Tiny house project takes next steps

(By Jamie Henneman/Chewelah Independent)

Wilder Construction team Keith Wilder and Daisy Pongrakthai stand next to the first tiny house Wilder built for the Hope Street Project. (Jamie Henneman photo)

First home finished, ready for a family…

A community discussion about homelessness and the possibility of using “tiny homes” last year as a solution in Stevens County has formalized into a community network that has built their first tiny home this spring.

At the encouragement of Dr. Barry Bacon, a community group that has formalized into the Hope Street Project recruited contractor Keith Wilder to complete the 208 square foot structure this winter.

The concept of using tiny homes, or homes under 400 square feet that are usually built on flatbed trailers, to solve homelessness is catching on in many parts of the country, as it allows people to quickly own their own home and participate in the building process. Tiny homes can cost a fraction of what buying a traditional home costs, with some models costing as little as $25,000 in materials. The home is also “mobile” in that it can be moved to a new location if needed due to the trailer base.

Wilder, a custom builder and president of the Tri-County Homebuilders Association, said he believes in the tiny house idea because helping people become homeowners creates an incentive.

“The American way of life includes home ownership and by offering someone a way to own a home it creates an incentive for them to be a part of society and get back into the mainstream if they have been homeless,” Wilder said. “Most people don’t understand the downward spiral of being homeless. If you are sleeping on a park bench and then go in to apply for a job, you are probably a bit dirty and smelly and you aren’t going to be able to give a potential boss a good impression like you would if you had slept in a bed and had a shower.”

Although Wilder had never built a tiny home before volunteering to be part of the Hope Street project, he said tiny homes follow some of the same codes and concepts as the custom homes he is used to building. What was challenging about the project was the time of year he started.

“I started building the tiny home in the winter and the project took a lot longer due to trying to get things done in the cold,” said Wilder who constructed the mini dwelling essentially outside with just a pole barn roof over the project.

Now that the project is finished, Wilder looks forward to seeing how the home will help a local family who will be approved by a Hope Street committee and offered the house at an at-cost price with no interest. The tiny home is currently on roadside display at the Wilder Construction office in Kettle Falls.

Curiosity for tiny homes high
In addition to the potential tiny homes have to help address homelessness issues, Wilder said the tiny house trend also has high appeal for both young and older homeowners. Wilder recently took the Hope Street tiny home to several home and garden expos in the area and he said the curiosity about the tiny dwelling was high.

“These homes appeal to both young buyers who want something they can afford and are interested in a minimalist lifestyle and older people looking to downsize or need a guest house or a mother-in-law cottage,” he said.

Wilder said he may start building custom tiny homes for clients and said the starting price for a fully completed home is around $50,000. In the meantime, Wilder looks forward to the positive changes the Hope Street project will bring.

“I know that it is only by God’s grace that I am not in the situation many homeless people find themselves in,” he said. “I know I am only two bad jobs away from being that guy without a home. If we can be that point in someone’s life where we helped them get a second chance, that would be great. There are people who want to change and we want to help them.”