MUSKEGON, MI — Anyone who has wondered what it’s like to live in a tiny house can find out firsthand at a new “hotel” that’s coming to Muskegon.
The Tiny Digs village of 10 tiny homes will be set up in the city’s Lakeside district for use as short-term lodging.
The custom-built homes, each with its own theme, could be available to stay in before the end of the year.
Tiny Digs is a family-owned business that has operated a “tiny home hotel” in Portland, Oregon, for nearly seven years. The Westra family is originally from West Michigan and are back with the lodging concept that Tiny Digs Owner Pam Westra says is catching on in other parts of the country.
Tiny homes are one of the unique lodging options that people looking for “experiential stays” are seeking, Westra told Muskegon city commissioners on Tuesday, Aug. 23.
“Experiential stays are the fastest growing segment of the travel industry right now,” Westra said. “People are wanting something unique, unusual and different to stay in.”
Related: Tiny home village of short-term rentals proposed for Muskegon’s Lakeside district
The 212-square-foot Muskegon tiny homes on wheels will be placed 10 feet apart on two lots at the corner of Lakeshore Drive and Moon Street. Nine will be on one of the lots with the 10th placed behind an existing duplex.
The homes will share a landscaped common outdoor area with propane fire pits and outdoor games, Westra said. Each will also have its own deck, she said.
“It will look really cute,” she said.
The homes are being constructed off-site in Muskegon and four have been completed, she said. Between six and eight will be at the Lakeside location by the end of the year, she said. One that is already there has a farmhouse theme, she said.
The company’s homes in Portland have such themes as Victorian cottage, beach house, barn house and a cabin.
Commissioner Rebecca St. Clair said she enjoys staying in tiny homes when she travels and is “excited about” the Muskegon operation.
“They are a lot of fun and a really different experience,” St. Clair said. “It’s been a lot of fun for us to go try something different.”
Each tiny home will be hooked up to city water and sewer and a 50-amp electrical box, Westra said. They all have living areas, sleeping lofts, showers, toilets and kitchenettes, she said. Some will have a fold-out couch for extra guests, although the homes can only comfortably accommodate about three people, she said.
They will be classified as short-term rental homes.
“There is a need for short-term rentals,” Westra said. “There’s a lot of older hotels in the Muskegon area, but people are ready for a little bit of a change here.”
Some commissioners disagree with her perception of a short-term rental shortage. They expressed concern that investors are buying up family homes in the city for short-term rentals, driving up prices and leaving families priced out of the housing market.
St. Clair said the Lakeside neighborhood, where she lives, is “packed with short-term rentals.” The tiny homes could help alleviate some of the demand “until we can get around to regulating” short-term rentals, she said.
Dick Ghezzi, a Lakeside businessman, told commissioners he is selling the two lots to Tiny Digs for its lodging operation. He said he is also committed to allowing Tiny Digs visitors to use two parking lots he owns. There is no dedicated parking at the Tiny Digs site.
“I think we need to get it growing down there,” Ghezzi said. “There’s so much potential. People love Lakeside.”
But some neighbors aren’t convinced tiny home lodgings are appropriate for that area.
“It doesn’t fit the neighborhood,” Paul Korndorfer told commissioners. “It kind of looks like a trailer park or a campground to me.”
William Gibner told the commission the tiny homes would “break the character of the neighborhood,” conjuring up images of “clotheslines strung up between them with underwear.”
“It’s a bad idea and everyone knows it,” Gibner said.
Mayor Ken Johnson expressed concern about the number of tiny homes, saying he believes six, rather than nine, should be on the one lot and that parking should not be off site.
On the other hand, he said the Tiny Digs lodging could help struggling businesses in Lakeside.
Johnson cast the only vote against the proposal. Commissioners Theresa Emory, Willie German Jr., Eric Hood and St. Clair voted for it. Commissioners Rachel Gorman and Michael Ramsey were absent.
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