Valley partnership will provide tiny houses for charity — and train students to build them

Students build a tiny house

Metro Community Services will raffle off a tiny house built by students in the Canyon-Owyhee School Service Agency. Proceeds will benefit the nonprofit. The project has provided real world building experience for students in local high schools.
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Metro Community Services will raffle off a tiny house built by students in the Canyon-Owyhee School Service Agency. Proceeds will benefit the nonprofit. The project has provided real world building experience for students in local high schools.

The tiny house that’s nearly done being built at the Canyon-Owyhee School Service Agency in Wilder is not your average tiny house, said Bryan Pina, a Marsing High School sophomore.

The 192-square-foot structure on wheels includes cedar shakes, a back porch, plenty of windows, a mini-split heating and cooling system, an airy sleeping lot, LED lighting — and even space for a wall-mounted television. When complete, it will weigh around 11,000 pounds.

“It’s just unique,” said Pina.

He’s part of the building trades program at the school known as COSSA, an alternative vo-tech program for students in Canyon and Owyhee counties. Since October 2016, he and his fellow students have been building the house under the guidance of Rick Ray, building trades instructor at the school. About 10 students are in the program, Ray said. Admission is based on a student having good grades and being on track to graduate.

The house is unique in a way beyond its amenities. It will be raffled off May 4 at Metro Meals on Wheels’ annual Culinary Walkabout at Boise Centre as a fundraiser for Metro Community Services. The Caldwell nonprofit provides a variety of community programs, including Meals on Wheels in Ada County and transportation services for seniors and others. Its housing division weatherizes houses for seniors, residents with disabilities and families with small children.

Metro Community Services and its partners donated the materials to build the house. Just 1,000 raffle tickets are available. Each ticket costs $100.

The tiny house project represents a new partnership, said Matt Jones, Metro Community Services spokesman. After this house is raffled, students will build three more tiny houses as part of their school program. Metro Community Services will host more raffles.

“We feel like this is a win-win, helping our cause but also inspiring kids to get into the construction program at COSSA,” Jones said.

Ray, who has worked in the building trade for 30 years, agreed. In the past, his students have gotten their hands-on building experience by making bird houses or dog kennels. Building a house someone will actually live in is something else.

“The house is small, but every aspect of residential building is included in the project,” said Ray. “It’s a great learning opportunity for the kids to learn about residential building, but also owning and taking care of your own home. Some day, you’re going to own a house. If you have an idea of how they come together, you’ll be able to take better care of it.”

Students are mindful, he said, that their work will benefit people in their communities.

“They understand that, too,” he said, adding that several students have been coming to school voluntarily on the weekends to finish construction. Jones estimates that the house will be completed by April 15. It will be on display at several locations throughout the Valley until it’s raffled May 4, said Jones.

The tiny house project started in 2016 after the television show “Tiny House Nation” built a house for a family in Marsing. (The episode aired in February. The Spot Pizza Place in Marsing hosted a viewing party).

Metro Community Services provided the insulation for the Marsing house. Tyson Willden, housing director at Metro Community Services, kept in touch with “Tiny House Nation” and came up with the idea of involving COSSA to build a house as a fundraiser, Jones said.

The new tiny house in Wilder has quite a pedigree. It’s based on a design created and donated by Brian Crabb, head designer from the television show. Crabb has also donated the one-of-a-kind designs for the three houses COSSA will build in the future.

A work in progress

So what if you are the lucky winner of the house? Where can you put it? Rules about tiny houses are still evolving across the Valley, and you’ll need to do some research on the location.

“They’re not manufactured homes. They’re not necessarily RVs,” said Jones. “Most likely, whoever gets the COSSA tiny house, if they’re in Canyon County, they will probably need property outside city limits or get special permission.”

Any house deemed an RV can’t be a permanent residence inside Caldwell city limits. Tiny houses can be hard to classify, though, especially when they’re built to code standards like the Wilder house, with high-quality materials.

Ray said such structures are still in a gray area.

“But we’re building this tiny house like any house. It’s built to last,” he said.

The city of Boise doesn’t have a specific code governing tiny houses that sit on a conventional foundation, though there are certain rules about room sizes, said Mike Journee, city spokesman. For example, except for kitchens, “habitable” rooms can’t be less than 7 feet in any horizontal direction.

The city’s Planning and Development Services office describes a typical tiny house as between approximately 150 to 400 square feet.

“Basically, a tiny house can be used as a residence if it meets all of the normal entitlements any residence must go through,” Journee said. “For example, if they pass all the inspections, have proper zoning. It’s just like building any other house.”

Wheeled houses, like the one that Metro Community Services will raffle, require conditional-use permits inside the city.

Journee said city leaders have noted the growing popularity of small houses around the country. There has been some discussion, he said, about adopting standards for tiny houses.

“But because this is fairly new, there are not a lot of examples to study. We’re still looking into it,” he said.

Win the tiny house

Raffle tickets are $100. Only 1,000 will be sold.

To buy tickets, visit Metro Community Services at 304 N. Kimball Ave. in Caldwell or call 208-459-0063. Tickets are also available through Metro Meals on Wheels in Boise at 208-321-0030 or through COSSA in Wilder, 208-482-6074.

The raffle will take place at the Metro Meals on Wheels’ annual Culinary Walkabout at Boise Centre from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, May 4, at the Boise Centre, 850 W. Front St. in Boise. Tickets are $75 each and tables seating 10 guests are $500. This year’s theme is “Star Wars.” Guests are encouraged to come in costume. Get more information online at metromealsonwheels.net.

The public will have several opportunities to see the house before the raffle. Watch for dates by following Metro Community Services on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.