Stephen Filing of Realty Group was looking to start a real estate business in 2014. He and his wife recently had a child and wanted to start something in the area. When Filing found the tiny office at 996 Front Ave., it was perfect for them. As a solo shop for real estate, he didn’t need a large office. Now, Filing is building his own small home at only 486 square feet.
“I just believe, whether it’s for business or personal, you don’t need as much space,” Filing said.
According to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, “tiny houses” have become a trend within the past few years in Minnesota. A tiny house is loosely considered 100 to 400 square feet, although the jurisdiction must be consulted for specific building codes when planning on small home living. Already, countries like New Zealand have adopted some form of tiny living to address housing for homeless individuals. Here in Minnesota, a Forest Lake church is trying to build a “tiny house village” for homeless veterans in their community in partnership with Midwest Tiny Living. There is a settlement of five small homes in the Maplewood parking lot of Woodland Hills and another coming on the East side of St. Paul through Sacred Settlement. And Avivo operates a 100-dwelling indoor community in the North Loop of Minneapolis.
These are not the only benefits to tiny home living, however. A study done by ABC News showed that benefits may include less clutter, less time spent cleaning, more savings, and a lower carbon footprint. For Filing, small office living just made sense for his business.
“For example, if you’re an insurance salesman, it’s a great spot because you need a presence, but you don’t need a lot of space,” Filing said. “For a realtor like myself, you could work out of your home, but a physical space in the neighborhood allows you to be connected to the community.”
Filing also mentioned that the cost to maintain is a lot less than what it would be if he had a larger office. With only a few workers, keeping up a 600 or more square foot space did not make sense. His taxes on the building are less than $1,000. And for each month, it is less than $200 to run his small office. However, this is also dependent on the fact that Filing paid for the building and does not have a mortgage.
“I think with the higher cost of electricity, gas, water, insurance, all these pieces of the puzzle, it just makes doing business harder,” Filing said. “And so, a smaller space allows you to combat these things.”
In 2022, St. Paul changed its zoning codes so that houses no longer need a minimum width of 22 feet and allow for multiple residential buildings to be on one lot. These changes will allow for an increased number of tiny homes and offices in the area. Although Filing believes that there must still be rules for housing in place, he also loves the idea that housing can be more catered to each person’s needs.
“We need the government to help us make changes in society. I mean, it is expensive to run a business and if we can make our costs less, why wouldn’t I want that for someone else?” Filing said.
Even though the small office worked for Filing, he also acknowledges that it may not be right for everyone. He believes that if you need a bigger space, if your business is growing, that the business is doing something right.
“If you have more business than can accommodate that space, that’s fantastic. It means something is going good for you,” Filing said.
Filing is moving his business from the Como area to Maple Grove this year. They moved to be closer to family when his wife was recovering from breast cancer but Filing still feels connected to St. Paul. It’s where his daughter spent her first years and is a neighborhood that is incredibly meaningful to him, he said. Having a physical space in order to connect to the community was important from the start.
“It can expand the views of a lot of people and change people’s perspectives about race, culture, and businesses,” Filing said.
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