The Starter Tiny Home
Erik Blair also sees the tiny-house movement as a viable way to ease Maui’s affordable-housing crisis. “If we could get just 1 percent of residents into tiny houses, that’s a significant number,” he says. “We need other solutions, too, but this is certainly one of them.”
Erik’s company, Simple Tiny Houses, is constructing a prototype “model home on wheels” in Kīhei. Truss Systems Hawai‘i built the frame, and Daniel Lovell, whom Erik calls his “director of the interior,” is doing just that — building out the interior. Simple Tiny Houses offers three versions of the same basic floor plan, which measures 160 square feet on the main floor with a 64-square-foot sleeping loft. Buyers can purchase just the shell, the shell with exterior paint and roofing, or a custom version with hardwood flooring.
“The first question prospective buyers usually ask me is, ‘Where do I put this thing?’” says Erik. “Buying land is the best option. Renting land or borrowing a tiny-house parking spot is the next option.”
Maui County regulations restrict the number of dwellings allowed per lot, based on the parcel’s size and zoning. “Generally, you’re allowed one house and one ‘ohana unit [accessory dwelling] per property,” says David Goode, Maui County’s director of public works. “Tiny houses on wheels are called ‘house trailers,’ and they count towards the allowable number of dwellings.” Goode adds that Mayor Alan Arakawa has asked the planning and public works departments to draft an ordinance that would allow accessory dwellings on smaller lots where they’re currently prohibited, and increase the number of dwellings allowed on larger lots. Such an ordinance would require County Council approval.
Like Kalani and Kailea, Erik Blair thinks tiny houses fit well with Maui’s indoor-outdoor lifestyle. “You go inside to cook and sleep,” he says. “The rest of the time you’re at the beach, or out enjoying everything Maui has to offer.”
Another advantage of a house on wheels is the ability to escape a natural disaster. “If there’s a volcanic eruption or a tsunami, you can move your house quickly,” Erik says. “You can literally drive your house to an evacuation zone and park it there.”
The tiny-house movement is about freedom, he adds. “If you don’t like the neighborhood, view, or microclimate, you can move somewhere else.”