Tiny home movement growing in Sacramento

River City joins tiny house movement

West Sacramento tiny home builder shows off a project. Laz Reinhardt built his first tiny home for the television program 'Tiny Home Nation' in March 2015 and has been building them exclusively since.
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West Sacramento tiny home builder shows off a project. Laz Reinhardt built his first tiny home for the television program 'Tiny Home Nation' in March 2015 and has been building them exclusively since.

In the land where bigger is generally better, interest in “tiny homes” is growing.

A line 15 people deep formed to tour each of the five diminutive housing units within minutes of the Auburn Home Show opening its doors Friday.

“We’re in the research phase,” explained Vickie Manes, who attended the show Friday with her husband, Ian.

The idea of living without a mortgage is driving their interest. She said what they pay to rent a larger home in Grass Valley is three times what it would take to finance a tiny home.

While there is little consensus on what a tiny home is, there is no questioning the spike in interest in housing that seeks to maximize efficiency and minimize size. Most are around 400 square feet and built on wheels, offering portability. For some, the houses are a sized-down primary residence; for others, it’s their summer getaway or guest cottage.

The tiny home movement has been chronicled in books. Two television programs, “Tiny House Nation” and “Tiny House Builders,” are also fueling interest.

Most tiny homes are around 400 square feet.

The Sacramento region has not been left out of the movement. In July, “Tiny House Nation” featured Justin and Melissa Smith, who, with the help of West Sacramento’s Laz Reinhardt, built a 180-square-foot “Backpack House.” Reinhardt completed the Smiths’ home in March and has been building tiny homes exclusively since under the banner River City Tiny Homes. Two are currently in progress on his lot.

A regional Facebook page devoted to tiny home love is 183 members strong.

Lani Johnston, producer of the Auburn Home Shows, said it was a no-brainer to feature more tiny homes after the demand they saw last time.

“We think we are going to expand next year and have more,” Johnston said. “It’s a little bit of a rage.”

The homes on display in Auburn run the gamut of the tiny home market – from a tiny, bare-bones shed that might be a fit for a do-it-yourselfer, to a refined unit with granite countertops and loft bedrooms.

While a handful of people stopped to ask questions, most were content with a quick look before moving on to other parts of the show.

“Too small for me,” said Chuck Allen of Auburn. He said it might be a good option for a childless couple just starting out in life.

David Wilson of Antelope said at $70,000, he’d be better off buying a motor home.

Too small for me.

Chuck Allen of Auburn, checking out the tiny-house display at the Auburn Home Show

The Maneses said one of the issues they’re debating is whether to get their hands dirty or to pay someone to build their tiny home.

“A lot of people do want to be involved in the building part,” Reinhardt said.

Roz Silva said she and her partner, Carri Katonah, had been interested in a tiny home for some time. When they returned from Chile in February, they decided it was time. They bought a trailer and began work on the subfloor. Eventually, Silva enlisted the help of her dad and Reinhardt. They spent around $45,000 total.

“We thought it will be really awesome to build it and say we did it,” Silva said. “Each step was amazing.”

After completing the tiny home in August, they drove it to Boulder, Colo., where Silva is enrolled in graduate school. Difficulties getting proper sewer and electrical connections and the demands of graduate school forced the couple to rent an apartment for the semester, but the plan is to move back into the 190-square-foot home in the spring, Silva said.

Justin Smith, of “Tiny House Nation” fame, said he and his wife have been in their home (parked in Folsom) since April. He said finding space for their bikes and other sports equipment has been the challenge, but he said the smaller lifestyle affords them more time to enjoy the outdoors.

“We love the new lifestyle,” Smith said.

Ed Fletcher: 916-321-1269, @NewsFletch

Auburn Home Show

Dates: Continues through Sunday

Hours: Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Cost: General admission is $7.