Olympia senior raises money for hemp-insulated tiny house project

2017-03-21 | The Olympian

March 20--Olympia resident Pat Rasmussen wants to help local seniors build their own hemp-insulated tiny houses on a tiny budget.

She is designing a prototype trailer-style house with solar panels on the roof and industrial hemp for insulation. With this setup, Rasmussen said the house wouldn't require a hookup to heat or electric utilities -- and could be moved.

Her goal is to recruit seniors to work together to build Rasmussen's tiny house, with the idea that the experience will teach them how to build their own houses with each other's help.

Rasmussen, 71, is trying to raise $40,000 for the project and ultimately build 11 tiny houses for 11 seniors who live on Social Security.

Local contractor Joseph Becker of ION Ecobuilding already has built a couple of tiny houses himself and is working with Rasmussen on the prototype design. Becker will help lead workshops that show seniors how to build the houses, which he said can take several weeks to months to complete, depending on the amount of labor available.

Rasmussen sees tiny houses as one way to solve an affordable housing problem for low-income seniors on a tight budget. Rasmussen said she lives on about $800 a month in benefits.

"It's a solution for seniors," she said. "You have to be creative on $800 a month."

As part of the project, Rasmussen hopes to procure materials for the house after the state's expected first legal harvest of industrial hemp later this year. In 2016, the Legislature approved a law that allows licensed growers to produce industrial hemp -- which unlike cannabis is bred for fiber and seed oil, not for intoxication -- as part of a research program. The Washington State Department of Agriculture reports that applications to cultivate industrial hemp will be available sometime this spring.

Meanwhile, there's a bill in the Legislature (HB 1085) that would allow tiny house builders to create homes with smaller living spaces without violating building codes in cities and counties. However, the bill does not address tiny houses that are on wheels, which are regulated as recreational vehicles.

Learn more

More information on Pat Rasmussen's tiny house project at seniorhemptinyhomes.wordpress.com or 509-669-1549.