The tiny house movement is prominent on HGTV, but soon, it could make its way into the Denton at full force.
“It was really an idea that I had as an individual,” Serve Denton executive director Pat Smith said.
Serve Denton is a nonprofit organization that helps other nonprofits by providing services, office space and supplies. They also play a large role in assisting the homeless population in the Denton area.
As executive director, Smith keeps his mind open and attentive to ideas for providing the “chronically homeless” with more sustainable housing. Having been inspired by tiny house communities in Wisconsin, Oregon and Austin, Smith wrote a column for the Denton Record-Chronicle in February 2016 proposing a similar community to help the homeless in Denton, primarily veterans.
Smith faced only one problem with his idea: tiny houses are not currently legal in Denton.
“Right now, you can’t have a tiny house in the city of Denton,” Smith said. “They don’t meet the size requirements. The minimum size house you can have in Denton is 900 square feet.”
Smith and his team put together a presentation proposing his tiny house community called Shiloh Village. The presentation states that their mission is to provide homeless veterans with permanent housing and reduce the homeless veteran population in Denton to zero.
Smith has taken this presentation to the City of Denton Department of Development Services in a strong effort to get the residential codes changed so that his idea can come to life.
“The city makes their standards and it basically says a house has to be a certain size,” Smith said. “What we’re looking at doing is changing those development codes to allow those smaller homes to be used.”
While Smith doesn’t know exactly when his project will be allowed to start, it seems the near future is looking bright.
“[The city] has been really supportive of the process, and we’re working through those changes now,” he said.
Shiloh Village would essentially be a community in northeast Denton with about 20 tiny homes, as well as adjacent structures where utilities such as showers and laundry can be shared. The enforced sense of togetherness is aimed at making veterans feel comfortable and welcome, and easing cases of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Smith’s team has come up with five different floor plans for houses in Shiloh Village that range between 180 to 300 square feet. With the help of volunteers, the houses could all be built within six months of the city’s approval. Each house would cost around $15,000 with utility bills under $30 a month. Albeit small, these homes will provide residents with a cheaper and more permanent alternative to apartment living.
“They can live there as long as they want, and we make it as affordable as possible,” Smith said.
Jay Merrett, a human resource manager and rookie house builder, can attest to the affordability of “going tiny.” He and his wife, who are planning their retirement, built their own 12-by-20-foot tiny house southeast of Dallas, where the development codes allow it.
“The whole thing that drove it was economics,” Merrett said. “You have utilities, taxes and insurance, which are all based on square footage. For a large house, there was no way we were going to be able to pay the starting line, much less the fact that over the next 20 to 30 years after you retire, your perpetual bills continue to go up all the time.”
The Merretts still own a traditional-sized house in Arlington while their 19-year-old daughter is still in college, but they spend their weekends out in their tiny house.
Their adoration for the tiny house lifestyle has inspired their daughter to build her own to live in post-graduation.
“We’ve found the absolute best friends ever through [DFW Tiny House Enthusiasts],” Merrett said. “Everyone there is just interested in finding out how to cut the amount of money you’re spending and the amount of time it takes to live more simply.”
Jet Regan is the co-administrator of DFW Tiny House Enthusiasts, which is primarily a meetup group that the Merretts are also involved with. She’s been involved with the group since 2014.
“My primary role in the tiny house community is to connect people and organize meetups,” Regan said.
She also said she loves creating a community for like-minded people to bond and positively influence each other.
Regan does not currently live in a tiny house, but is planning her build. She was inspired to go tiny because doesn’t want the stress and expenses of living in a traditional house.
“The biggest benefit is how flexible it is,” Regan said. “Not only in placement, but they’re so personal to their owners.”
Regan, Merrett and Smith all seem to agree that the feeling of cohesive commonality is one of the major advantages of going tiny.
“[Shiloh Village] is a planned community,” Smith said. “One of the things we’re working on is making sure there are shared values so people will get along with each other. We’re trying to make it a holistic place.”
Featured Image: Tiny homes provide a simpler, more cost efficient way of living. Courtesy | Jay Merritt