Tiny House Collective Kansas City
Great things are happening in Kansas City! Josh Farmer has convened a group of tiny house/conscious living enthusiasts to develop a tiny house community within the city. With permaculture, alternative energy, and food growth principles at the heart of this up and coming collective, some lucky tiny housers will have the opportunity to live their dream life alongside other like minded folks. As soon as we heard about the Tiny House Collective Kansas City (THCKC), we reached out to Josh to set up an interview. Thank you Josh and the rest of the Collective for all that you are doing to help pave the way for tiny housers not only in Kansas City but around the country.
THCKC wants to help people not just build a Tiny Home,
we want to help people live a Tiny Life.
Please introduce yourself and share a little about your background
My background is predominantly in education and community organizing. I have a certification in Montessori education, a Secondary Science Education certification (with a minor in chemistry) and a degree in Business Management. I have taught everything from high school chemistry down to Montessori preschool. I worked for a long time organizing community day care centers in at-risk neighborhoods. I have lived on both coasts for most of my life, but moved to Missouri to conserve money and start living Tiny.
Currently I make a living doing freelance trade agricultural writing and working in landscape design. I have sat on several nonprofit boards ranging from The Arts to AIDS Education to Community Centers. My passions are growing a ‘perfect’ tomato, long-distance hiking, progressive political activism, community development and strong cocktails around a bon fire.
How did you become interested in the tiny house living/simple living concept?
I grew up with a farmer as a father and a teacher as a mother, both old enough to be raised in the post-depression era on the American prairie. My father said, “I didn’t know we were poor until we (his siblings) went to college where there was running water in the bathrooms.”
They taught me the virtues of being frugal. I made some good investments from a moderate salary over a number of years and was doing pretty well as a young adult. The stock market and real estate crash in 2008 took those investments and hammered them into history. Right when I thought things couldn’t get worse I contracted Lyme Disease on a hike that went undiagnosed for nearly a year. I was hospitalized. And truly deathly ill. Medical bills did me in.
I know it sounds trite, but I came to a point in my life where I had to re-evaluate everything. There is a quote by Socrates that I really love, “The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” When I first read this, I thought it was rather sad. Why should we learn to enjoy less? Far be it from me to question Socrates, but upon reflection I found a deep truth in his words. Enjoying less does not mean you spend less time experiencing joy, it means you don’t need all the trappings of what modern society has deemed ‘necessary’ in order to be fulfilled. Reduction is the key to solving so much of what is ailing us individually and as a society. In a time when many in the world want expansion. What we truly need are smaller municipal economies. We also need smaller personal economies. If we all had shorter commutes, simpler foods, smaller footprints, fewer “things” and more exercise, more community involvement, more shared responsibilities — we really could change the world! That, in a nutshell, is what I think the TH movement is all about — nothing less than saving the world!
Please share with us the mission, vision and any other details of the THCKC
MISSION: Provide education about Tiny Housing, assist interested parties in creating a TH community, practice permaculture gardening within that community and foster a minimal footprint wherever we go.
VISION: Four phases of development:
Create nonprofit Entity and grant application cycle,
Create Pilot Program of four to eight TH’s on a single piece of city property where we hone the process of foundation-to-chimney cap production,
Create an Extended Program where we replicate the Pilot Program to meet the needs of as many people who want to rent, lease-to-own or use our process to fast-track their private TH project, and
Create a Sustained Program of ongoing, fee-based seminars of How-to-Reduce seminars, Permaculture Installation, Solar Energy education, etc.
LOCATION: Anywhere within Kansas City zoning oversight.
COSTS: I will have an operating budget comprised by April 2015. I am planning on about $4200 start up costs for filings, acquisition of some software, initial publicity materials, consulting fees and legal counseling. We have an active volunteer base of 120 people ready to clear lots and build forms for concrete foundations.
What has the process with the city/county been like so far?
I started six months ago with a simple visit to the City. The biggest problem for the TH movement in Kansas City is that THoW’s (tiny houses on wheels) are not allowed unless they are parked in an RV Park or on a mobile home park. So, primarily I have dealt with talking with the good people in zoning, codes, permits, approvals, etc. There had been restrictions on building anything that would be considered Tiny because the primary room had to be 120 sq ft and all additional rooms had to be at least 70 sq ft to get approval. The epiphany came when officials realized you do not need additional rooms, allowing them to approve a design that was potentially as small as the 120 sqft initial or primary room. That was the game changer.
After that, it really is just getting a design that can pass all the regular codes, which is a far lesser task than it was before the city approved a “one-room” structure.
It was during my visits to the City that I was turned onto the property being held by the Missouri Land Bank. The MLB is a City agency that essentially reclaimed abandoned property throughout the city and allows them for sale for greatly reduced prices if the buyer can show they have the means to pay the taxes and improve the property. There are even provisions for a reduction in the already very inexpensive land if you show your ability to improve the quality of the neighborhood, which our emphasis on permaculture and community-oriented living sets out to do!
The new zoning interpretation of how many rooms a house needs in order to be considered a house coupled with the availability of land via the MLB that really made the prospect of building a TH community a reality. As the idea for this project was ruminating, I found a local company that can produce Amish-quality cabins and sheds for a very affordable cost. The concept fell into place from there.
Also, we are working on developing partnerships with Habitat for Humanity to assist our Builders Club in gaining a skill base and UMKC (University of Missouri at Kansas City) to create an Urban Planning internship. THCKC Builder’s Club is a volunteer group of 238 people representing every skill level. We are ready to assist anyone building a TH. We will get practice through working with Habitat for Humanity, we will respond to requests through our FB page throughout the spring and summer and in the off months we will build and repair the raised beds on our food gardens.
Are there take away lessons from that experience that could benefit others who are also wanting to approach their zoning/building departments?
This is a really tough question, because zoning varies widely from municipality to municipality. What I can offer is that I had my best luck when I approached the people sitting in their cubicles at the City with a “How Can WE Make This Work” attitude. It is my impression that these folks spend a lot of their time with people who are frustrated at the ordinances and at the City. I found that once a person became aware of the concept of a Tiny House they WANTED to try and help get it through. As was the case with Kansas City, it was a new interpretation of the law — not rewriting the law, that made the difference. That new interpretation came from a City employee!
If someone is interested in this project, who should they contact. Also, if you are looking for help, what kind of help do you need?
Right now, folks can contact me. I am using the Facebook group: Kansas City Tiny House Community as my main contact point for people, from there I give out my number and email. Our website will be live after the nonprofit paperwork is accepted.
My main goal this quarter is to put into place qualified oversight. I’m seeking board members with a fiscally conservative, socially liberal outlook. I am hoping to have committed Board by March.
There are many ways to get involved:
Donate $ http://www.gofundme.com/
Become a Board Member
Volunteer with our Builders Club, the TH version of a barn raising team
Donate supplies ranging from lumber to topsoil to talent
Outreach to local vendors for donations
Help with grant sourcing so we can apply for grant/foundation revenue
Distribute information to local civic groups
- Like our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/KCTHC/