County commissioners today have an opportunity to enhance affordable housing choices, liberate a local industry from needless regulation and reduce the "carbon footprints" of homes.
Commissioners will consider addressing a zoning void that keeps buyers of "tiny homes" from locating their houses on properties throughout most of El Paso County.
The largest manufacturer of tiny homes, Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, was recently featured on MSNBC’s popular TV show "The Profit."
Tumbleweed produces at least 125 homes each year, and the companies products are often featured on at least three popular HGTV shows. Despite leading the country in tiny house manufacturing, buyers cannot live in these dwellings on most local parcels of turf.
"We would be one of the first counties in the country to change the code for the purpose of accommodating tiny houses," said El Paso County Commissioner Stan Vander-Werf. "We have an opportunity to turn El Paso County into a leader in this movement."
Tiny houses range from between 100 to 500 square feet and have a median list price of $119,000.
They aren’t for everyone but provide a viable option for singles, college students and couples with few or no children. They are prohibited because they are so new on the market most zoning codes don’t address them.
If all goes well Tuesday, commissioners will begin revising the code to allow tiny homes in recreational vehicle parks and mobile home neighborhoods. Another tweak would allow residential parks exclusively for tiny homes, and a third would allow for tiny homes in rural communities that allow mobile homes and RVs.
"It isn’t just the price that’s attractive to potential owners of the tiny homes. Transitioning to a tiny home is a great way to go green, with many positive effects on the environment," explains a story on the website of CNBC, a network that recently featured Tumbleweed on its hit show "The Profit."
TinyHouseBuild.com claims tiny homes "use dramatically less lumber and electricity." EPA data show the average traditional home releases 28,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, while a tiny house releases 2,000 pounds.
Those who are not so concerned about carbon footprints may be happy to see a move toward less regulation that results in more entry-level affordable housing.
"For a lot of Democrats this is a social justice issue, in that it a form of housing more people can afford," VanderWerf said.
"For Republicans, this can be seen as getting government out of the way of a new industry with a lot of growth potential. I think this is something most people can be happy about."
If this goes well, the Colorado Springs City Council and other municipal governments should consider similar moves.
The Pikes Peak region should maximizes constructive options for people of all income levels. This simple adjustment to code might create a more welcoming and livable community and a better place to manufacture affordable homes.