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Are tiny homes coming to Muskegon?

A proposed change in the local zoning ordinance was slated to go before the city's planning commission Thursday.

MUSKEGON, Mich. — The tiny house trend has been picking up steam nationally and internationally over the last several years, but zoning can prove a barrier.

It's why, in many communities, going tiny still isn’t a viable option.

In the City of Muskegon, for instance, at the moment, the planning office requires a home measure-out to a minimum of 850 square feet.

The proposal commissioners will be working through would effectively slash that in half, down to a 550 square foot minimum or 375 square feet in the case of an apartment.

Though it's a relative term, 'tiny home' is now loosely defined as a house with a maximum of 400-600 square feet of living space.

The City of Muskegon cited a narrower, technical definition, which pegged the maximum area of a tiny home as 400 square feet, meaning the smaller homes under consideration wouldn't qualify as 'tiny homes.' 

Mayor Ken Johnson did indicate, however, that commissioners would be open to the discussion. 

13 ON YOUR SIDE reached out to a local investor for additional insights into the possibilities.

"You see these dead lots sitting here and you realize, is the lack of change good? If you're not moving forward, aren't you falling back behind? A little bit? I think some of those answers are yes," Craig Person, founder of Muskegon County-based Blue House Investment Group related. "Investors can jump into the game. If you want to get into the Airbnb business, you could do that. And suddenly, you're getting full utilization out of these lots."

Person pointed to a greater level of flexibility versus traditional homes, thanks in part to the often unconventional building methods employed in tiny home construction.

Reclaimed shipping containers, for instance, are frequently utilized. 

Person recently launched a web docuseries, entitled "Muskegon, What's to Come," wherein the investor and California transplant explores various facets of the area's development. 

Housing, he said, remained a central question. 

"It's just about to catch fire," Person said of the market for tiny homes and, more specifically, the applications of repurposed materials. "Right now, people are looking at structures like this and realizing that it can be used in residential applications… this is a really viable low-cost and affordable solution."

Thursday's hearing marked just the first of several sessions.

Several presentations were scheduled to follow on August 15 and August 16.

The issue's also on the City Commission's August 23 agenda. 

Count on 13 ON YOUR SIDE to track the proposal's progress with word from various stakeholders as the effort moves forward. 

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