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Popular ‘tiny houses’ fighting to find a home in urban Wasatch Front communities

Popular ‘tiny houses’ fighting to find a home in urban Wasatch Front communities (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) The tiny house movement has found a home in the Beehive State, but finding a place to put the small dwellings has become a challenge for anyone wanting to live in most urban communities along the Wasatch Front.

“When you deal with tiny homes there is a lot of gray area and that’s kind of the frustration with the tiny home community,” said Morgan Brim, who is the planning and development director for the small Utah County city of Vineyard.

He’s referring to city codes regarding the tiny homes , which aren’t really considered RVs or mobile homes, but in many cases, are not the same as traditional house – which makes it tough to find a legal place to put them.

“[Tiny homes] tend to be on the fringe of the local zoning laws,” Brim said.

The growing community of Vineyard is considering changes to the municipal code to allow tiny homes a place to set up in their city, but like other municipalities in northern Utah, officials are still deciding how, where, and how many tiny homes will be welcome.

“We’re not in favor of it, we’re not against it. We’re simply doing research on it,” Brim said.

Their examination of tiny homes comes at a critical time for people buying tiny houses, many of which are manufactured in Utah County at the booming business of Alpine Tiny Homes.

“Keeping up with the demand is the biggest challenge,” owner Boyd Riding said.

There’s a waiting list for an Alpine Tiny Home. Riding says most of his buyers are ditching their traditional homes and downsizing to just a few hundred square feet.

“The whole idea of a tiny house is to have less and to literally live simply, you don’t need all of the stuff in your home.”

The average tiny home buyer is debt free and well educated, Riding added.

“They’re the kind of neighbor you would probably want to have,” he said.

They’re people like Leonard and Cidne O’Reilly, who recently retired and sold their Utah County home in hopes of leaving behind their stuff and moving into a tiny house.

“We’ve downsized a long ways, we’ve gotten rid of 80 percent of all our goods. We have no furniture left,” Leonard O’Reilly said.

The attractive price and a simpler life are what the O’Reilly couple said first caught their eye about the tiny homes.

“We decided to make a change; we wanted a new start so it was easy to get rid of everything that reminded us of everything in the past,” Cidne O’Reilly said.

They attending a meeting in August of the Utah County Tiny Home Coalition which is working with city governments in the area to revise municipal codes to invite prospective tiny-home owners.

As things currently stand, tiny homes have an easier time getting proper permits in rural counties. Summit, Wasatch, and Garfield counties all have a process for permitting tiny homes, something owners are not likely to get in urban municipalities.

The struggle for tiny homes to fit within the limits of the law is not unique to Utah.

Several national groups provide tips for prospective tiny home buyers on how to find the right place to buy.

As for Leonard and Cidne O’Reilly, they say they have found a tiny home near Panguitch that they want to purchase – but are awaiting approval from the county before moving in. They also add that they already feel their lives are improving as they, like many tiny-home owners, learn bigger isn’t always better.

“I just know we are happier, we’re just happier, a feeling of freedom would be the word,” Leonard O’Reilly said.

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