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OCCUPY MADISON OM Build house 8-21-13 (copy)

Tiny houses like the one above built by Occupy Madison's OM Build project, are growing in popularity nationwide as a way to house the homeless.

Mike DeVries - The Capital Times

Occupy Madison’s "OM Build" initiative to create a sustainable village of “tiny homes” for the homeless got a big boost Tuesday.

The Madison Common Council voted to amend the city's zoning code to allow tiny houses, like the single 96-square-foot trailer-mounted cottage Occupy Madison has constructed so far, to be set up on the property of churches and other non-profit organizations.

Tents could also be set up on property owned by such groups, which would need to have a management plan for sleeping areas, restrooms and parking, under the amendment.

There was some concern among city council members over whether the tiny houses could meet city building and safety codes, the Daily Cardinal reported.

“It sounds like they were sized to circumvent it,” said west-side Ald. Paul Skidmore.

A suggestion to delay action to allow closer review of the logistics around plans for the houses was diverted by concern over the impending need for shelter.

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“I would remind everybody that it’s already very cold tonight,” said southwest-side Ald. Lisa Subeck,

Members of the Madison Plan Commission voiced their own concerns last month, before recommending approval of the zoning code amendment. Commissioners were concerned that decisions about permitting would be left up to them.

Occupy Madison, which requires OM Build participants to pitch in and build their houses, hopes to eventually group a dozen or more of them together as a village on property it purchases.

“It’s not just a shelter, it’s a commitment to a lifestyle,” said Brenda Konkel, the executive director of the Tenant Resource Center. “It’s a co-op mixed with Habitat for Humanity mixed with eco-village as the long-term goal.”