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Tiny Neighborhood Of Tiny Homes Planned For Escondido

Evening Edition

Aired 2/24/16 on KPBS News.

Janet Ashforth is building her own 300-square-foot home, and is planning a development of 50 tiny homes in Escondido.

Janet Ashforth is hard at work cutting out doors and windows in her new home. There’s not a lot of room for error.

The entire wall spans just 8 feet and has to include her front door and a bay window.

Ashforth is building a tiny home, joining a trend called micro-living that's taking off around the country. People are seeking out small spaces, usually less than 350 square feet, for their affordability, as an exercise in living simply and not contributing to sprawl.

The home Ashforth is building will be 300 square feet, about one-eighth the size of the average American home. It’s even smaller than many mobile homes, but that’s not new for Ashforth.

"A few years ago after the economy tanked, I found myself living in a trailer," she said. "And what I discovered was I really enjoyed living small like that, but what I didn’t like is trailers are kind of ugly."

Then she found out about the tiny home movement.

"I’ve been addicted to them ever since," she said.

Now Ashforth is planning to start a development of up to 50 tiny homes. She’s looking at a spot in Escondido where land is relatively cheap.

Photo by Richard Klein

Janet Ashforth works on the construction of her tiny home, Feb. 10, 2016.

"Here in San Diego, land is so expensive that most tiny home owners are not going to purchase their own piece of property to put their tiny home on, and so I knew that to have a successful tiny home company I also needed to start a community here in San Diego," she said.

Her company is called Habitats Tiny Homes. While the median price of an Escondido home is $390,000, her tiny homes will cost less than $25,000.

Interest is building, Ashforth said. She already has had some aspiring tiny home dwellers put down $1,000 deposits.

Before Ashforth builds homes for the community, though, she has to finish her own.

She's constructing it in the yard next to a space she’s renting in Escondido. She plans to move it once she completes her land purchase.

Photo by Richard Klein

Carpenter Sean Kelly cuts out the front door on Janet Ashforth's tiny home, Feb. 10, 2016.

Right now she lives in 1,000 square feet, so she’ll need to shrink down to a third of that size to fit everything in her new micro home.

One thing that she can't shrink: her 115-pound dog Samson.

"I can’t prepare with him," Ashforth said with a laugh. "But I’ve been downsizing my belongings to whatever I just feel is really necessary, which is actually a really freeing and empowering feeling to just get rid of stuff you haven’t seen in a year or that’s been stuffed in a closet."

Building tiny homes in San Diego’s denser areas is difficult because the city has strict parking requirements. The municipal code says developers have to build at least one parking space for every unit.

So tiny home developments must come with not-so-tiny parking garages, which isn't cost effective.

But in Ashforth’s development, each home will have a carport topped with solar panels. She said her focus is setting up an environmentally sustainable community for people who want to talk to their neighbors.

"So rather than having a giant home that you come home and put up your three car garage and go in and never come out the rest of the night, people that are attracted to this lifestyle want to mingle with their neighbors and have that real sense of community," she said.

Photo by Richard Klein

Sean Kelly works in the tiny home in the yard of Janet Ashforth's rental space in Escondido, Feb. 10, 2016.

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