Tiny homes to get Denver council vote this month

Ordinance would allow for people to build residences within city limits

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Giving citizens a larger role in dealing with Denver’s homelessness problem is at stake when the Denver City Council votes Oct. 7 on the tiny home ordinance.

If passed, the measure could be a breakthrough for people experiencing homelessness and their advocates, as people then would be able to apply for permits (good for either six months or two years) to build a tiny home and/or community village inside Denver’s borders.

Robin Kniech, an at-large council member in her third term, is optimistic about how the council will vote.

“It has strong support from the council,” said Kniech. The proposed ordinance passed its first reading at an earlier council meeting, and Kniech added that there were no proposed changes during the meeting.

“Some (councilmembers) are very motivated by the crisis we have of people living on the streets and finding solutions for that,” she said. “We need to have more strategies … and the desire to have more housing solutions.”

On Oct. 7, the council’s final vote on the ordinance will be preceded by a public hearing on the same topic.

Tiny houses generally range between 100 and 400 square feet, rarely exceeding 500 square feet. You could fit 144 tiny houses on a football field, according to realtor.com. The tiny home movement took off after the Great Recession in 2008.

Tiny-home advocates in Denver have been preparing for this day, trying to satisfy three basics required by the city: to find land upon which to build, obtaining financing and creating an operational plan. Village organizers must engage the community early in the process and explain their management plans.

Kniech also wants the city to arrange for social services to be available at the villages.

Beloved Community Village was the first tiny village in Denver. It opened on July 21, 2017 and ran on temporary permits. The village had 11 homes, gardens, and a shared shower house and common room. It was scheduled to move to the Taxi Campus in December 2018, but that fell through when Denver denied its permit application.

Beloved Community Village did not respond to a request for comment.

The additional tiny home opportunities would benefit more than just people experiencing homelessness.

“This would affect Trailer Made Trailers tremendously,” said Damon DesChamp, who co-owns the Olathe-based company with his wife Natalie. “We are the industry leaders for tiny house kits. I may see an instant increase of 30% in my business.”

The company is accustomed to growth. He and Natalie started the business in 2013 in a 3,500-square-foot space. In August, the company completed its fourth move in six years and now operates in 35,000 square feet of space.

Trailer Made Trailers sold 1,266 tiny home kits in 2018, DesChamp said, with an average price of $8,000. And business is growing: The company just landed a big contract to supply 150 completed tiny homes in 24 months to an affordable housing provider on the Western Slope.

“That’s going to create another 20 to 25 jobs in the state, on the Western Slope, because of the tiny home movement,” DesChamp said. “We’ll have a total of 45 to 50 people under my roof because of jobs created in the tiny house industry.”

He adds this perspective: Though tiny homes are a hot topic, they have “been around for 50 years – they’ve been called mobile homes, modular homes, prefabs (and more),” DesChamp said. State governments have taken notice as tiny homes have gained more attention.

“Laws have been changing at the municipal, state and county level,” he said. Texas, California, Wisconsin, Kansas and Utah are just some of the states that have relaxed their accessory dwelling laws to help tiny homes, DesChamp said.

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