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‘Tiny house’ concept gets support

By Staff | May 22, 2017

Justin Murphy has lived in Lee County his entire life.

The Mariner High School grad – Class of ’09 – and his wife, Vicki, aspire to build a small community in the Cape made up of “tiny houses,” compact dwellings becoming popular nationwide among those looking for their own space, but not too much.

The Cape Coral City Council on Monday heard all about these minimalist homes for the first time Monday during its workshop meeting, and while the council members liked the idea, they also want the houses to have their own area rather than be interspersed among bigger homes.

Murphy discussed his plans with council during citizen input, describing a three-acre community with dozens of residences between 600 and 800 square feet.

“We think tiny homes are going to be the next big thing. We’ve been trying to find a way to make tiny homes accessible to the masses in a way to appease municipalities and neighborhoods,” Murphy said.

Three other speakers also voiced their support for tiny houses to the five council members at the meeting.

Among the benefits is their popularity and affordable pricing, however, they can impact housing values negatively and afford little or no room for storage.

Also, some of these homes have a chassis so they can be transported. Cape officials seemed to want permanent homes that follow the Florida Building Code, for which only one company in the state is able currently to comply.

There would also be zoning issues, perhaps having to create a new zoning district to accommodate those houses. Other rules could be addressed as the need arises.

While these homes can be classified as affordable, the city does not. Amy Yearsley of the Cape Coral Planning division said tiny houses do not qualify as a solution to the need for more affordable housing.

Yet, officials seemed to think it is a good idea, provided the homes are in a community setting. Only Councilmember John Carioscia was skeptical, calling them glorified mobile homes.

“You can’t just drop these in a neighborhood with 1,600-square-foot homes. That will have an impact,” Carioscia said. “We need to be careful. I saw a picture where one of them had a license plate on it.”

Councilmembers Jim Burch and Rana Erbrick told about how they remembered their first homes being not much bigger than these tiny houses. They said they were on board, but agreed construction had to be in a set location.

“I like the idea of a zoning district. They have to be in a certain spot. The recession is why we have what we have now,” Burch said.

Murphy said he would like to create several tiny home community throughout Southwest Florida, as millennials have had problems finding enough money to afford a home and don’t feel the need to have a whole lot of stuff.

“Minimalism is catching on. You can throw all your stuff away and be happier. There’s so many benefits to going small. You get rid of the dead space in your home,” Murphy said. “You can travel more, have more money. There are so many benefits to tiny living.”