Rock Hill city leaders question tiny homes for homeless

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Some say tiny houses could solve homelessness. They have heat and plumbing and they're cheap, but Eyewitness News reporter Greg Suskin found out city leaders in Rock Hill are not on board.

Rock Hill attorney Dale Dove disagrees and said it could solve the homelessness problem.

"It is safe, it is attractive. It's affordable," Dove said.

Dove said people living on minimum wage can't achieve home ownership, even under affordable housing.

"A person makes $8 an hour or $12 an hour, they have lost hope that they will ever own a home," Dove said.

For example, a tiny home he points out is 8 feet by 16 feet and includes a bed, appliances, plumbing, heating and air conditioning, a full bath, laminate floors, cabinets and a loft for storage or a second bed.

"This is not substandard,” Dove said. “This is responsible living."

The siding is vinyl with a stone facade and will have a front porch and was built for $12,000.

Dove said someone could own the house in 10 years with a mortgage of $125 a month -- a home for someone earning under $15 an hour.

The question may be how long would somebody would want to stay in a 128-square foot house, and is it really a long-term solution for the homeless or low-income families?

The city of Rock Hill says it's not.

"The tiny house is sort of -- it's new territory for all of us," Rock Hill housing director Jennifer Wilford said.

She said the city is committed to affordable housing.

Channel 9 saw several homes under construction -- some for purchase, others rentals.

She admits there's a waiting list for them but said the idea of tiny houses, to own, isn't what's needed.

"I don't see an issue with affordable, rental housing being the interim solution to serve those exact families," Wilford said.

Those homes are rented, based on the tenant's income, but those for sale are at least 1,000-square feet and cost close to $100,000.

Dove argues that's not affordable for low-wage workers.

The location of tiny homes is another issue.

Zoning rules don't allow a dwelling smaller than 850 square feet, so on empty lots where you could put two or three tiny houses, it's illegal.

At a church across town, 25 homeless men bunk down every night during the winter, but by the time mid-March arrives they will be on their own.

Donna Williams volunteers at The Warming Center and said a better housing option would get some of these men on their feet.

"Most of these men are working,” Williams said. “They have a job."

They can't afford apartment rent on what they make and need something else.

"They're in a hole, they're in a crisis, they can't get out," Williams said.

Dove has spoken before city and county councils on the affordable housing issue.

He is still pushing to have zoning rules changed to allow tiny houses to be built.