Mid-Atlantic Tiny House Expo Headed to Central MD in October!

Are you curious about tiny houses? Do you have an in-law that may be needing an accessory dwelling soon?

There’s lots of local action coming up on this type of dwelling, which provides more affordable housing, but also encourages simpler living with a smaller carbon footprint, waste generation and reduced consumption. These homes average 400 square feet (about a fifth of the size of the average US home) though Frederick County’s new legislation calls for 800 feet and smaller. Sometimes they are accessory dwellings to a main house; and many are on wheels.

Green Frederick talked to Frank Hazzard, whose company organizes the Mid-Atlantic Tiny House Expo, about the expo and other Tiny House issues.

GF: Who wants a tiny house and why?

2017 Green House Expo shot, courtesy of Baltimore Sun

THE: There are four reasons people like tiny houses: financial freedom, geographic mobility; community (It’s a tribe!) and environmental sustainability.

THE: There is slightly more interest among college-age people, or those just past college age, especially women. Not far behind them are those between 54 and 64; snowbirds who want to be able to move in the winter. A lot of people feel it gives them freedom to part with all their possessions.

GF: Are most building them as permanent dwellings, or taking them on the road?

 THE: More than 50% of our (expo) vendors provide them on wheels due to demand. Builders are willing to build on fixed foundations, but the cost of land is so high, most cannot afford the land.

GF: What are the challenges to living in a tiny house?

THE: There may be four reasons why people like them but there are four big challenges: Parking (which is largely a zoning problem) is the number 1 issue, and Building codes is another. The others are financing, and insurance. There is lots of work being done in the industry and our speakers will be addressing these issues at the Expo.

GF: Tell us some things about the Expo this year. It’s the second one, right? Last year brought amazing crowds!

THE: We were overwhelmed by the number of attendees last year.  We had no idea the show would be as popular as it was.  This year we are geared up for bigger crowds.  We are going to expand the space from 43,000 square feet to 150,000 square feet, including some spaces outdoors.  We’re also selling date-specific tickets so that we can better monitor crowd sizes.

GF: Is this a good opportunity for people to figure out what steps to take to get started? What is one thing people could do to get ready for the show in October?

THE: I have a daughter who was interested in building a tiny house.  I put tape on the deck so she would see how tiny her house would be, and she noticed that it was bigger than her dorm room.

GF: One local resident I spoke to, Phyllis Jesperson, is thinking about a retirement tiny home. She and her husband taped off a section of their house and were putting items in that area to test the feel of a tiny home.

GF: I was reading that because only 8 people can fit in a tiny house, people should be prepared for lines at the expo as part of the experience. Is there any other advice you have?

THE: During the first hour each day (9-10 am), we will offer limited access to VIP ticket holders.  This will allow attendees to see the most popular exhibits with far fewer people.  It will also allow quality time with builders and manufacturers’ reps.

GF: Have people actually been able to buy a tiny house from a vendor right at the show?

THE: Yes, they have.  At last count, four tiny houses were sold either at our May 2018 Fredericksburg show or in the ensuing 48 hours.  Although most of our exhibitors and attendees are from the Mid-Atlantic region, they come from far away, too.  One guy, Roger Lehet of Unforgettable Tiny House, brought a tiny house from Vashon, Washington!  That’s a long way!

GF: Any other recommendations for people wanting to come to the show?

THE: Most people seem to spend about 2-3 hours at our shows.  People should bring bottled water and wear comfortable shoes.  Tiny houses are tiny.  They typically have only one door and it’s hard to get a lot of people in one at once.  There are going to be lines.  We’ll do our best to manage the lines, but waiting your turn to see the most attractive houses is part of the experience.




Livable Frederick: Balancing for Affordability

Consider the word “livable”. What comes to mind is what you often say when you’re negotiating among family members, peers or friends to reach a compromise during an argument.

“Yeah, I can live with it”.

When you look at it that way, having a “livable Frederick” takes on quite a different point of view of the perfect community the plan describes. Just “settling” for a negotiated middle ground isn’t what county leaders meant when they named it. Their vision was aspirational–to see what the community by working towards agreed community values.

But, there are different interpretations of these kinds of common phrases for everyone.

Reactions to the plan are important to hear.  There is already consternation and worry about what its recommendations imply for zoning on personal properties, even though it is not a zoning document. There are workgroups, such as the Energy and Environment workgroup, who are making recommendations for a better description of their vision in the plan.


 Citizens ponder at the Livable Frederick Open House.

Before anyone lets misunderstanding or dissension pulls the plan too far off track, consider using it as a new way to look at the place where we live. It’s like a husband and wife, who some time while they’re in their thirties to dream of the kind of legacy they would like to leave behind when they’re in their 70s. Having a big picture changes the way decisions get made in the ordinary-ness of the day to day.

The aspirational big picture has to fit, though, into the reality we face: a need for a diversity of jobs, both for well-educated people and those that don’t opt for it; the zoning and land use that is what many people count on as a way to plan their family’s futures; zoning. Both of these are huge impacts that exist whether or not a study projects what some people feel is a Livable Frederick.

Who really participated?

It’s hard to tell at this juncture who the answers came from; and I’ll update this post if I get more details from county staff. The plan talks in general terms, and for sure it received excellent response rates from what has been reported. It would be very useful to see comments detailed in the version that is coming to public hearing, and to have an understanding of the demographics of the people (age, zip code, economic strata) that answered.

Why is this so important? Because defining what is livable Frederick begs the question: livable for who?

Is It a Comprehensive Tale of livability?

If the demographics skewed towards answers from people primarily with income above $50,000 per household, or college educated, or white-collar employees, we may be missing a big piece of the vision of the people who are here. And as the report points out, affordability of living here is a big issue. This has already been well documented in the local A.L.I.C.E. study process.

Economic opportunity should be a defining issue throughout the plan. Even though we here at GreenFrederick tend to cheer for environmental initiatives, if we don’t put due emphasis on parts that will decrease the cost of living in Frederick County, we may very well be making Frederick unlivable for the very people the plan was written for. They won’t be able to enjoy environmental progress; benefits from health improvements, or the beauty of having farmland in agricultural preservation.

While the big picture that Livable Frederick is painting is important it’s critical that the entire community’s reactions balance the vision being presented in the plan, especially if the vision is not representing all the demographics that hold a stake in our future.