Ever thought about tiny home living? SLO event provides model tours and info for buyers

The first tiny homes have officially moved in to San Luis Obispo since permitting opened up in March. And an expo showcasing models and educating prospective owners will take place Oct. 11-13 at Madonna Inn with the goal of inspiring more tiny-home living opportunities.

The upcoming event is expected to attracted hundreds, possibly thousands, of people exploring the idea of tiny-home living, said Celeste Goyer, operations director for the nonprofit Smart Share Housing Solutions.

The event will include information about living arrangements, regulations and matching opportunities for those looking to rent out yard space or connect with a property owner in the SLO area.

Thus far, four tiny home applications have been submitted in the city, and two are currently permitted, said Michael Codron, the city’s community development director.

“Our goal is to have 20 tiny homes in SLO for 2020,” Goyer said. “This is a housing option that a lot of people could use with the affordability of home ownership so difficult right now and a lack of single units for people to rent.”

Goyer’s organization helps match property owners with those looking to live in tiny homes in back and side yards of SLO properties.

The expo, which costs $8 in advance and $10 at the gate to enter, will include seminars and tiny house tours.

SLO’s policy allows for tiny homes on wheels between 120 and 400 square feet (not counting loft space) that must resemble the look of a traditional home in siding, roofing and general appearance.

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Tiny homes are now allowed in San Luis Obispo and some locals are building and living in them. Rita Morris lives in a tiny home in a San Luis Obispo back yard. Morris is pictured in her sun-washed loft bedroom. Laura Dickinson ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

The owner of the property must live in either the main home or the tiny home.

The homes must be hooked up to city-inspected utility lines per SLO’s standards; permit fees are approximately $1,650 (including building permit and entitlement application), Codron said.

“We’re hoping to get the word out to the building community so they start including the hookups in the home property,” Goyer said. “Yard rents (spaces leased by property owners to tiny home tenants) are typically in the $400 to $800 range.”

Nurse becomes one of the SLO’s first tiny home residents

Rita Morris had been living alone in her tiny home for more than two years on a large property in Nipomo and wanted to move to SLO to be closer to her work in Avila Beach.

She went to a HomeShareSLO meeting (a program of Smart Share Housing) and connected with a SLO property owner who was willing to rent out part of his yard to a tiny home dweller, later forming a yard space agreement.

For the past month, she has been living in her 260-square-foot tiny home (not including a loft) in the back yard of a SLO home near the south-central part of town.

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Tiny homes are now allowed in San Luis Obispo and some locals are building and living in them. Rita Morris lives in a tiny home in a San Luis Obispo back yard. Laura Dickinson ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

Morris said she designed and built the home herself, hiring the Los Osos contractor Scott Baksic to do it, and she couldn’t be happier living in it.

Her bedroom is a loft that involves climbing stairs, where she can crawl to a small deck. Storage space is built underneath her sofa and sink. The home features a full kitchen and bathroom, with standard electricity and plumbing hookups.

“It’s affordable, sustainable, and I have plenty of space for my things,” Morris said. “I have views of trees, and a deck that I can use to read, entertain and have meals on. It’s perfect for me.”

Her sofa rolls out, and her two grown sons have stayed overnight.

“Honestly, downsizing — which seemed daunting in the beginning — ended up being one of my favorite parts of the transition,” Morris said. “It has allowed me freedom of time to enjoy the beautiful environment of the Central Coast. I consume so much less.”

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Tiny homes are now allowed in San Luis Obispo and some locals are building and living in them. Rita Morris lives in a tiny home in a San Luis Obispo back yard. Laura Dickinson ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

Morris said she previously paid more than twice as much to rent in SLO as what she pays to lease yard space now.

“I looked at everything from cob houses to tree houses, knowing I would eventually find the habitat that suited my needs and lifestyle,” Morris said. “After relocating from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo five years ago, it quickly became apparent to me that I would be continuing my search not only because I was environmentally conscious, but because affordability was becoming an issue, as well.”

What it takes to build a tiny home

Since April 2018, Caroyln Huddleston has been helping her 26-year-old daughter build a tiny home in North County in hopes to connect with a property owner in SLO so she can be close to her work in the city.

They have currently spent $18,000 on the project that’s about 160-square-foot of tiny home space, not counting a sleeping loft.

Huddleston also is the current president of the local chapter of the American Tiny House Association. It’s the first tiny house she and her daughter have built together, which they find time to do outside of their jobs.

“It’s taking a lot longer than we expected, but everyone told us that, too,” Huddleston said. “We hoped it would only take us only over a year. We’re just now finishing the roof.”

They still have to install windows, among other tasks.

“It does have a big learning curve, but it is doable,” Huddleston said. “It takes a lot of research. We’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos.”

Huddleston said she believes people have a responsibility to use less housing space in general.

“We have finite resources on earth, and, quite frankly, I think it’s immoral for two people to own a house that’s 4,000 to 5,000 square foot,” Huddleston said. “... I personally love the idea of having my house on wheels where I can move it wherever I want.”

For more information about the expo, go to www.homeshareslo.org or call 805-215-5474.

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.