Tiny houses hit snag in Houghton zoning ordinances
"I feel super happy with the finished product. It's just perfect," third-year environmental engineering student Emma Hitch said. "It's exactly what I wanted."
Hitch began building a tiny house in July. The 7.5' by 20' building on wheels is set up in a friend's backyard in Portage Township, which gives special permits for tiny houses to meet zoning requirements.
Officials there passed the tiny house zoning ordinances just last year, but they said other communities will also need to address the issue soon.
"I think in many parts of the country, with the cost of homes and senior citizens retiring and wanting to reside in those communities, that there is going to be more and more of this down the road," Portage Township Supervisor Bruce Petersen said.
The laws aren't as lenient in Houghton City.
"Eighty or 100 square feet, possibly on a trailer, off the grid. A lot of our zoning laws don't differentiate that from a camper," Houghton City Manager Eric Warra said.
Many city ordinances, including Houghton's, don't allow portable buildings to stay parked on the street. Hitch is working with Michigan Tech to use two semi-vacant lots for a future tiny house community.
"I get it," she said. "It's weird. But I don't know, I don't feel like I'm imposing that much."
The process to enact an ordinance allowing tiny houses in the city would take six months to a year. Officials said they can start drafting the ordinance when there's enough public interest.