Brainerd gives final OK to 'tiny houses'

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The city of Brainerd has approved a plan to allow tiny houses, as small as 500 square feet, to be built in certain areas of the city. The Brainerd Dispatch reports the City Council gave its final okay to the proposal on Monday.

Tiny houses – typically 400 square feet or less – are becoming more popular in communities around the country. They're being promoted as a way to provide less expensive and more energy-efficient housing. The smallest of the tiny houses are often built on trailers, so they can be easily moved from one location to another.

Brainerd will allow small houses to be constructed on “non-conforming” lots, typically those that are 7,000 square feet or less, which are oddly shaped or too small for a traditional house. Currently the minimum size for a house in Brainerd is 750 square feet. City planning officials have said there are 465 such vacant lots in the city.

The City Council said the houses had to be a minimum of 500 square feet, instead of the 400 square feet that was originally proposed – as City Council member Gary Scheeler put it, they’d be “small” instead of “tiny,” according to the Brainerd Dispatch.

That change was made to accommodate the concerns of some Brainerd residents who worried that tiny houses might lower property values of the homes around them.

Council member Dolly Matten was the only vote against the plan. She said she disagreed with the 18-foot width minimum, according to the Dispatch.

City Planner Mark Ostgarden said no builders have inquired yet about constructing tiny houses in the city, the Star Tribune reports. The new ordinance also requires interested builders to get a special permit.

The ordinance will take effect one week after publication.

Zoning codes vary by city, but in Minneapolis, the minimum size for a dwelling is already 500 square feet; for an efficiency apartment, it’s 350 square feet.

Other cities, many of them on the West Coast, have been moving quickly to allow tiny houses. In Madison, officials are planning to build a “tiny house village” to provide shelter for people who are homeless.

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