“Proof of Concept”: Developer Finds Success with Milner Tiny Homes

The six-unit Cheney Creek Tiny Homes project in Milner developed by Michael Buccino of MicroLiving LLC offers a feasible housing option.
Suzie Romig / Steamboat Pilot and Today

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

“I would be honored if anyone could duplicate what I have done and make it better for our community,” said project designer and general contractor Michael Buccino. “I want everyone to steal my ideas and start over.”

After more than two years of planning and construction work, including the drilling of two deep-water wells to avoid affecting neighbors’ water supplies, the six-unit tiny home complex on a third of an acre is booming.

Buccino, owner of MicroLiving LLCsaid he was happy to help other developers replicate the concept to ease the difficult housing situation in Routt County.

For Andrew “Shamus” Bruen, a science teacher at Hayden High School, and his wife, Jennifer, who works for Routt County United Way, the housing search seemed “bleak” until they found the tiny house project.

“There was no way we could quit our jobs in Michigan and even be about to move here,” said Bruen, who now owns one of the small homes with his wife. “It worked very well.”

Buccino was keenly interested in showing the Routt County community that a tiny house concept could work locally. He has been 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 houses.

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

The completed Cheney Creek Tiny Homes complex in Milner features six units, for sale or rent, with two levels and a loft bedroom.
Michael Buccino/Courtesy Photo

Buccino said the development is more unique across the country since home buyers own their small lot rather than paying lot fees like at a mobile home park. More unusual than tiny houses on wheels, the houses are built on foundations with 60-inch-high 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 small communal laundry room and designated parking. Tiny homes for sale cost between $200,000 and $230,000, with all-electric service and energy-efficient construction, making them more affordable than Steamboat’s smaller condos.

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

Efficiently designed units include six to nine windows, built-in storage cabinets, open staircase, small pantry, convection microwave, induction cooktop and full bathroom, so they don’t feel cramped inside.

Cheney Creek Cottages completed in Milner have covered porches leading to an entry area.
Michael Buccino/Courtesy Photo

Buccino hopes to build similar tiny home projects in Hayden, Oak Creek and Steamboat in the future. Over the next four years, he hopes the tiny home development 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, bought one of the small houses himself to provide a rental for the staff of his company Steamboat Interiors to attract a new quality employee.

“If you’re smart, that’s kind of what you do,” Buccino said of providing rental housing as a recruiting tool.

The innovative tiny house development was completed in December 2021, with some finishing touches in progress such as a privacy fence being built this week to screen road traffic.

One of the units for sale has a purchase commitment from an elementary school custodian, Buccino said. Rent for a Tiny House includes all utilities, plus Wi-Fi, for $1,800 per month.

With all the planning required for a project that was the first of its kind in Routt County, Buccino put in a lot of sweat and long months of double labor to make the project work. He said the project has reached financial breakeven, but similar future projects should have an easier road.

Buccino named the Cheney Creek Tiny Homes project after pioneer Cheney in Milner’s story, similar to his own pioneering spirit.

Another small home project in western Routt County, the 12-unit Hayden Village Townhomes mini-duplex development, offers more housing options.


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