The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday July 3rd

Orange County hosts Wishbone Tiny Homes owners to speak to aging population

If you’re searching for simplicity at home, an innovative developer might hold the keys to your happiness — in the form of a bite-size bungalow.

Gerry and Teal Brown, the father and son duo that co-own Wishbone Tiny Homes, presented a model of one of their tiny houses to a crowd of more than 150 people at the Robert and Pearl Seymour Center Wednesday.

The houses range from 150 to 1,000 square feet — in 2010, the size of an average American home exceeded 2,300 square feet.

“People are finding that happiness comes more from your experiences and your relationships with people, rather than the ownership and possession of more things — which a large home encourages,” Teal Brown said.

He said the tiny homes encourage simpler, more affordable living and provide a great option for seniors looking to downsize and seek low cost, low maintenance living options.

The Orange County Department on Aging, housed in the Seymour Center, chose to include Wishbone’s presentation as part of a larger series called Aging in Community: Planning for our Future. The series is introducing new and affordable housing options for seniors, said Mary Fraser, one of the event's key organizers.

“There are a lot of people who feel like they need more options, that there’s not much between moving into a retirement community and assisted living — we wanted people to hear about up-and-coming, innovative ideas,” she said.

“Tiny houses come out of the desire from older adults, and a lot of younger people too, who want to start living more simply.”

The Charles House Association, which owns an Orange County eldercare center, is one of the major sponsors of the event, Executive Director Paul Klever said. The goal is to encourage seniors to think about housing in a new way.

“We’ve been looking at many options for people who are thinking about their own retirement and aging, and this is just another thing for people to consider,” he said. “There’s been a lot of interest expressed by members of the community.”

The tiny house movement has picked in popularity since it first began in the 1990s and has the potential to become a trend in Orange County, Brown said. There is legislation pending in local governments that would allow the construction of temporary healthcare structures, also known as granny pods, which Brown said could increase momentum for the tiny house movement.

The tiny houses have potential as an affordable housing option, Brown and Fraser said.

"The tiny houses that are available right now," Fraser said. "Many of them aren't for low-income folks, but there could be a market to make them less expensive. We really hope that people will come and talk together and open their minds about what kind of future we want in Orange County, and we want our older adults to live quality lives here and not have to leave.”

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