Thursday, June 28, 2018

People's Tiny Home Festival brings the movement back to the Springs

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2018 at 10:29 AM

click to enlarge TUMBLEWEED TINY HOMES
  • Tumbleweed Tiny Homes

Imagine a 400-square-foot home that you could pick up and move on demand. It comes equipped with a simpler lifestyle, more freedom in location, a smaller environmental footprint and less expensive than a traditional mortgage. These are the selling points presented by tiny house advocates, and a bunch of said houses will be on full display outside Falcon Stadium during the People’s Tiny House Festival, August 3-5.

Locals' fascination with tiny houses dates back at least to the 2014 Parade of Homes, when EcoCabins won the People's Choice Award. Soon after came a TEDx talk by tiny home YouTube sensation Andrew Morrison, who the Indy spoke with.

The Air Force Academy's stadium used to be home to Tiny House Jamboree, which launched in 2015 and drew crowds of 60,000 people. The Jamboree moved to Arlington, Texas, in 2017.

There's been important legislation passed in response to the movement's growing popularity, like Portland Oregon's 1997 regulation to allow homeowners to build accessible dwelling units (ADUs) on their property. In 2014, Spur, Texas, became the first self-proclaimed “tiny house-friendly town,” and in 2015, Florida-based nonprofit American Tiny House Association began with the mission to promote tiny houses as viable dwelling options by "helping legalize tiny living."And in 2016, Fresno, California passed the first zoning laws that allow for mobile homes to be treated as permanent backyard cottages.

While numbers of tiny home occupants are difficult to measure, a 2015 survey of tiny house enthusiasts, conducted by the American Tiny House Association, showed 20 percent of respondents currently living in tiny homes. Of that 20 percent, only 42 percent were considered to be legal. Half of those living in tiny homes live on wheels in an RV park, someone else's backyard or a community setting; 13 percent live on wheels on their own property; and 37 percent live on a foundation. The majority of those surveyed who are not currently living a tiny home say finances and zoning are the main reasons they aren't. The study estimates Colorado is home to 6 percent of tiny homes.

The main obstacle for tiny home building is zoning and coding regulations. Tiny homes are classified as recreational vehicles, which are illegal to use as a permanent residence in most of Colorado and El Paso County. But that is changing.

For example, in May 2017, El Paso County Commissioners approved a zoning variance to make an existing tiny home legal. Then in June of the same year, the Colorado Springs Planning Commission agreed to a zoning adjustment that allowed two tiny homes on a 400-acre ranch. Later, in December, county commissioners agreed unanimously to Resolution 17-372 to amend the land development code to include definitions for tiny homes and changed definitions for recreational vehicle parks. Now, tiny homes are allowed in unincorporated areas as long as they meet Recreational Vehicle Industry Association standards, or, in the case of DIY projects, are certified by a structural engineer.

Though doors are opening, for the time being, tiny homes remain illegal permanent residences in incorporated areas of the county.

Despite the obstacles that come with trying to actually live in one, the Springs has become somewhat of a hotspot for tiny home manufacturing. Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, the oldest and largest seller/manufacturer in the country relocated from Sonoma, California to Colorado Springs, and EcoCabins, purchased by Sprout Tiny Homes earlier this year, calls Pueblo home.

Now, with the People’s International Tiny House Festival replacing the Tiny House Jamboree, Colorado Springs has a chance to be in the spotlight of the movement itself once again.

Marcus Alvarado, formerly the Tiny Home Jamboree director of operations and now founder of the People's Tiny House Fest says, "I'm more focused on people who are part of the movement itself. Not just the tiny house movement, but the sustainability movement."

Accordingly, festival goers will find informational booths on simple living along with tiny home viewings, beer and wine tastings, live music and guest speakers.

Kathleen Morton, creator of the blog Tiny House, Tiny Footprint, will present on reducing environmental impacts through living in a van.

Matt “The Office Hobo" Devine, known for living in his office for two years and starting the nonprofit Our Backyard Homes, will give an address titled, Downsizing in the City: Mobile and Tiny Living without Leaving Town.

And Bryce Langston, known for his Living Big In a Tiny House website and Youtube channel, will speak on drawing more people into the tiny house movement.

See peoplestinyhousefestival.com for more.

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