When is a trailer park not a trailer park? When it’s being designed and developed by nationally recognized small-space living pioneer Jay Shafer. Shafer and his Four Lights Tiny House Company are currently planning a “tiny village” development for Sonoma County, CA.
“The best way to have and use a small house is in a community with other small houses, because that way you can take advantage of many shared amenities,” Shafer explains. “Not everyone needs to own a washer and dryer, for instance, or a lawnmower. It makes a lot of sense for owners of tiny houses to combine resources, which is what we are proposing.”
Shafer has been an advocate of the tiny house movement since 1997, when he founded Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, a firm that designs and builds homes as small as 65 square feet. The planned village extends the tiny house concept to include shared amenities and a close sense of community.
The development, whimsically dubbed the Napoleon Complex, takes inspiration from quaint old-world villages. Shafer describes the design as having “a very organic layout, featuring winding paths and winding streets.”
He adds, “We are trying to create a sense of community and containment, a sense of being protected, similar to being in a small village in Tuscany.” All of the homes will face the walkway-lined interior of the development, while parking and delivery areas will be located behind the homes.
Upon its completion in 2015, the complex will feature 12 to 20 tiny homes situated on a total of two to five acres. Each home, ranging from 120 to 400 square feet, will have a private garden plot and private storage area. Lot sizes are expected to be between 1,000 and 1,500 square feet.
Smaller units are expected to sell for approximately $35,000, with larger units priced up to $90,000. Owners will pay a fee to maintain the shared spaces and amenities.
“The concept is very much based on the idea of homeownership, with everyone owning their own tiny house and their own piece of property,” Shafer says. “People always take care of a space better when they actually own it.”
Local officials have expressed enthusiasm for the project, according to Shafer. To be in accord with zoning requirements, the development is to be classified as a trailer park. “Housing regulations typically require homes of a certain minimum square footage, while the trailer industry does not have these minimums,” Shafer explains. “By designating this as a trailer park, we can work with local zoning to make sure that the community is in compliance.
“Yes, we are calling this a ‘trailer park’, but it will be like no other trailer park you’ve ever seen,” Shafer adds. “Most trailer parks are built fast, cheap, and out of control. Here, we are taking the concept and making it a high-end location for people who want to downsize their homes and simplify their lives. We are not just creating a place for people to stay; we are creating a beautiful community.”