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VOL. 39 | NO. 18 | Friday, May 1, 2015

Zoning issue a big threat to tiny houses

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As the price per square foot for Nashville properties continues its climb, buyers are paying more for less.

Some find the price points for the small condominiums to be outrageous, yet many, especially millennials, are flocking to the spaces, and developers are making it easier for them to customize in ways that complement their lifestyles.

For example, 1212 has condominiums reserved for guests of its owners, thereby relieving the homeowner for the need of guest bedrooms that are unused for most of the time.

With reserved parking, no garage is necessary, and the workout facilities provide better equipment and more pleasant surrounding than most home workout rooms.

The washing machines and dryers are now stacked and allow for the elimination of the room.

More and more, developments are providing green space and outdoor cooking facilities. Most have pools.

In spite of all the amenities and smart use of space, there are some who want to walk outside and step onto grass. Real grass, the kind with weeds and worms.

With land acquisition prices soaring and zoning headed for less density, this situation seems impossible. If a quarter acre lot costs $350,000 and is zoned for one residential structure, a 500-square-foot house is not feasible, as it would be a $900-per-square-foot home.

Cities in Oregon, California and Arizona have solved the riddle and have created a new building craze known as tiny houses. Some have as few as 350 square feet, and many are clustered in such a way that that they share a clubhouse that houses the washer dryer, a guest room and a common area equipped with television.

While the demand would be enormous, the problem is zoning.

With all of the recent construction of horizontal property regimes, often referred to by neighbors as duplexes, there has been public outcry against the tiny houses under current zoning.

In order for tiny houses to be economically viable, there should be four houses per lot. And that’s the issue.

There is no doubt Nashville is burdened with traffic. Those opposed to increasing the zoning to allow for more residences per lot feel the increased density will further exacerbate the traffic problem.

Proponents feel the increased density will allow for the expansion of mass transit, and the increased number of riders will fund mass transit’s growth and reduce the number of cars on the street.

I doubt many two-car families will live in a 350-square-foot house. Regardless, the houses must be in locations where buses are available.

I regularly meet with the brilliant songwriter Layng Martine, Jr., and he recently visited his sons in the Northwest. They were marveling at the excitement in the design of the tiny houses and shared that one actually was a treehouse.

Those in the know feel the zoning issue in Nashville may make this impossible, since Metro Council members are under so much pressure from their constituents to stop development.

Some feel the worst lot in the most blighted area would have trouble getting support.

Sale of the Week

Even in the early days of its construction, the Rhythm played second fiddle to the Icon, the popular development in the Gulch.

Located on Demonbreun amid a thriving bar scene, the high-rise never gained the momentum of its competitors.

As the building neared completion, Music City had joined the rest of the world in the Great Recession, and Rhythm could not keep time. It eventually fell into financial trouble.

Finally, in order to sell the remaining units, there was a fire sale, and they sold. For years, the prices lagged behind those of the Icon.

Just as there was no escaping the recession, there is no place to hide from the wave of appreciation that has swept Nashville. Having risen with the tide, the Rhythm is now basking in the same success of the heralded Gulch.

Such was the case when world-traveling high-rise guru Chad Wohlers of Parks in The Gulch listed unit 1409 for $459,000 last month. Wohlers, a resident of 1212 in The Gulch, has been a leader in condo sales since the cranes began to crowd the skylines in the early 2000s, when he as with Village real Estate Services.

His recent Rhythm sale has a two-bedroom, two-bath floorplan and sold for $450,000 in a week, with Chad also bringing the buyer on board.

The home has 1,366-square-feet and two parking spaces, along with “sprawling views, upgraded lighting and closets with shelving,” Wohlers says.

Richard Courtney is a real estate broker with Christianson, Patterson, Courtney, and Associates and can be reached at Richard@richardcourtney.com.

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