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Lehi City Council discusses opening up tiny home zoning requirements

By Sarah Allen correspondent - | Oct 11, 2017

On Oct. 3, the Lehi City Council met jointly with the city Planning Commission to discuss accessory dwelling units and “tiny homes,” to consider how they might factor into the city’s future affordable housing plan. The meeting explored the various benefits and pitfalls of opening up zoning requirements to allow for tiny houses.

Councilman Paul Hancock said the city’s planning staff presented “the increased desire to have areas of the community to allow (tiny homes) or adjusted zoning requirements to allow for them to be used as an accessory dwelling unit. They will be coming back at some point with recommendations for the Planning Commission to review.”

The council is aware of the increased desire to make placement for tiny homes more available.

“As housing prices continue to rise in our community, we are aware of the need for additional affordable housing options,” said Mayor Burt Wilson. “We have discussed allowing tiny homes, guest houses, and accessory apartments, among other options. No decision has been made on how to address the need for more affordable housing, but we have directed our planning staff to do further research and create a working plan to consider.”

It remains to be seen when this additional review will take place by the City Council.

Proponents of tiny homes tout the simplicity, mobility, and low-maintenance aspects of their lifestyle. While this simpler lifestyle and lower cost of living have their appeal, the council is also aware of potential downsides to creating tiny home communities in their city. For example, the return on investment for developers is much smaller than a full-sized home.

“One issue that I see with tiny home developments (is) that a developer may not want to invest in a tiny home community when they can likely turn a greater profit with a larger home,” Wilson said.

However, the popularity of tiny homes is only increasing, both nationally and within Utah County. This is perhaps due to the popularity of tiny home blogs such as The Tiny Life, as well as HGTV’s show, “Tiny House Living.” While any official decisions from the council are pending additional research, the demand within Utah Valley communities is only increasing.

Jamon Scott of TinyVilla, a Utah county custom builder of tiny homes and subdivisions, said, “Last year, I was getting one or two inquiries a week. Now, I’m getting one or two inquiries a day. As far as actually finding communities that will allow them, that hasn’t improved at all with the exception of Pleasant Grove.”

Those who hope to see tiny homes in Lehi have a while yet to wait, even though the demand is present. The Lehi City Council acknowledging that demand is an important first step for those who want tiny homes in Utah County, though it remains to be seen if and when other cities will join in addressing this need.


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