Langley’s first tiny house fulfills big dream for THINC
— Created May 18, 2022 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
It is a tiny house that represents a huge step forward for affordable workforce housing on Whidbey Island. THINC Whidbey (Tiny Houses in the Name of Christ) is holding an open house Sunday from noon to 3:30 p.m. at 722 Camano Ave., to celebrate the completion of the nonprofit’s first volunteer-built tiny house. There will be refreshments and live music as well as tours of the 264-square-foot home, the first of nine planned homes.
“This is a seed project. It’s a tiny start,” said Coyla Shepard, a founding board member of THINC Whidbey. “The idea is the community will come and see it and take the idea out to the rest of Whidbey.”
This first tiny house has been a longtime coming, according to Shepard.
“We got our nonprofit permitted in 2017,” she said. “It’s taken us this long to get the zoning and building code approved and get set up and rules in place. All that had to be done before we could put even one house up.”
Now that the first house is done, the hope is that the work THINC has put into this tiny house community can serve as an example of how it can be done elsewhere on the island. THINC is happy to share all its information.
“We have everything out there for people to copy,” Shepard said. “They can take our plans, the zoning law, the building code – it’s all up there for the community to see, because we need a lot more housing.”
This tiny house community is the first of its kind on Whidbey, the idea growing out of the overwhelming need for affordable housing.
“I thought, who’s going to do this?” Shepard said. “It started with seven churches putting an announcement in their newsletters. We had meetings at the library, and it just progressed from there.”
In 2017, THINC purchased a third-acre lot with an existing house in Langley, and was gifted an additional, adjoining lot. The group has fixed up the existing house which it currently rents. The basement of the house has a separate entrance and has been finished. It contains the site manager’s apartment, laundry facilities, a community room and office space.
Each of the nine tiny homes is being sponsored – six churches and three private parties will pay for the houses themselves, which cost approximately $26,000 each, according to Shepard. The houses will be the same basic structure – 12-feet wide by 22-feet long.
“These are not tiny like ‘Seattle tiny,'” explained Shepard. “Each has a complete bathroom and complete kitchen, a small bedroom that fits a full bed and could fit a bunk over it. They will be rented according to what the county sets as what is low income. But every piece of that property is paid for; the rent pays for all utilities, maintenance, taxes and insurance.”
Shepard is also very clear that this is not housing for the homeless.
“At first everybody complained because they thought it was homeless housing,” she said. “But this is for the people we deal with every day – restaurant workers, technicians and secretaries we see in offices, landscapers, roofers. This runs across the spectrum. Young families and anybody starting out in the workforce can’t afford to live here. There’s nothing to rent. It makes me feel so good we can help.”
Shepard anticipates THINC will have the tiny home’s first tenants in July, once all the necessary infrastructure is in place. Units will be rented on a sliding scale, based on income, and referrals will come from the Island County Housing Support Center and other agencies. Tenants must be employed on Whidbey Island, undergo background checks and provide proof of income and references. Lease agreements will be evaluated each year as will income verification.
Meanwhile, volunteers are standing by, ready to pour foundations for the next three tiny homes. Volunteers are always welcome and no church affiliation is necessary. Anyone interested is invited to learn more at thincwhidbey.com.
“It’s just a feeling of wonderful,” Shepard said. “It’s a great use of one’s life if you can spend it on something that will outlast it. Everybody thinks, ‘What’s my legacy, what can I leave behind for others?’ This is something that’s going to be around for a long time.”