Karen is a self-described rebel with a servant’s heart. She has the drive & gumption to create a brilliant community in Southern Louisiana.
The community layout she chose is among my favorite, which promotes social interaction and downright coziness. Each cluster of tiny houses will have its own central courtyard.
Right away, I’d say she is off to a great start! Read on. Decide if this could be the right community for you!
THE DECISION – Why Go Tiny?
Inspired by the 2016 Dallas Earth Day event that featured 10 Tiny Houses, Karen knew she wanted to live tiny. But there was no place available in her area, so she set out to create her own. She sold her house, built a tiny house and bought property for a tiny house community.
NUTS & BOLTS – Building Tiny
Like many that go tiny, Karen had a very beautiful, large old home. But now her children are grown with their own families. She was paying heating, cooling & a mortgage on a mostly empty home. She likes the idea of simplicity. Too much storage encouraged consumption & the hoarding shows scared her.
In August 2018, Karen said goodbye to her conventional home & moved into her tiny. She enlisted Tiny House Chattanooga to build her shell & opted for a Volstruck steel frame. Karen did the interior herself over a 2 year period. She is now the proud owner of a 35’ x 10’ gooseneck.
STARTING A COMMUNITY
Karen first tried approached Lafayette parish about building a community. (Note: Louisiana’s counties are called parishes.) However, the code inspector was not on board with tiny houses. In an attempt to reverse his decision, she organized a meeting with a lawyer, builder, tiny house advocate & parish officials. The parish was concerned it would turn into a blighted mobile home park. At the time this article was published, there was a moratorium on new mobile homes within that parish.
Undeterred, she looked to nearby Saint Landry Parish (about 2 hours west of New Orleans) instead & was welcomed with open arms. She found an ideal location, pulled the trigger and bought the property. She still faces minor non-critical code issues but has moved the conversation forward significantly.
Although she was initially looking for just land, she happened upon a not-so-tiny 2700 sq. ft.1800s plantation home on a 4-acre estate. She describes the property as serene. It is located in a country-like setting between artsy towns, Grand Coteau & Sunset but just 10 minutes north of the city of LaFayette. It is the best of both worlds balancing convenience, seclusion & nature.
Financially, it was a smart move, because she was able to use the sale of her home to fund the tiny house & property purchases. To boot, there is a lovely tenant renting the plantation home.
Karen is planning on creating a community of 12 tiny houses, situated in 4 circular clusters each containing 3 tiny houses. Houses will be no closer to one another than 20 ft. on the inner corners. She has already run sewer, water & gas to each site and when a new person moves into the community, she pours their concrete pad and runs the electricity.
When I interviewed her in November 2018, only her tiny house was onsite, but another was on the way. Rent will run $500/month, which includes, water, sewer, electricity & lawn maintenance.
Because of scrutiny from the county, she is keen to make it look as far from a blighted mobile home park as possible.
She envisions creating a soft-scaped gated community that leans towards self-sustaining practices, where possible. She is also interested in bringing in animals, such as chickens, goats and perhaps a dairy cow.
IDEAL FUTURE RESIDENTS
She is seeking like-minded people that are artsy, uplifting & financially savvy, possibly with a shared interest in gardening & animals.
Potential archetypes: holistic gardeners, with knowledge of herbs & essential oils. Builders to potentially transform the old house into bed & breakfast. She is open to considering a caretaker/resident under a work-exchange agreement.
Only indoor pets are welcome, but she has banned reptiles due to her fear of snakes.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
She envisions people working in the garden & children playing. She sees an emphasis on enjoying the outdoors and mingling in the common areas.
She hopes the community plans lots of events, such as board games, potlucks, etc based on the interests of the members.
Some descriptive keywords she uses: pristine, happy, cohesive.
A WORK IN PROGRESS
She hasn’t finalized the framework for all aspects of the community. Here are some areas she is still ironing out:
Number of Children:
Karen might limit the number of children living in the community.
Karen thinks she would like to form a committee to give input on decisions while retaining the ultimate say.
Conflict resolution policy:
Karen doesn’t have a policy in place & hadn’t thought about it prior to my asking her. She describes herself as a strong negotiator and assumes she will help put out fires & help people work through issues.
Karen asked my advice on ways successful communities have implemented policies for becoming a community member.
I advised that I find the ones with the most success often start with a visitation period. The visitor should interact with each person already living there so that existing members can get a feel for the potential member.
In many successful communities, existing community members get to vote on approving/declining potential members. A community can become somewhat of an extended family, and preserving the health of the community unit is important. Unfortunately, a bad apple or two can sink the ship.
When deciding whether or not to allow a new person to join the community, existing members should ask themselves if they feel the applicant will strengthen the community unit or pose a risk to the well being of the community.
Another strong policy is to make new members a provisional member for anywhere from 90 days to a year. This would give them time to adjust to the community and learn its inner workings, before having a say in the decisions in the community.
Karen really liked the idea of implementing provisional membership.
I wish Karen the best and look forward to posting updates as her community grows.
You can learn more about Karen’s community on her &/or contact her on her community profile.