By Paul Farr
So-called tiny homes, with around 400 square feet of floor space or less, are a
growing trend in the US. They are efficient, low-maintenance, and do not require a lot of space. They can be the focus of a less consumer-driven lifestyle.
But at the moment they’re not legal in Athens-Clarke County.
That is why Athens Area Habitat for Humanity decided to shake things up a bit with a design contest for “Kinda Tiny Homes” of 600-800 square feet in 2018. A team from Atlanta and another from UGA split the prize, and four lots owned by Habitat on New Hope Drive were designated as build sites.
Since then, these small homes have sparked a lot of discussion around Athens, including a “Housing Code Hack” in August which drew questions on housing affordability from the public for Athens Area Habitat’s executive director Spencer Frye, Mayor Kelly Girtz, county Commissioner Ovita Thornton, civil engineer Jon Williams, and local builder Michael Songster. Several points of the building and zoning codes were identified as amenable to updates to enable more lower-cost housing to come on the market.
Now the lots are ready and Habitat is set to start building, with a groundbreaking scheduled for 8:30 AM on Saturday, September 28th at the cul-de-sac of New Hope Drive. The project has attracted several new sponsors in addition to the original cosponsor, the US Green Building Council of Georgia, including Timberbilt, Mitsubishi Electric, Lowe’s, Huber Engineered Woods, Imery Ratings who will oversee the energy efficiency certification, and even the Ladies’ Charity Skeet Classic which raised more than $24,000 for the homes at their 2019 event.
“It’s been wonderful to see the community get excited about what we’re doing and rally around this project,” says executive director Frye. “We already have homeowners lined up for the first two Kinda Tiny homes, a hospital staffer and a veteran. We had a tremendous response to the ‘code hack’ by folks who want to see more innovation in housing locally with greater affordability and more choice. And some of the top companies in the housing industry are on board with it, so this ‘tiny’ project has grown into something kinda huge, actually. From the beginning, we wanted it to lead to more than just these four homes and I’m confident now that it will.”
Athens Area Habitat is currently in talks with other potential sponsors regarding potential solar installations and other features of the homes. “Habitat has always been an innovator,” says Frye. “There were Habitat houses that survived Hurricane Michael in Florida when surrounding homes didn’t because they used some inexpensive methods to make them hurricane resistant. Habitat is really invested in the future of the home and its owners, so we often build to higher standards than are required, and I’m hoping that we can set the pace for energy efficiency and low environmental impact in Clarke County with these homes.”
For more information on the Kinda Tiny Homes project or the groundbreaking event, contact Athens Area Habitat for Humanity at 706-208-1001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul Farr is marketing director for Athens Area Habitat for Humanity