Tiny home in Lansing causing big problems for metro woman

LANSING, Kan. -- Misti Beer would offer you a seat, but her couch is still wrapped in plastic. It’s never been used because it’s inside a home where she’s not allowed to live.

“At this point the city inspector said, 'You are not meeting our requirements and can’t be here,'” Beer said.

Meet the latest victim of the tiny house movement.

Beer’s custom $60,000, 499-square- foot home is her dream house. An empty-nester from Kansas City, Beer had the house built in Texas. It includes a real bathroom (no compost toilet here) and a nearly full size kitchen. It even has a second bedroom, which Beer plans to use for her many crafts, including scrap-booking.

It’s everything this 47-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, school teacher wants – just on a much smaller scale. And that’s just one of the problems she’s now facing with the city of Lansing.

“I realized it was a problem with zoning,” Beer said after she spent $10,000 moving her newly built home to Lansing from Texas. She also spent another $5,000 preparing the foundation.

Beer said she thought she did her homework before moving the house to Lansing. She called multiple cities, inquiring whether tiny homes were allowed.

“Most of them came right back -- such as Basehor -- with 'Nope, that's not going to work.’"

But in Lansing, Beer thought she found an opening.

It involved an antiquated Leavenworth County regulation allowing people to construct tiny homes on their property as servant quarters. In a way, a servant is exactly what Beer plans to be for her daughter and son-in-law who own a normal-size house on the same 2-acre plot.

“As they start to have children, I'm close,” Beer said. “I can help with the grandkids. It's kind of a whole family unit we are working on.”

But first, she must win over city hall.

One of the obstacles she’s facing is that the property is zoned for a single-family home – not two homes. Plus Lansing, like most cities, has strict rules on the minimum size of a room. The bedrooms in her tiny house are too small.

Plus, that Leavenworth County exemption she was counting on for servant housing applies only to homes in the county -- not those inside city limits.

“We run across this problem a lot,” said Robert Wagoner, owner of Custom Container Living in Archie, Missouri.

Wagoner didn't build Beer’s home. If he had, he said he would have called Lansing himself to make sure it could legally be located there before he built it.

Misti Beer

“I couldn't sleep at night if I knew I built a house that they couldn't move into,” said Wagoner, who acknowledged it can be tough getting clear answers from many cities on what’s allowed.

That’s because many small cities and towns have only recently confronted the tiny home phenomena, and zoning codes don’t address it.

So Wagoner offered would-be tiny-home owners this advice: “What I tell people is check the minimum square footage because that will kill the deal right out of the gate if you are not big enough,” he said.

Here’s the good news: Lansing City Administrator Tim Vandall said he'd liked to try and find a way to help Beer.

Vandall suggested Beer buy half the lot from her daughter and divide it. That way two homes could legally exist there instead of one.

As far as minimum room size, the city is reviewing its regulations to determine whether tiny homes can have a home in Lansing. Beer said it’s the best news she has heard in months. We’ll let you know what happens.