KITSAP’S HOUSING CRISIS

Let’s take tiny houses a step further in Kitsap | In Our Opinion

Google “96-square-foot house” and you’ll see stories about the efficiency and virtues of tiny house living (“Lives in a 96-square-foot home … and proud of it!,” “96-square-foot dream home!,” “Efficient and durable …,” “Tiny but very comfortable …” “Quality over quantity …”)

Sheesh, even Oprah’s profiled them. Kitsap County is behind the curve. But thanks to Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido, we could be catching up — not just to Oprah, but to several Washington communities — in creating a new housing opportunity for residents.

We commend the work of Garrido and her Homes For All committee, which has shown that creating a village of tiny homes (also known as micro homes) is possible. As Kitsap News Group’s Bob Smith reported on May 18, the committee spurred a volunteer effort to begin building a gated and supervised village of 12 tiny houses to be located at a yet-to-be-determined location in South Kitsap. This will be the model for similar future villages in Kitsap.

These homes are intended to serve as transitional housing for residents who are homeless. We’d like to see our county and cities go a step further and adjust their zoning laws to allow for tiny homes to be built as a housing option for anyone.

As we editorialized in August, the Kitsap County Department of Community Development considers micro homes to be “mobile” homes, and a cluster of tiny houses would be considered a mobile home park — and no more of those are allowed in the county. According to the county, a bedroom must be 7 by 10 feet; tiny houses usually have sleeping lofts. There are also concerns about the handling of wastewater, although many tiny houses have composting toilets and “gray” water from sinks and tubs can be used for irrigation.

The county needs to develop a set of zoning and development standards that would make it easier for people to build, own and live in tiny houses. Doing so would provide a route for those seeking housing stability. According to TheTinyLife.com, 68 percent of tiny-house owners have no mortgage, compared to 20.3 percent of all U.S. homeowners; 55 percent of tiny-house people have more savings in the bank than the average American; 78 percent of tiny-house people own their home, compared to 65 percent of homeowners with traditional homes. The average cost to build a tiny house is $23,000 if built by the owner.

There is a lack of affordable housing in Kitsap County. Rents have skyrocketed in the last four years. Affordable rentals for people living on fixed income have waiting lists of one to three years. We encourage the county and cities to establish rules that would open the door to a new form of homeownership.