Originally Published: August 17, 2017 6:02 a.m.
SPRINGFIELD, Ore. (AP) — At 24, Sam Koekkoek can say that he owns his own house, free and clear.
It's a point of pride for Koekkoek, of Springfield. On Wednesday, he showed off the recently completed tiny home that he spent the past two years building. In 2015, he interrupted his graduate school studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Southern California for two years so he could put hammer to nail and build his own 136-square-foot, brown-and-emerald green bungalow.
"I was getting ready to move that summer, and I could not find a place to live that was a studio for less than $1,000 to $2,000," Koekkoek said. "It's unbelievable. I was just completely in panic mode, and then I just stumbled across a YouTube video of some high school kid who built his own tiny house."
Koekkoek said that tiny houses are the solution to a gigantic housing problem to high rents in the Pacific Northwest, Southern California and other high-demand housing markets where rents are skyrocketing.
The theology student decided to take a BYOH (bring your own house) mentality. On Sunday, he hitched up his tiny house to a red one-ton pickup truck. He maneuvered it out of the backyard at his parents' home to begin the journey to a new seminary school — The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology — where he plans to complete his graduate studies.
Koekkoek will rent the plot of land for his house from the owner of a large parcel an hour south of Seattle. The landowner also is renting to another tiny-house owner.
"That's really the best option for tiny-housers out there," Koekkoek said. "The law hasn't totally caught up with the codes and zoning and everything yet. But it's happening. It's on its way."
City zoning codes almost always allow for small, secondary residential spaces on a lot, according to tinyhousebuild.com. They are called accessory dwelling units, and they can include in-law cottages, pool houses and tiny houses.
"This is an excellent solution for the housing crisis," Koekkoek said. "So many people my age are really interested in green living and living responsibly and taking care of the planet. And in my mind, this is just the one small thing that I want to do to kind of serve my part."
Koekkoek's tiny house has many eco-friendly features. His shower water is filtered out into the yard to help water his garden. His toilet is compostable, which means it decomposes his waste to form fertilizer.
"It's like top of the line," Koekkoek joked. "The composting toilet that everyone wants."
Koekkoek, who has no previous experience with construction, said he built the house entirely with the help of "thousands and thousands of YouTube videos." The house cost about $20,000 to build, he said.
The Northwest Christian University graduate said he funded the two-year project by living at home with his parents and working as a caretaker for his sick grandfather. Koekkoek's grandfather died just before the project was completed.
"The whole thing was kind of cyclical," Koekkoek said.
His mother referred to the project as "a labor of love." Koekkoek said that friends and family all came out to help him brainstorm ideas and physically build the house.
"It's been awesome; it's like bringing a community together," Koekkoek said. "All the people in my life; it's just something we're all working on and dreaming about together."
The finished product looked like the inside of a Crate and Barrel catalog. With YouTube as his guide, Koekkoek crafted a chic lofted home with ample kitchen counter space, trendy industrial lighting and even a full-size green couch, sandwiched between white walls.
His decor included an oil on canvas painting of a human heart swarmed with honey bees, Mason jars with blue labels filled with spices, sugar and flour, a DVD box set of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and Christianity-related artwork with the words "Nothing Is Wasted" painted on the picture frame.
"I just know that I've had my hand on all of this," Koekkoek said. "It's made specifically for me and my needs, and that feels pretty cool.