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Tiny homes might make their way into Historic District under new proposal, official

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A proposal that could pave the way for 400-square-foot tiny homes in the Columbus Historic District and other neighborhoods was stalled after some big questions from city council members.

John Hudgison, director of the Inspections and Code Enforcement, was directed by City Manager Isaiah Hugley to get more answers to questions after an Oct. 30 presentation instead of returning to the 10-member council with a proposed ordinance. He said an individual has expressed interest in building tiny homes on a lot along with people looking to help the homeless and area veterans.

Councilor Glenn Davis said he is somewhat a fan of tiny homes but has plenty of questions. He’s concerned about tiny homes popping up in neighborhoods and leaving a glut of rentals on the market.

“Are we going to have an excess of rentals on the market cause we’re going in a different direction,” he asked? “One thing that comes to my mind is a lot of people talk about tiny homes but they talk about some issues we had in the past.”

Tiny homes comes on the heels of the city approving regulations for short-term rentals. “You have to ask yourself are these going to turn into units people are going to rent by the day,” Davis said. “ I don’t know.”

Once an ordinance is approved, Davis said it’s fair and equal for everyone. “Is there any way to ease into it to see how it plays out and if it’s something that will really work in our community,” he asked? “I’m going to throw that question out there.”

That was enough for Hugley to pump the brakes on the proposal even though he supports the idea. “I don’t know that I want to bring it back at the next meeting,” he said. “ I think there are more questions to answer and certainly I’d like to solicit your questions and get those questions answered. I think it’s going to be a situation perhaps people are not paying attention right now and then it’s going to be not in my back yard, not next door to me and my $300,000 house is what I see.”

Hudgison held a workshop on Oct. 10 at the Columbus Civic Center, nearly three weeks before going to council. A tiny house is generally 400-square-feet or less without lofts compared with the average 2,500 square-foot home. The state has approved requirements allowing the homes to be built on site or a modular building constructed in a warehouse and trucked to the site.

Each structure would have to go through the normal permitting process for heating and air conditioning, electrical and plumbing. Approval of an ordinance would allow the houses to be built on lots as primary structures or on multifamily lots if placed in an approved zone. A proposed ordinance wouldn’t allow the houses as an accessory dwelling on an existing single-family lot.

Hudgison said an individual wants to put four or five on the same lot in the city.

The structures may be small but they aren’t cheap. At a cost of $200-$300 a square foot, a 400-square-foot house could cost $80,000 to $120,000. It will require different types of ovens and bathroom equipment for smaller spaces that you wouldn’t put in a normal house.

“Just because it is smaller, we try to take that negative connotation that it’s built bad with less quality,” Hudgison told the council. “Ideally, I don’t think we have that concern outright.”

With french doors and nice windows, I can see these houses shooting up all over Columbus if an ordinance is approved. I could get used to one in my back yard.