‘Proof of concept’: Developer finds success with Milner tiny homes

The Cheney Creek Tiny Homes six-unit project in Milner developed by Michael Buccino of MicroLiving LLC provides an attainable housing option.
Suzie Romig/Steamboat Pilot & Today

With essential workers from school teachers to bus drivers living in the Cheney Creek Tiny Homes in Milner, the developer hopes other entrepreneurs will replicate his “proof of concept” to create more attainable housing in Routt County.

“I would be honored if someone could duplicate what I did and make it better for our community,” said project designer and general contractor Michael Buccino. “I want everyone to steal my ideas and do it again.”

After more than two years of planning and construction work, including drilling two deep-water wells to avoid affecting with the neighbors’ water supply, the six-unit complex of tiny homes on one-third acre is thriving.

Buccino, owner of MicroLiving LLC, said he is happy to help guide other developers to replicate the concept to ease the housing predicament in Routt County.

For Hayden High School science teacher Andrew “Shamus” Bruen, along with his wife, Jennifer, who works for Routt County United Way, the housing search was looking “bleak” until they found the tiny home project.

“There was no way we could leave our jobs in Michigan and even come close to moving here,” said Bruen, now owner of one of the tiny homes with his wife. “It worked out really well.”

Buccino was keenly interested in showing the Routt County community that a tiny home concept could work locally. He has served as a volunteer board member of the American Tiny House Association since 2019 and has long functioned as a resource on educational panels and for people inquiring about tiny homes.

“I wanted to engage the building department and local financial institutions,” said Buccino. “The subdivision process was long and complicated so that the homeowners could own the dirt underneath and have a regular 30-year mortgage.”

The completed Cheney Creek Tiny Homes complex in Milner includes six units, both for sale or rentals, with two levels and a loft bedroom.
Michael Buccino/Courtesy photo

Buccino said the development is more unique across the country since the home buyers own their small lot rather than paying a lot fee such as in a mobile home park. More unusual than tiny homes on wheels, the homes are stick-built on foundations with 60-inch-tall crawl spaces to provide protected storage.

After a few bumps in the road with three other lenders, the Bruens were able to finance the purchase of their tiny home with a traditional mortgage.

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The complex includes a central open space with a gazebo, a shared small laundry room and designated parking. The for-sale tiny homes are priced from $200,000 to $230,000, featuring all-electric service and energy efficient construction, making them more affordable that the smallest condos in Steamboat.

Four of the units are 357 square feet with a downstairs kitchen and bathroom, upstairs loft bedroom, 200-square-foot crawl-type storage space and a wrap-around front porch. Two of the units are six-feet longer with 437 square feet of living space, 260 square feet of storage under a crawl space hatch and a rectangular front porch.

The efficiently designed units include six to nine windows, built-in storage cabinets, an open staircase, small pantry, convection microwave, induction cooktop and a full bathroom, so they do not feel cramped inside.

The Cheney Creek Tiny Homes completed in Milner have covered front porches leading into an entrance area.
Michael Buccino/Courtesy photo

Buccino hopes to build similar tiny home projects in Hayden, Oak Creek and Steamboat in the future. Within the next four years, he hopes the tiny home subdivision concept will become so seamless that it will be included as an option in Brown Ranch, a property purchased by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.

Buccino, a member of the Steamboat Springs City Council, purchased one of the tiny homes himself to provide a rental for staff at his Steamboat Interiors business as a benefit to entice a new, quality employee.

“If you are smart, it’s kind of what you do,” Buccino said of providing rental housing as a recruitment tool.

The innovative tiny home development was completed in December 2021, with some ongoing finishing touches such as a privacy fence being built this week to screen the highway traffic.

One of the for-sale units has a commitment to purchase by an elementary school custodian, Buccino said. Rent for a tiny home includes all utilities, as well as Wi-Fi, for $1,800 per month.

With all of the planning required for a project that was a first of its kind in Routt County, Buccino put in a lot of sweat equity and long months of double-duty to make the project work. He said the project broke even financially, but future similar projects should have an easier road.

Buccino named the project Cheney Creek Tiny Homes after the pioneering Cheney in the history of Milner, similar to his own pioneering spirit.

Another small-home project in western Routt County, the 12-unit Hayden Village Townhomes development of mini-duplexes, is providing more housing options.

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