LAKE OZARK, Mo. — Real estate is among Lake of the Ozarks' greatest strengths: with 1,150 miles of shoreline, it's a perfect place for a Lake home. However, a glaring weakness in the Lake area's real estate scene is a lack of what is often simply dubbed "affordable housing" or "workforce housing."

A variety of factors combine to create this phenomenon, wherein million-dollar homes line the Lake shore while many individuals who work in the service sector struggle to find homes within their price point. But a local developer's plan could lay the foundation for a solution to the affordable housing problem, in the form of "tiny home" clusters.

The Lake Ozark Planning & Zoning Commission recently opened the door to the possibility of allowing the construction of tiny homes within the city.

While a final decision rests with the Lake Ozark Board of Aldermen, the P&Z agreed to proceed with rezoning a parcel of property on School Road to allow a local developer to build a “cluster” of homes that would help meet the need for affordable housing not only in Lake Ozark but also the lake area.

The tiny homes movement is evolving from minimalist single individuals and couples in suburban or remote areas to a legitimate option for service industry employees and others on limited income. The Lake of the Ozarks Regional Economic Development Council sponsored a four-county housing study in 2016 that unveiled a critical need for affordable housing.

“With the affordable housing shortage in the area, the tiny homes concept is something we think we should explore,” Harrison Fry, Lake Ozark assistant city administrator/community development director, explained. 

Public hearing

The P&Z will hold a public hearing at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7, at the Lake Ozark City Hall to consider a rezoning request for an area on School Road from R-1 (residential) to C-2 (general commercial). Letters to property owners (not renters) within 185 feet of the proposed rezoning are being sent out to inform them of the hearing and the request.

The R-1 area is currently surrounded by C-2, so the rezoning actually expands the current C-2 area.

If the P&Z approves the rezoning request, the board of aldermen will consider the rezoning at a future meeting before any project can proceed. In addition, the developer must follow existing minimum City of Lake Ozark standards for construction and recently adopted tiny home guidelines.

What are tiny homes?

A tiny home is a detached, self-contained dwelling unit with basic functional areas that support normal daily routines such as cooking, sleeping and sanitation. The units must be between 300 and 800 square feet excluding lofts. The minimum square footage would not account for the required cooking facilities, toilet facility areas or lofts which would be in addition to the minimum clear floor area of 120 square feet for a single occupant, 220 square feet for two occupants and 320 square feet for three occupants.

No more than three occupants would be allowed per unit, per the city's P&Z.

The tiny homes would have to be built on-site and be placed on a permanent foundation; they would not be allowed to exceed one story (excluding lofts). The units must not be mobile, and must be hooked up to the city’s water and wastewater systems. 

The city says all tiny homes must be placed a minimum of 10 feet apart, with no fewer than four and no more than 16 homes allowed within a cluster. The clusters would share a common open space which would include storm shelters, mail receptacles and community recreation areas.

P&Z members were encouraged by the opportunity for the city to potentially offer an affordable housing option.

“I think they’re viable,” one member noted. “I think they are here as another housing option, but the success depends on how the first one is built. If the wrong person comes in as a builder, it could be a disaster.”

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