Lawsuit argues Calhoun’s ban on tiny homes violates Georgia constitution

Tiny House Hand Up hopes to build a community of small homes in Calhoun, Georgia. But their 600 square foot floor plans, pictured here, don’t meet the city’s minimum home size requirement.

Courtesy of Tiny House Hand Up

The city of Calhoun, about an hour north of Atlanta, recently blocked a tiny homes development. Now, a lawsuit argues it violated the Georgia constitution.

The development plans started because of a problem in Calhoun.

“We have a serious lack of affordable housing,” said Tiny House Hand Up Executive Director Cindy Tucker.

Her group saw how people making $12 or $14 an hour struggled to cover their housing expenses. So they created a plan to build more affordable homes.

Tucker said the group got 500 people around Gordon County to support the idea in a petition. Then, they brought it to public officials.

“‘Uh, no.’ That has been their response,” she said.

City leaders rejected the plan because Tiny House Hand Up is proposing small homes, only one or two bedrooms, that are around 600 square feet. Calhoun doesn’t allow that because its zoning laws include a rule that homes must be at least 1,100 square feet. In mid-October, the city council declined to consider an exception for the tiny home development.

So a national libertarian nonprofit called the Institute for Justice announced it is suing on behalf of Tiny House Hand Up.

“The Georgia Constitution requires that all zoning restrictions bear a substantial relationship to public health, safety and general welfare,” said attorney Joe Gay.

Calhoun’s ban doesn’t meet that standard, Gay said, because small homes are healthy and safe.

“And in fact, people in Calvin, and in many other parts of the country do live in smaller homes that were built before these types of laws were enacted,” Gay said.

The Calhoun city attorney said they couldn’t comment on the litigation, which the Institute for Justice is filing in Gordon County Superior Court.

At the city council meeting about the development, the Calhoun Times reported some residents worried about the effect of tiny homes on nearby property values.

Tucker said the small size is necessary to keep home prices in the range of $60,000 to $90,000.

But her group agreed to place the homes on conventional sized lots — about a quarter of an acre. She said that would allow buyers to expand their homes’ footprints in the future.

Owners also would have to follow the standard home buying process.

“What we are talking about is traditional mortgage homes,” she said.