This is a story about an incredible SouthShorian, Debbie Caneen, and her ongoing support and advocacy of our SouthShore community… as well as her newest project – a tiny home community in Ruskin.
Looking for An Opportunity
Debbie sold her rental home in Ruskin back in November and was looking to purchase another rental property. Little did she know she’d soon find herself developing a tiny home community.
“I knew we wanted another investment,” Debbie says, “to provide residual income when my husband and I retire. The tiny home thing just sort of fell into my lap.”
Debbie’s lived in this area her entire life. She recalls spending much of her childhood at Bahia Beach where her father kept his boat.
“This area has been home forever. I ate at the Coffee Cup restaurant and will forever call it Bahia Beach [referring to what is now called Little Harbor].”
She’s also been one of those people who simply jumps in and gets things done in the community when she sees a need.
In addition to being the Director of Admissions for Sun Towers Retirement Community in Sun City Center, Debbie’s also the President of the SouthShore Coalition for Mental Health and Aging, an all-volunteer organization that‘s ‘engaged as a non-profit organization to provide mental health services to the residents of South Hillsborough County, including Sun City Center, Ruskin, Wimauma, Apollo Beach and Riverview.’
Debbie also finds time to coordinate networking groups in the area, helping small business owners spread the word about their business. It’s here that she found her way to tiny homes.
It was May 2017. Debbie was attending a networking session when a local realtor announced he had a mobile home community for sale… if anyone was interested.
A Tiny Home Community Is Born. Affordable, Workforce Housing Wins
Not only was she looking for a new investment property, Debbie was also looking for a solution to a problem that’s plagued this area for a long time – affordable, workforce housing.
Debbie works with 400 fellow employees at Sun Towers Retirement Community in Sun City Center. “The average housing cost in SouthShore is $1400,” Debbie says. “I have young people working in dietary and housekeeping at Sun Towers. $1400 is not affordable for these folks.”
In addition, the Sun City Center Chamber of Commerce estimates 3000 people commute to SCC to work there – the majority are too young to live in this 55+ community so they come from surrounding areas including Apollo Beach, Ruskin and Riverview. Affordable, workforce housing in the surrounding areas is critical to these employees.
A tiny home community felt like a great fit. Debbie saw it as a way to provide more affordable housing in the community. It would also enable her to promote the sustainable living movement – something that had interested her for some time.
Debbie bought the mobile home community in Ruskin, the precise location of which she’s keeping a secret for now, and she’s currently hard at work getting her tiny home community ready for tiny homes and their residents.
“I’ve named it Circle Pond Tiny Community,” Debbie says “because of the great pond that sits in the center of the property.” You can visit the community’s website here: Circle Pond Tiny Community
When completed, Circle Pond will include 24 tiny homes on 4.5 acres, permaculture (edible, organic and minimal-maintenance landscaping), a stocked pond (so residents can fish for dinner) and, hopefully, lots of solar energy.
Debbie and her husband plan to downsize into a tiny home in the community, too, when the time comes.
“My husband, an engineer, is designing a 5th wheel-style tiny home, “Debbie says. “These have added space above the hitch area so they’re a bit more spacious than some of the tiny homes you see.”
Her favorite tiny home design so far is called the “Sakara” which can be seen here from a company in Quebec. Luckily we have a local builder with Tampa Bay Tiny Homes who will build to spec and is NOAH certified so this design is attainable locally.
Debbie thinks she and her husband will do great in the much smaller space. “We’ve boated forever and have spent a lot of time living on boats. We’re used to smaller living quarters,” she says.
Debbie’s also been a long-time fan of sustainability and a more minimalist lifestyle. She has 16 ‘earth boxes’ at her current Apollo Beach home. “I grow vegetables and herbs. Every Friday I walk outside to see what’s growing and what we’ll be eating the next week,” she adds.
Her hope is the Circle Pond Tiny Community residents will be interested in similar sustainable activities.
“In other parts of the country these ‘pocket communities’ often attract residents with similar interests,” Debbie says. “It could be homeschooling, dog lovers or really any type of interest.”
Tiny Home Show: Go Tiny, Live Big!
To promote Circle Pond Tiny Community and bring awareness of the tiny home movement to SouthShore, Debbie is planning a Tiny Home Show. She’s partnering with Hillsborough Community College – SouthShore Campus, Tampa Bay Tiny Homes and AMI Kids. All proceeds from the show benefit Ruskin’s Firehouse Cultural Center and The SouthShore Coalition for Mental Health and Aging.
PURCHASE TICKETS IN ADVANCE: http://bit.ly/tinyhomeshow
Several tiny homes will be on site and available for touring during the day-long event, including a few you may recognize (if you’ve been a tiny home fan and have followed HGTV’s Tiny Houses program or other similar TV shows.)
Tiny Firehouse – Station Number 9– a replica of a firehouse built as a tribute honoring the firefighters and first responders (active, retired, and those heroes no longer with us) who have sacrificed unselfishly in protecting others for hundreds of years.
You can visit the Tiny Firehouse – Station Number 9 Facebook Page here for a sneak preview. It was founded by John and Fin Kernohan, the same couple behind the highly successful charitable Tiny House Festivals and the United Tiny House Association. Check out their website here for more information on the tiny home movement.
Shorty’s Tiny House- the build and beyond, an amazing Victorian tiny home. Get a sneak preview here.
- Other tiny homes that will be on display include Debbie’s own tiny home, which is now on display at the Firehouse Cultural Center (see below for more details).
- Tampa Bay Tiny Homes will showcase one or two tiny homes. Check out their website here.
- Michael Jalazo from Pinellas Ex-Offender Re-entry Coalition will display one or two tiny homes. Michael will be a presenter and you can find more details about his program HERE, More details on the website and below (Michael will also be a presenter during the event.)
- Debbie may also have a few “skoolies,” school buses which have been retrofitted into tiny homes, at the event.
SPEAKERS: There’s a full line-up of local speakers, experts in various topics surrounding the tiny home movement. Presentations to include:
“Designing for Change, Alternative Housing” – Josue Robles – USF Architecture and Urban Design Faculty
“Celebrate Outreach – Tiny Homes for Homeless Veterans” – Sabine Von Aulock
“Tiny Triangle” Financing, Building and Placing your tiny home” – Chris Short, Co-Founder Tampa Bay Tiny Homes
“Financing My Tiny Home on Wheels” – Adam Curtis, Freedom Bank
Rainwater/Graywater/Permaculture Solutions with Smart Technology” – Alberto Jauregui CMO at Raincube
“Permaculture for Edible Landscaping” – Kendrick T. Henry, Permaculture Design Specialist Numa Nursery™
“Solar Solutions for Tiny Home Energy” –Nancy Kettle, PhD, Analyst, Researcher, Solar Energy & Energy Storage Consultant
“Aquaponics – Sustainable Food in Your Backyard” –Jim Gibson, creator of the “Aqua-Pod” with The Cryson Ranch Aquaponics R&D Center
“Ex-Offenders Re-enter through a Tiny Door” –Michael Jalazo, ED Pinellas Ex-Offender Re-entry Coalition (PERC)
AbleNook’s Sean Verdecia, recently featured in Forbes Magazine, will also present (final topic TBD).
Lastly, the event includes a food truck and great raffle prizes offered by Ikea (a Norden Foldable Gateleg Table) and 84 Lumber (barn door hardware).
Debbie is seeking more vendors involved with sustainability and projects relevant to the tiny home movement. Vendor fees are only $50. Are you an organic gardener? Composter? Or have other expertise that fits with the sustainable lifestyle? Please contact Debbie Caneen at 813-786-7300.
The 1st Circle Pond Tiny Community Tiny Home
After jumping into the Circle Pond Tiny Community development, Debbie had the opportunity to purchase a tiny home that had been built by a University of South Florida architecture graduate student.
Stephanie Henschen took 10 months to build the tiny home with her father, as part of her graduate program. She later appeared on HGTV’s Tiny House Hunters and it was this appearance that got her noticed and a job in Seattle with Costco – building container restaurants.
Stephanie sold the tiny home to Debbie prior to her cross-country move.
This tiny home, set to be the 1st in the Circle Pond Tiny Community, is currently on display at the Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin, Florida. Feel free to stop by for a tour.
Tiny Home Show Brochure [include DropBox URL]