Friday, December 16, 2016

Local business owner working to establish tiny home eco village - by Elizabeth Richards

Corinne Watson, proprietor of Tiny Homes of Maine, has a vision. She’d like to start a Tiny Home Eco Village, and she’d like it to be in Windham.

The main goal of such a village would be to provide what she calls “keep your paycheck housing.” Not only is the cost of a Tiny Home considerably less than a typical mortgage, but with sustainability efforts that often interest people who are part of the tiny home movement, the cost of utilities can also be reduced. 

“My vision might be down the road a ways, but I would love to see a net zero complex of tiny homes utilizing solar geothermal technology that’s becoming more affordable these days,” said Watson. She is working partners in those industries that are interested in her project.

Tiny homes are appealing to people for a few reasons, Watson said. A big one is the idea of getting rid of clutter and freeing up time and money to focus on the things you really love in life, rather than moving stuff around. “Downsizing and decluttering is a huge, huge mindset that people are really embracing, and talking about how freeing it is,” said Watson. 

Watson’s husband designs homes, which gave her the idea to launch Tiny Homes of Maine. It is not a full time business - both she and her husband have “day jobs” as well as three young children. She said an exciting aspect of the business is working with people who may not have thought it possible to own their own home, as well as helping people realize they don’t have to be burdened with a large home. “I like that part of it, being able to help people obtain a more simple, affordable lifestyle,” she said. One of the roadblocks, however, if people are currently renting is that they don’t have a place to put a tiny home. “It doesn’t make sense to buy land and install a well and septic that’s going to cost more than your tiny house,” she said.

Watson has a list of people interested in being a part of a Tiny Home Eco Village, but so far no land that is feasible has come up for sale. She has sent many letters out to landowners, asking if they would be willing to sell off a portion of their land for that purpose, but so far has had no takers. She is looking in more rural or farm districts for land. “I’m picturing this triangle of houses stuck in little pockets in the woods, in touch with nature and still being part of a community, but having your privacy.”

Watson has also started to look outside of Windham, but after working for a year and a half with the planning and code enforcement departments discussing her vision, she’d prefer not to have to start over. However, if land isn’t available, she is willing to take the project to another surrounding town.
One of the reasons she thinks it would be a great fit for Windham is the rate of growth which is higher than what had been projected. Small homes are hard to come by, and often require great upkeep because they are so old. “I’m envisioning this tiny home community where you don’t have any bills. You own your home and you have no utility bills,” she said. Although there might be a small monthly fee for upkeep, she also envisions multigenerational co-housing that includes flower and vegetable gardens, fruit trees, and neighbors helping each other out. 

Watson believes that her vision can be achieved if people are open to it. Though tiny home communities might be new to Maine, they exist already in other areas, particularly on the West Coast. “Anything’s possible in my eyes, you just have to get the right people to listen ,” she said.

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