As the economy recovers, Teton County is adding jobs but is not creating places for those workers to live at the same rate. A recent housing needs assessment completed for the county by firm Frontier Forward under a Federal Housing and Urban Development grant said that while the county added 503 jobs between 2010 and 2013, the number of housing units went up by only 53 in the same time period.
The study also found that of the homes that are available to buy, many are priced out of reach for most of the people in the valley.
One solution: Tiny homes or alternative building structures.
At a recent Board of County Commissioners meeting, Teton County planner Jason Boal said that he would look into options for the BOCC to update the county’s building code to accommodate structures like yurts and so-called tiny homes.
Tiny houses are usually defined as around 100 to 400 square feet in size. This size of house is more affordable than a larger, traditional home. Also many are built on wheels so they can be moved and advocates say that having less space forces people to have fewer possessions so their lives are simpler, and they say, more fulfilling. Yurts are structures made of bent poles with some kind of covering. They are often used as temporary dwellings, though some people live in them year-round.
Boal said these efforts are in the very early stages and he’s still reaching out to the state to make sure any proposed building code changes wouldn’t violate state rules. He said currently yurts and tiny houses are treated like any other permanent structures and must meet the same building standards as any other home. That is sometimes problematic. Some homes may have smaller kitchens than allowed by code or are mounted on wheels, which technically makes them mobile homes. Boal has also had informal discussions on the topic with the planners of Driggs and Victor.
In the past few years the popularity of tiny homes and non-standard housing has increased. Boal’s discussions with the other Teton Valley planners came after they all saw the documentary, “Tiny: a story about living small.”
As of now there are only a handful of yurts in the county and no tiny houses, with the county only receiving a few requests for information on the rules regarding tiny homes; but that may soon change.
Victor Mayor, and realtor, Zach Smith said he thinks there will be a high demand for tiny houses and not just from the millennial generation, who are often associated with the tiny house movement. He spoke to Jackson, Wyoming lead planner Alex Norton who said retiring baby boomers also are attracted to the small structures.
“There’s going to be a high demand for that product, a higher demand than we anticipated from the millennial generation,” Smith said.