Agent: Demand is there for tiny homes in Wichita

Published: Aug. 21, 2018 at 6:58 PM CDT
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Update Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018

As developers say they're ready to begin Wichita's first tiny-homes project, homeowners stand firm in saying their fight to stop it isn't over.

City leaders say the city has no square-footage requirements when it comes to building a new home, so we asked if that could change.

The commission that oversees tiny homes isn't making any changes to the rules, at least not yet. The luxury tiny-homes project facing resistance is in southeast Wichita.

Wednesday, Eyewitness News spoke with Kansas City officials who say a tiny-homes development for homeless veterans was widely welcomed and the city didn't make any big changes to their building codes for the development to become a reality.

If a tiny home is on wheels it's considered an RV. If on a foundation, it must meet regular home-building standers. But Metropolitan Area Planning Commission Vice Chair Cindy Miles says she can see the demand for tiny homes increasing.

"So you may have young people who want to get into a small home to get started owning a home, and you may have older people that are retiring and looking to really downsize," she says.

Miles says she's worried more standard designs could create low-income areas, but she does see the benefit for certain projects like the development in Kansas City for homeless veterans.

Tuesday, the City of Wichita approved adjustments to residential code. In it, a tiny home is defined as a house that is less than 500 square feet, excluding lofts.

Ashley Haynes, a real estate agent and Director of Operations for The Roy Group, says there is a demand for tiny homes in Wichita.

"I think that once more of these type of properties are available then we will definitely have the buyer base to support that demand," said Haynes.

She says agents with The Roy Group have had several potential buyers interested in tiny homes. But they haven't sold any simply because there aren't enough of those kind of properties in the area.

Haynes says there are two primary groups of people interested in tiny homes; millennials and retirees.

"People who are either retired or just maybe lost a spouse and just downsizing. Or someone who doesn't want any home to take care of and just needs a place to stay so they can travel and not have anything tying them to the area."


Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018

Despite big opposition, the City of Wichita says it will not stop a tiny home project on the city's far southeast side.

A many as 90 tiny homes will be built in the area 143rd Street East and Harry.

People who live nearby worry it will have a negative impact on their property values.

“I absolutely would not have built this house if there had been 90 tiny homes behind it,” said resident Ryan Schweizer.

He and several other residents showed up to Wichita's city council meeting Tuesday morning to voice their concern.

“It never occurred to me people would take that 80 acres and do anything but larger homes,” said Bob Schuster who lives nearby.

The city annexed the property from the county saying they legally had to approve the zoning.

“Someone has a piece of ground and develops it into new residential areas we have so far refrained from telling that developer you should only put in minimum $300,000 home or minimum 4,000 square feet,” said Pete Meitzner, the councilman for that area, District 2.

Those who live in the area say they never expected tiny homes would be a consideration. Now, they want to take action to prove to the city, they're not happy.

“We're going to ask to have our taxes reevaluated immediately and it's going to be a 10 to 20 percent drop in taxes, to equate to a 10 to $20 million revenue loss to the city. We're also talking about doing a class action lawsuit against the city,” said Russell Hamker who also lives nearby.

The developers out of Wichita, MicroMansions, say in part, "In spite of some opposition from surrounding neighborhoods, Nelson and Sherman recognize the concerns, and plan to move forward with this residential development. It will be a valuable asset and improvement as this area of the City/County continues to be developed."

Homeowners and attorneys who represent them say this isn't done yet.

"This will most likely be resolved in courts,” said Attorney Edward Robinson, representing one homeowner.

Schweizer says the city needs to look at changing its rules.

"I think there needs to be special provisions in zoning requirements until our thoughts are taken serious we're going to continue to pursue it," he said.

We reached out to the owners of the land, Murfin Inc., and haven't heard back. The developers say the first model home should be done this fall.