Reigniting an idea that fizzled out a couple years ago, New Jersey legislators are advancing a measure that promotes "tiny homes" in order to put a roof over the heads of homeless individuals and those struggling financially in the Garden State.

Under the legislation set to next be considered by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, the state would establish a three-year pilot program through which select municipalities would apply for the construction of housing developments consisting of homes no bigger than 300 square feet — smaller than the average size of a studio apartment in New York City.

The trend of living tiny has taken off in other parts of the country, and is the focus of more than one reality television series, but New Jersey has not been the most welcoming state for these smaller dwellings. Zoning codes in many areas put forth requirements, such as minimum square footage, that tiny homes typically do not meet.

As part of the pilot program, participating municipalities would establish options to make these tiny homes affordable for "very low-income" families and individuals. The legislation says participating municipalities would receive two credits toward the fulfillment of their fair share housing obligation for each tiny home constructed within its borders.

"I think it's really taking the homeless issue on, being as creative as possible," said state Sen. Brian Stack (D-Hudson), a bill sponsor, before the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee advanced the measure in late June.

More than 8,500 homeless individuals were counted in New Jersey by organizations and volunteers during a single-day initiative in 2017.

Stack said he inherited the measure from former senator Ray Lesniak. The same legislation failed to make it to the full Senate in 2016.

Thomas Troy, president of the New Jersey Builders Association, said tiny homes can be a successful venture in the Garden State — one initial hurdle is determining where the homes should be constructed.

"That's why I think the pilot program is one of the only ways to get it started in New Jersey," Troy said. "Until people see that it can be done, and done well, and doesn't terribly detract from housing values in places where it's done."

Troy said tiny homes are a perfect option for empty nesters, as well as younger folks and those working blue collar jobs who can't afford to live in a regular-sized model.

The bill does not appear to anticipate any costs to the state itself. It directs the executive director of the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, within the Department of Community Affairs, to seek funding from the federal government and other sources to implement the pilot program.

More From WPG Talk Radio 95.5 FM