12/16 Will Micro Homes Multiply in Burlington?

Ruby Perry and Andy Simon’s 400 sq ft house in their daughter's backyard in  Burlington, VT

Ruby Perry and Andy Simon’s 400 sq ft house in in their daughter’s backyard in Burlington, VT


When Ruby Perry and her husband, Andy Simon, were building their 400-square-foot house in Burlington’s South End last year, it became the talk of the Five Sisters neighborhood. That’s not surprising: It’s one of the smallest houses in Burlington, and it took shape as the national fascination with the tiny-house movement was inspiring documentaries, TV shows, do-it-yourself classes and conventions.

The red clapboard dwelling on Locust Street is interesting for another reason, too: It’s not tucked into the woods or sitting on a semirural lot; it’s plunked down in a city backyard. So, are super-small houses viable in an urban setting?

Perry answers that question with a resounding yes. For starters, if living in small quarters starts to feel confining, a city like Burlington offers an estate-size array of activities and amenities. Also, she suggests, tiny houses are ideal for urban infill in tight spots.

Could tiny houses be a solution to Burlington’s housing shortage? And can anyone erect a tiny house in their backyard? Not necessarily — Burlington’s zoning codes make the prospect tenuous, depending on where and what is proposed.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way. It “should not be daunting to anyone,” Perry says. “We treated it as a community building process and met early, and often, with our neighbors as well as planning and zoning.” The house she and Simon built is located in their daughter and son-in-law’s backyard and owned by the young couple, who are raising a toddler. The arrangement is an exercise in estate planning: The grandparents paid for the $75,000 structure and took charge of the permitting and construction, knowing it would be a way to give their assets to the next generation in advance.

The house was allowed as an “accessory dwelling,” defined under the city’s 376-page zoning ordinance as an efficiency or one-bedroom unit that is “subordinate” to, and does not exceed 30 percent of the total habitable floor area of, a single-family dwelling.

The little red house also had to stay within a 35 percent lot-coverage limit in the neighborhood, which is zoned as residential low density, meaning it’s a district intended primarily for single-family detached dwellings and duplexes.

Read more – http://www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/will-micro-homes-multiply-in-burlington/Content?oid=3063269

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Elaine Walker