03/14 Building momentum for tiny homes

Tiny house by Wolf Industries

Derek Huegel, owner and founder of contracting company Wolf Industries, is asking the Clark County council for zoning changes that would allow his latest construction project, tiny homes, in unincorporated areas. The home pictured is 250 square feet, and Huegel estimates his homes will cost about $650 a month to rent or $36,000 to buy. (Natalie Behring/The Columbian)

…Zoning in unincorporated parts of [Clark County, WA] doesn’t allow for tiny homes, Community Development Director Marty Snell said. County code does not allow for mobile homes smaller than 846 square feet. So far, Huegel has built a 250-square-foot model and a 300-square-foot, wheelchair-friendly model. Huegel, however, is proposing that Clark County loosen its restrictions to allow for smaller homes.

“If you talk to anybody, that’s their biggest challenge,” Huegel told the Clark County council at a recent board time meeting. “Where can we place them, how can we monitor them, how can we inspect them, how can we ensure life safety?”

But regulatory issues are not the county’s to bear alone. Many tiny homes, including Huegel’s, are on wheels, meaning they straddle the line between recreational vehicle and permanent dwelling. By state law, people can’t live long term in RVs or trailers. Before Clark County can move forward with Huegel’s request for zoning changes, Snell said, Huegel’s homes first need to be approved by Washington’s Labor and Industries department.

“We’ll have to wait on what the state agency says,” Snell said.

Long term, Huegel’s vision is to work with government and nonprofit organizations to provide affordable rentals to low-income residents, similar to Olympia’s Quixote Village transitional housing complex, or simply to people looking to save money as housing problems continue to plague Clark County.

“You could put a pretty sweet little community together,” he said.

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Elaine Walker