Alleged scammer and developer calls tiny house project affordable, neighbors say hurts values
To developer Kelvin Young, his planned “tiny house” community in northwest Charlotte will create an affordable place for first-time home buyers or for people downsizing.
But to neighbors, Young’s Keyo Park West is a threat to their property values. They are asking City Council to stop it.
“We have been hanging out there for 60 years in Coulwood,” said Robert Wilson, who lives a half-mile from Young’s planned tiny house neighborhood off Cathey Road near Paw Creek Elementary. “All of a sudden this little building started coming up and no one knew what it was. Then it started looking like a house.”
Young’s Keyo Park West would have 56 tiny houses if built out, with the smallest homes – 500 square feet – selling for $89,000. The median home price in Charlotte is about $190,000.
Young is piggy-backing on a national trend of people buying tiny houses, which has been popularized by TV shows such as HGTV’s “Tiny House, Big Living.” In many cases, those homes are truly tiny, with as little as 200 square feet. Keyo Park West would have small homes, but Young’s use of “tiny homes” is in part a marketing strategy.
Wilson, who spoke before council members in opposition to the project in September, said Keyo Park West should be regulated like a mobile-home park.
“You specifically designate areas for mobile homes, and this is no different,” he said. “We want this stopped. We aren’t against (zoning that allows three homes per acre). We are just talking about these types. It will greatly diminish our property values.”
The nearby neighborhood was built in the 1950s. Though only 8 miles from uptown, it’s still a mostly rural area. Homes are appraised at between $175,000 and $250,000.
But Young said neighbors don’t understand his project. While TV shows often celebrate tiny homes on wheels, the Keyo Park tiny homes are built on concrete foundations. He said they are no different than a single-family home, only smaller.
The city of Charlotte said that’s correct. Ed McKinney, the interim planning director, said the tiny home that’s been built qualifies as a single-family home. The city doesn’t require that single-family homes be a certain size.
“To be clear, they are only tiny houses in the marketing name only,” McKinney said. “Many of the tiny houses that people are familiar with (from TV) are on wheels. And the only place you can do that now is in an RV park, and you have to have a site zoned for that.”
Young, who is African-American, believes some of the opposition is due to race. The residents near his tiny house are mostly white, and Young said he thinks people are afraid the tiny homes will be bought by black residents.
“We have the most coolest, most eclectic group of people on earth,” Young said about people who have inquired about the homes. “We have 22-year-olds to 72-year-olds. People are moving from uptown, Ballantyne and Pineville. A lot of people think it’s a bunch of young people. But they are people who say, ‘I don’t need all of this.’ ”
Young has so far built one 500-square-foot tiny house on Cathey Road. He has sold it for $89,000 – $69,000 for the house and $20,000 for the land.
The house has a small bedroom in the back with a bathroom. The front room is a combination kitchen and living room.
He has two other lots nearby that Young said are under contract. One is for a two-bedroom house that costs $138,000. The other is for a three-bedroom house with a garage for $170,000.
The city isn’t sure whether Young will be able to build-out his community on the rest of the 19-acre parcel. The council’s Transportation and Planning committee discussed Keyo Park West last month and plans to review the tiny homes again in November.
Young, a former self-described house-flipper, doesn’t own most of the land. It’s owned by Sackville Currie and Malvina Currie, who have a Fort Lauderdale address. Young said he owns the piece of land where the first tiny home was built and recently acquired the other two parcels. He said he will buy the others when contracts are signed.
The Keyo Park West website says prospective buyers must pay a $4,000 non-refundable deposit to reserve a lot.
McKinney said Young has not submitted any plans for his neighborhood, which must comply with city rules on setbacks, streets and sidewalks.
“That would still go through all of our technical review,” he said. “It’s hard to know if all this is for real.”
Young’s tiny home proposal comes as the city is trying to quickly build more affordable housing. After the Keith Scott protests, council members pledged to build 5,000 new housing units in three years, instead of the previous goal of 5,000 units in five years.
Kim Skobba, an assistant professor of family planning, housing and consumer economics at the University of Georgia, has taught a class on tiny houses. She said the popularity of TV shows such as “Tiny House, Big Living” shows people are interested in the idea of owning a tiny house.
“However, having an interest in tiny houses might not translate to community acceptance,” she said. “Opposition to affordable housing, regardless of the form, is common, so I guess I am not too surprised to see pushback on tiny homes.”
There are no income requirements for Keyo Park West, so it’s possible a $100,000 affordable tiny home could be bought by someone earning $80,000 who just wants a simple life.
Chris Galusha of the American Tiny House Association said the Keyo Park West homes are not true tiny houses because they have large lots and the houses themselves are comparatively large. He said he doesn’t think they would affect the property values of older single-family homes nearby.
“People are afraid their property values will drop,” he said. “But a 400- to 600-square-foot home will never be appraised with people across the street. Because of the size, those tiny homes will never be in the same appraisal.”
Wilson doesn’t agree.
“The laws are so loose and ambiguous,” he said. “It doesn’t take into consideration this is a new genre. Just because the land is zoned for (three houses per acre) doesn’t make it right.”