child or, heaven forbid, twins, may turn the cosy dwelling into a claustrophobic cell.

Former La Plata County Commissioner Bob Lieb has proposed a 22-space tiny house development, Escalante Village, on Baker Lane near Escalante Middle School. The Durango Planning Commission has approved the plan, and some 500 people have showed interest in the project by signing up to receive more information.

We are intrigued as well, and more than that, are hoping the city approves the project when it comes before the council later this month. Tiny homes do not belong everywhere, nor are they the compact-size-fits-all answer to all of our housing woes, as some promoters would have us believe.

But as one part of the many solutions that we must implement to address Durango’s acute affordable housing problem – and maybe a way to help some of our chronic homeless residents – we are ready to try.