Calhoun, Georgia, sued by Tiny House mission advocates

Calhoun, Georgia, last month turned down a building application for a tiny home development that would have allowed the construction of six cottages at the intersection of Beamer Road and Harris Beamer Road with the idea of ​​building more.

The houses would have been 540 to 600 square feet, part of a national trend of tiny homes as an antidote to increasingly expensive homes.

Now, Tiny House Hand Up Inc., a nonprofit focused on providing and promoting affordable housing in Gordon County, has filed a lawsuit arguing that the city’s zoning restrictions are against the state’s constitution.

Executive Director Cindy Tucker said it all started in 2016 when she and a handful of others started the organization with the aim of creating more affordable housing in the area.

The rental costs are high and difficult to pay for many locals, making it almost impossible for these people to build wealth. It was a problem she wanted to solve, and tiny houses were her solution.

The homes, which Tucker later called “Cottage Homes”, would have standard sized lots so homeowners could expand later if they had the desire and the opportunity. They would also be formed and managed by a homeowners association – in this case, Tiny House Hand Up – and follow guidelines that Tucker said would ensure the community is well looked after.


Tiny House Hand Up vs. City of Calhoun


The only difference in this neighborhood and every other subdivision, she said, is the size of the houses. The goal was to provide an untraditional avenue for traditional home ownership.

In November 2019, Tiny House Hand Up secured a donation of approximately 8 acres of vacant land at the intersection of Beamer Road and Harris Beamer Road, where members of the group hoped to build a community of six houses called Cottages at King Corner. “

The houses in the parish would be between 540 and 600 square feet with a maximum of two bedrooms. You would also come with your own kitchen, living room, and covered porches.

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Finally, Tucker said the plan was to grow the community to 20 to 30 homes. Tiny House Hand Up developed housing plans, secured financial support from a bank, and prepared contractors, but the project failed to win city support because the proposed houses were deemed too small.

Calhoun’s zoning laws include a rule that all homes must be at least 1,100 square feet, with some residential areas requiring even larger homes of at least 1,800 square feet. Compliance with this footage requirement would add $ 65,000 to $ 90,000 to the cost of building each home, making the homes less affordable.

During a public hearing on October 11th, several citizens discussed the derogation request. Butch Layson, who said his family was in the process of developing a nearby subdivision, said he was concerned about the impact the Cottages at King Corner would have on property values ​​in the area.

“I am in favor of affordable housing,” he said. “I think this is the wrong way to go.”

Other local residents like Austin Hawkins, who lives on Beamer Road, and Robert Taylor, who lives on Harris Beamer Road, said they were concerned that a Tiny House Hand Up homeowners association might not be able to do what they were hoping for Successfully enforce rules. They said they were concerned about the buildup of rubbish in the area, occupancy restrictions and parking.

Despite the discussion, there was no vote on October 11th as no council members had submitted a motion to vote.

At that point, Tiny House Hand Up decided to file a lawsuit.

“We had exhausted every path and every opportunity to achieve this and felt guilty to those who have supported us over the past five and a half years to follow this in full,” Tucker told the Times Free Press by phone Monday.

The Institute for Justice, a national public interest law firm that seeks to defend individual freedoms through litigation, has teamed up with Tiny House Hand Up in the lawsuit filed in Gordon County Superior Court Wednesday.

The Institute of Justice’s senior attorney, Erica Smith Ewing, said the lawsuit argues that the city’s minimum apartment size violates the state constitution’s due process clause, which only allows zoning rules that restrict the use of private property if it ” have a material connection with public health and safety ”. , Morality or general welfare. “

(READ MORE: GBI: Gordon County Commission Chair Becky Hood Under Investigation)

According to Ewing, the Calhoun ban does not meet this standard.

“Nothing about downsizing a house makes it less safe. These proposed houses would meet all of the city’s building requirements and would be perfectly safe,” Ewing said on Monday on the phone. “The only reason these shouldn’t be built is because people want to keep low-income people out of town, which is terrible.”

Ewing said people had come to public hearings to oppose Tiny House Hand Up because they feared the houses would attract low-income residents. Tucker has heard similar complaints.

“People say they don’t want rabble to come in to ruin their neighborhood, but having people who stay and want to improve their properties would only make the neighborhood better,” Tucker said.

For those concerned about tiny homes leading to less well-maintained homes and gardens, she said it is no more likely than any other housing estate.

All in all, Tucker said the city “seems to want separate rules and regulations for people who want smaller homes, and that’s discriminatory.”

Until a few months ago, the property was designated for industrial use, which, according to Ewing, is further proof that the city keeps low-income residents away.

“They could have built a trucking terminal, warehouse, refinery, or scrap processing center in the same spot, and they could have built that, but they can’t build a nice neighborhood with tiny houses.” She said. “The only reason to ban smaller houses is to keep people out who could afford to buy them and to increase property values ​​in the city by forcing people to build unnecessarily large houses.”

It was unconstitutional, she said.

“Where a person wants to live is a very personal choice. Calhoun shouldn’t make those personal choices illegal,” Ewing said. “Small houses are perfectly safe. Lots of people live in tiny houses, and lots of people in Calhoun live in tiny houses that they couldn’t build today that were there before these laws were passed.”

Calhoun prosecutor George Govignon said Monday he was unable to comment on the ongoing litigation.

(READ MORE: Gordon County officials promote vaccines as the hospital hits 109% capacity.)

As the litigation continues, Tucker hopes everyone in Calhoun and Gordon Counties recognizes the importance of caring for those struggling with the pandemic. Economic conditions are particularly difficult right now, and most people are unable to build big, brand new homes.

“The living situation here will be bad for a while. The material costs for the construction have skyrocketed. If you’ve been trying to figure a price on a piece of plywood lately, the cost is astronomical, so a piece that cost $ 8 four years ago may now be over $ 16 a piece. It will continue to be a problem, “she said.” It is not right to shut someone out because of square footage. People have serious problems like never before. When we started there wasn’t a pandemic, but we all on the board of directors and who worked for Tiny House Hand Up. “I have a willingness to help and the feeling that we are committed to reaching out and helping. I have to admit that I don’t really get people who oppose reaching out to offer help. “

Contact Kelcey Caulder at or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.