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Living tiny in Garden City? Mayoral candidate proposes tiny home process

A Garden City political hopeful is applying for the small Boise suburb to allow tiny homes within city limits.

Last week, Garden City mayoral candidate and developer Hannah Ball held a neighborhood meeting to kickstart the process of requesting the city to amend its zoning code to allow tiny homes in two of the city’s zoning districts. She hopes Garden City allowing the small, transportable homes will enable people to making well below the median income to be able to purchase their own homes and build equity.

[Under $15: Low wage workers in Boise face tough choices in tight housing market]

The City of Boise is also exploring the idea.

“Because prices are so extreme and affordability can be unachievable, this is a creative solution that we could fold in and prototype and look at how these communities work and function,” Ball said, standing next to an example tiny home at her neighborhood meeting during Garden City’s First Friday Art & Studio Stroll. “We could provide a lot of workforce housing and (housing for creatives) quickly.”

What is a tiny home?

Ball’s proposed zoning change would define a tiny home as a “movable home” on a trailer or wheels built out of traditional home construction materials with a ground floor no greater than 400 square feet. Although these homes can be moved, they would be distinct from RVs meant to be moved frequently and taken on long-distance trips.These homes, and others that are on wheels, are not currently permitted in Garden City.

Tiny homes range in price from $60,000 to $100,000, which can be purchased with financing and are customizable to the individual owner’s needs, Ball said.

The neighborhood meeting to share the possibility is the first step in the official process to change the city’s zoning code to allow these types of homes. Ball filed an application for the change with the city last week and from there it will go through a series of public hearings at Garden City’s Design Review Committee, Planning & Zoning Commission and finally Garden City Council.

Ball is proposing a density of 30 tiny homes allowed per acre in C2 zones and 20 per acre in R3 zones. Each one would be required to have its own pad with a sewer and water hook up. Her proposed language would require the tiny homes along the front of the property line to face the street and provide “clear pedestrian connectivity” into the community.

Tiny home communities in the C2 zone would be required to include a minimum of .4 parking spaces per home and communities in the R3 zone would be required to include a minimum of .75 parking spaces per home. The proposed language said this would “encourage affordability and the use of alternative forms of transportation.”

Evans looking to public process before weighing in

Ball’s opponent, longtime incumbent Mayor John Evans, said his role as the city administrator isn’t to comment on the proposal before it has formally been presented to the city. Evans said his focus will be overseeing the public hearing process to ensure the public can weigh in on the idea and that it conforms with Idaho’s Local Land Use Planning Act.

He hasn’t reviewed the language “in detail” yet, but he anticipates questions on the exact definition of tiny homes and how that ties in with the existing Idaho code as well as who the target market for the homes would be.

“You know, anytime you change a land use designation we trigger a full public process,” he said. “What I think about it is less important than what the public thinks about it one way or another.”

Ball said she is hopeful that the city will embrace them as part of the solution to the ongoing affordability crisis.

“My fear is cities are too quick to say no because it’s a style of living they don’t understand, but I am always optimistic,” she said. “Tiny houses have been around for 10 years. If you’re just learning about tiny houses, it’s probably because you don’t travel much.”

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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