Tiny houses coming to College Park

A pilot program to build tiny houses in College Park is moving forward with funding from Fulton County.

Nine months ago, Fulton commissioners unanimously endorsed Commission Chairman Robb Pitts’ proposal to put $1 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds toward a tiny-house pilot project, building six to eight houses on a half-acre around College Park or East Point.

Then in mid-April, commissioners approved $330,399 of that allocation for a project manager.

Pitts said College Park City Councilman Joe Carn found an ideal location within walking distance of a MARTA station, and that city is transferring a plot of land to the county for the project. That transfer is expected in mid-May.

Pitts said he’s “fascinated” by the tiny house movement, and wants Fulton to become an example for use of government-owned land.

“I think that’s the wave of the future,” he said.

City officials aren’t saying much at this point.

“An Inter-government Agreement (IGA) discussion is still under consideration by the City for this proposed partnership with Fulton County, but has not been finalized or approved; details will be forthcoming,” said Michelle Johnson, College Park director of Recreation and Cultural Arts.

College Park will make any zoning adjustments needed to allow for tiny houses, Pitts said. Once construction starts, the houses can be built in 60 to 90 days, he said.

The focus will be on affordability, with likely prices running from $100,000 to $150,000 sale price, depending on size, Pitts said.

Tiny house developments can be targeted for seniors, veterans, young professionals or retirees, he said. Pitts has also spoken to several churches that are “excited” by the idea.

“Most of them own quite a bit of land,” often close to the churches themselves, where houses could be built for church members, he said.

Tiny houses are usually defined as having less than 500 square feet of living space. But in many places zoning regulations make them difficult, if not impossible, to build.

“Our major issues, even in Cobb or Paulding or Bartow (counties), is there’s minimum square foot requirements for full-time living” said Adam Pritt, general manager of Kennesaw-based Tiny Home Atlanta. “They have different stipulations to keep affordable housing out of the area.”

Some counties technically allow for them, but rules seem to be aimed at keeping tiny houses out of suburbs, he said. In some cities, potential tiny house owners can apply for a zoning variance, but approval is not automatic, Pritt said.

In Pritt’s nine months with the company he hasn’t seen any county change its zoning requirements to allow for tiny houses, he said. But some changes have taken place on the city level, he said. Unincorporated Bartow County doesn’t allow for tiny houses, but the city of Kingston does, Pritt said.

Fulton and DeKalb counties both seem friendlier toward tiny houses, Pritt said.

Customers of Tiny Home Atlanta, which describes itself as “Georgia’s top retailer of tiny homes,” range from intended full-time residents to investors wanting an Airbnb or homeowners wanting to put an “in-law suite” on their property, Pritt said. Sales projections are up from last year, he said.

“With the housing market being as crazy as it is … what’s happening is we’re seeing a lot of people that are buying them for themselves to wait out the housing market,” Pritt said.

Before the pandemic you could buy a standard house in the region for $200,000, he said.

“Now those same houses are $350,000,” Pritt said. People are hesitant to take out a loan for that much, so they are buying tiny houses for now, expecting to make their money back on a sale, he said.

Clarkston, in DeKalb County, approved Georgia’s first tiny house community in May 2019. Working with nonprofit MicroLife Institute, the city developed the Cottages on Vaughan, with one 250-square-foot house and seven with 500 square feet. They sold quickly at prices of $119,000 to $201,000.

The Atlanta Regional Commission recognized it as 2021′s most innovative development in metro Atlanta.