Garfield County, Colorado Paving The Way For Tiny Homes
Barriers have been removed for tiny homes in unincorporated parts of Garfield, County. A requirement from the 1970’s that originated to keep single wide mobiles out of the area to protect home values has been amended. The old requirement stated that single family dwelling units had to be twenty feet long by twenty feet wide. Dave Pesnichak, senior county planner classifies tiny homes less than five hundred square feet.
County staff has been receiving inquiries about tiny homes from people looking to buy land and build a home, but who can’t afford the cost of purchasing the land and then the cost of building a large home. Likewise, individuals have been looking to add tiny homes to their properties for aging parents or children who want to move out of the main house.
Several tiny home projects are underway in Colorado. Aspen Skiing Co. placed six such houses in Basalt this winter as a test, Denver has a project for the homeless and Salida and Walsenburg have supported tiny home developments.
Pesnichak noted some trends that play into the increasing popularity of tiny homes. “A lot of people look at this as being a lifestyle choice, but there are some economics, as well.”
The average home size has been on the rise, growing by about 61 percent in the last few decades, he said. Now the average home is more than 2,600 square feet.
Meanwhile, home ownership has been declining, down to about 63 percent in 2015, the lowest in two decades. The main driver behind that drop is thought to be increasing housing costs, said Pesnichak.
Garfield County Changes Building Code
Another necessary tweak to the building code was an allowance for a ladder to be used in the tiny homes, as most of them use a loft to maximize the small space.
Commissioners adopted updates to the International Code Council’s building code, which now allow ladders to be used to reach lofts and emergency exits to be built for the lofts.
Prior to that, a staircase was required instead of a ladder, taking up too much room in a tiny home.
In a 5-2 decision, the county planning commission also recommended striking the minimum dwelling unit size requirement.
Carbondale and Rifle responded with interest to the land use and building code changes, said Pesnichak. And Tim Cain, planner for New Castle, showed up in person to support the changes, adding that he’s heard from several individuals interested in the tiny house movement.
“We are interested in, obviously like the region, creating affordable/attainable housing,” Cain said. “This is one vehicle in which you could do that.”
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