Kyle Jensen / The Record — THINC board members Maralie Johnson and Adam Breedlove glance over the blueprint for the 220-square-foot tiny houses. The nonprofit aims to purchase land to build at least six tiny houses as a way to add more affordable housing to South Whidbey.

Tiny houses can make a big dent in affordable housing, new nonprofit says

It’s regularly said that affordable housing is one of the leading issues Island County residents face, and discussions over how to address the issue is an ongoing point of contention.

However, a group of churchgoers is laying the groundwork to provide affordable housing in the future.

Tiny Houses in the Name of Christ, or THINC, is a non-profit organization with the goal of attaining or purchasing property to build a cluster of tiny homes. The houses, which would measure 220-square-feet each, would be set aside for the homeless or those at-risk of becoming homeless.

“All of us in the organization have either housed or met the homeless and it opens up your eyes to the need on our island,” said Coyla Shepard, a board member. “When we realized how serious of an issue it was, we started going to meetings on homelessness and educating ourselves. This came out of that.”

THINC aims to start on its tiny house project as soon as possible, but its need for property is preventing any groundbreaking from happening yet. The organization hopes to acquire land donated from a property owner, but it’s ready to raise the funds needed to buy land, if necessary. Visit for details on how to donate.

“The goal is to find a property owner who might want to leave a legacy in their name,” Shepard said.

The organization hopes to start with a six-to-12 house cluster on at least one-third of an acre. The organization estimates it could theoretically fit 24 tiny houses on a full acre, if a city planning department allows it. According to the blueprints, made by South Whidbey-based architect Mike Burroughs, the houses are 22 feet long, 10 feet wide and 10 feet, 6 inches tall and could fit up to four people. Each tiny house includes a room, kitchen, living room and front porch.

THINC is composed of board members from seven churches, and each pledged to raise funds to build a tiny house. According to Shepard, they cost about $10,000 to construct.

Since the property must be connected to a sewage and water system in order to save septic costs, the property must be in Langley. Eileen Harper, THINC’s secretary, says the city’s planning committee has been open to the construction of tiny houses and “more innovative housing” to address South Whidbey’s need for affordable housing.

Harper says it’s crucial for Whidbey Island to have more affordable housing options, and there are many reasons renters are being pushed out of their homes.

“We’re looking to house not only the homeless, but people who have been pushed out of the rental market due to high rental prices, rentals becoming AirBnbs and the naval base adding 1,700 recruits,” Harper said.

According to statistics provided to THINC by Island County Housing Support Center, Whidbey Island has 171 homeless individuals and 246 more who are at-risk of becoming homeless. The housing support center also estimates a person must make $18 an hour working full time to afford a $1,000 monthly rent. Considering many work part time during the off-season and the fact that rentals under $1,000 are tricky to find, THINC says, making that much money is out of reach for many.

Recognizing some may have concerns about the tiny house residents, Harper and Shepard say there will be strict guidelines for people to live in the tiny house community. Openings will be limited to Whidbey residents, and THINC will run background checks and go through an interview process. Rents will likely be on a sliding scale according to need, Shepard says.

“We have a lot of checks and balances to make sure the people living there will be good neighbors,” Shepard said.

THINC built a tiny house community model that could be easily and quickly replicated, with the hope others would follow suit and build tiny houses of their own. Burroughs’ model is transportable and a house could be built “within a week,” according to THINC board member Adam Breedlove. The board realizes its plans wouldn’t solve the problem, but it’s a step in the right direction.

All THINC needs to break ground is a property to build on.

“Our starting point is having a model that people could easily replicate, with the hope others would build their own tiny houses,” Harper said.

“We know we can’t serve everybody, but we can at least start,” Shepard said.

Kyle Jensen / The Record — Coyla Shepard, left, and Maralie Johnson, right, show how four people could live in a tiny house.

Contributed image — Each tiny house would include a bedroom, kitchen, living room and a front porch.

More in News

Community weaves together fundraiser after fiber theft

In late February, Lydia Christiansen and her husband Alan woke up to… Continue reading

Navy extends comment period on special ops training

The area where the Navy conducts special operations training may be expanded… Continue reading

Port gets $500k for parking lot in Mukilteo

Curt Gordon’s decade-long mission to build a parking lot is finally getting… Continue reading

Goat University not kidding around

Covering goats from head to tail

Ignacio Rivera appears in Island County Superior Court.
Man accused of biting off part of victim’s ear

A South Whidbey love triangle led to “a brutal beating” in which… Continue reading

Staff from Island County Human Services gave a presentation on housing issues and homelessness in the county to the Planning Commission Monday. The department has been able to help over 400 households with its Housing Support Center since it opened in August 2016, but there are still more than 400 households waiting for assistance, largely due to the lack of affordable housing. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group
Point in Time count shows 170 without permanent housing

Over 170 people were counted as either unsheltered or in temporary housing… Continue reading

WhidbeyHealth seeking $20 million loan

Public meeting set for March 21

Many incumbents seeking re-election

It’s a big election year for Island County with many county positions… Continue reading

Lummi demand release of captive orca

‘She must be reunited with her family’

Most Read