The 'tiny house' trend is coming to Brainerd

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The "tiny house' movement is catching on in communities around the country, including Seattle, New York and even Madison, Wisconsin. And now Brainerd is moving in that direction as well.

The Brainerd City Council on Monday approved the idea of allowing very small houses to be built on some small vacant lots in the city, the Brainerd Dispatch reports. The council asked for some changes in the proposed ordinance, and it will consider final approval of the measure next month.

Tiny houses – typically 400 square feet or less – are 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.

In Brainerd, the idea is a bit more practical, in that it will allow new houses to be constructed on "non-conforming" lots, typically those that are 7,000 square feet or less, which might be too small for a traditional house. City planners say there are more than 400 vacant lots in the city that could qualify, according to the Star Tribune.

The City Council agreed that 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. Right now, the minimum size for a house in Brainerd is 750 square feet.

Members also decided to make the changes on a trial basis, and will revisit the issue in a year.

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.

Minnesota is home to several firms that design and build tiny houses, or help you plan and build your own. Here are some resources if you want more information about tiny houses.

Alchemy Architects/weeHouse.com, St. Paul

Tiny Green Cabins, North St. Paul

Tiny House Meetups in the Twin Cities

Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. 

The Tiny Life blog

Small House Society

Sarah Susanka, The Not So Big House movement

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