Tiny Home Models Project

Rendering of a tiny home on stilts

A rendering of the Ramrod Key site ’tiny home.’

First Code Compliant Tiny Home in Monroe County Pilot Project Breaks Ground in Key Largo 

The first Monroe County approved tiny home received a permit this week in Key Largo. The pilot project is one of two planned homes the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners approved in December 2018 to serve as code-compliant models for residents who are rebuilding after losing their homes during Hurricane Irma. The commissioners wanted to be creative and find products that are wind and flood-resistant that homeowners can consider as replacements after Irma.

The home will be delivered to Jenny Lane in Key Largo in about three weeks and will be open to the public to view and tour after it is hooked up to utilities and the inspections are finalized. This home is one bedroom and one bathroom, a little less than 400 square feet, code-compliant, and starts at $85,000.

“I am very excited about this project,” said Monroe County Assistant County Administrator Christine Hurley. “More than 4,000 homes throughout the Keys were destroyed or majorly damaged by Hurricane Irma, and these tiny home prototypes are code compliant, more resilient alternatives to mobile homes.”

The County solicited vendor proposals to design and build different resilient code compliant prototype tiny homes on County-owned land. Cornerstone Tiny Homes owners Kim and Brett Hiltbrand had a vision to create safe, small footprint homes that would be a viable option for those struggling to own or rebuild their home. They provide their clients several floorplan options, which are all Florida Building Code compliant and can withstand winds up to 180 mph. John Gallant, Broker at Engel & Völkers Islamorada, helped with permitting.

“The officials in Monroe County are forward-thinking and we appreciate how proactively they’re working to solve the affordable housing dilemma,” said Kim. “The Cornerstone team is honored to place one of their homes in Key Largo and hopefully many others once the tiny home pilot program in Monroe County proves successful.”

RAS Engineering also developed plans and is in the permitting stage for an elevated storage container-type tiny home to construct on Big Pine Key. The homes will be used as affordable housing after being opened to the public for viewing. The County may reissue a solicitation to build another tiny home project later this year.

The tiny home before it is moved to the Key Largo site.


In light of social media marketing paid advertisements regarding container homes targeting Florida Keys residents, the Monroe County Planning Department and Building Department review all engineered plans regarding container housing for permanent or temporary housing.

With “tiny home” living in the mainstream, many people ask whether “tiny homes” are permitted in the Keys. Container homes need to go through the same permitting and inspection procedure as site-built homes, which includes a requirement of a State of Florida registered contractor doing the permitting and installation.

The permits require reviews from the Planning Department, Biology Department, Building Department, and if a commercial property, the Fire Marshal. Signed and sealed plans by an engineer or architect would need to be submitted and any off-site assembly would need to be inspected by a third-party engineer.

At the moment, container homes are not approved for temporary housing. Permanently installed container homes would require an engineered foundation elevated to the design flood elevation and must meet Monroe County wind loads.

The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners is sponsoring a pilot program to determine whether tiny homes can be built in the Keys for an affordable price and still meet the building safety codes. There are currently two code-compliant tiny home buildings being permitted now, one of which is a storage container type home.

  • Cornerstone Tiny Homes has received a permit for construction and should break ground in February 2020 at 39 Jenny Lane in Key Largo.
  • RAS Engineering has developed plans for a storage type container home and will apply for a permit shortly to construct a tiny home at a site in Big Pine.

The County hopes to break ground on both of the homes in 2020 and may reissue a solicitation to build two more tiny home projects since two vendors withdrew their applications.

Rendering of a container home on stilts


The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners approved in December 2018 the building of four “Tiny Homes” to serve as code-compliant models for residents who are rebuilding after losing their mobile homes during Hurricane Irma.

More than 4,000 homes throughout the Keys were destroyed or majorly damaged by Hurricane Irma. Many of these lost residences were mobile homes, which provided affordable/workforce housing. 

The County solicited vendor proposals to design and build four different resilient code compliant prototype Tiny homes on County-owned land. These replacement homes will be safer and better suited to survive future storms. 

After the model phase is over, these homes will become affordable County employee housing. 

Six vendors responded to the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the construction of the tiny home models. These vendors submitted proposals for 26 combinations of tiny houses and land sites. There were fourteen different house types proposed. They ranged in size from 360 to 1,560 square feet and from an efficiency to a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home. 

The County selected four customized single-family home designs that will cost a total of $656,496 to construct. Here are the designs and locations: 

  • Ramrod Key: RAS Building Commissioning and Restoration will construct a metal box modular 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom home on a vacant lot located on West Indies Drive. It also is known as the “Stairway to heaven.” It will be 640 square feet, showing insulated walls and ceilings. Cost: $153,600. 
  • Cudjoe Key: Advanced Construction Technologies, LLC will build a “monolithic concrete structure” with proprietary material developed by “PermaHouse.” The 3-bedroom, 2-bath, 1,012-square-foot home will be on a vacant lot located on 1st Avenue West behind the Sheriff Office’s substation. It appears to be a panel made to the size of an expanded polystyrene foam core between welded metal meshes which are assembled on-site and then overlaid with a 4,000-psi concrete mix much like that used to construct some in-ground swimming pools.” Cost: $189,699. 
  • Big Coppitt Key: Cypress Community Development Corporation will build a factory constructed wood frame with insulated panels that are field assembled from kits. The 2-bedroom, 1-bath, 760-square-foot until will be built on a vacant lot at 28 Emerald Drive next to the fire station. Cost: $212,000. 
  • Key Largo: Cornerstone Design Build, Inc. will build a wood frame structure prebuilt in a factory. The 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom, 360-square-foot home will be built on a vacant lot at 39 Jenny Lane. The unit is fully assembled when site-delivered. It is installed on the site foundation and connected to required utilities. The plans submitted say the siding is Florida-approved Hardie board and the roof covering is asphaltic shingles. Cost: $101,197.

Key Largo tiny home rendering

For more information on these projects, click on Tiny Home Information.

There are several state and federal initiatives in the County to assist homeowners with replacements using grant funding and other resources, like Rebuild Florida, which has been allocated $50 million through the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery program to repair, rebuild and elevate primary homes damaged by Hurricane Irma. The registration deadline for this program is Dec. 23, 2018. Residents should apply at 844-833-1010 or go to RebuildFlorida.gov.