© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

This Kansas City Couple Returned Home With Big Dreams To Create A Tiny Home Village

Marek and Kothney-Issa Bush first moved into their tiny home in Florida 2017. Now they want to create a micro-community of their own in South Kansas City.
Courtesy of Marek & Kothney-Issa Bush
Marek and Kothney-Issa Bush first moved into their tiny home in Florida 2017. Now they want to create a micro-community of their own in South Kansas City.

After living the tiny house lifestyle in Florida and Texas, one couple has returned home to Kansas City with dreams of planting roots and creating their own minimalist-living paradise.

It was Marek Bush who first thought he and his wife should move into a tiny home. Kothney-Issa took a little convincing.

“She originally did not like the idea at all,” Marek said

And who can blame her? At the time, the Bushes were living on the fifth floor of a downtown apartment in Florida, with granite counter tops, keyless entry, and all the bells and whistles.

But the couple reached a point in 2017, when they realized just how much debt they were racking up.

“We are living this life that's not really helping our future — and it's nice for the time being, but we could really be making some headway in our financial goals if we were to cut back on a lot of these things,” Kothney-Issa said she thought at the time.

“It took me a few weeks,” she said, “and I was like, ‘OK, you're right, let's sell everything and let's do this.’”

The couple got rid of their dining, living and bedroom sets — which they originally planned to pass on to children — and they moved from an 1,100-square-foot loft into a 200-square-foot bungalow built on a trailer.

But the Bush's petite place is nice. You can watch a tour of it on YouTube.

Packed between their four walls, is a dedicated living room, lofted bedroom, and a normal, if compact, kitchen and bathroom.

“It's a standard flush toilet,” Kothney-Issa said. “We were, um, not really interested in wanting to go the compost route.”

They’ve got a washer and dryer, full-size fridge and oven, and even a 55-inch widescreen with surround sound.

“This thing rocks the house,” Marek said in a YouTube tour of the house. “Like, it gets loud.”

It wasn’t just the Bush's living space that shrank. Their monthly living expenses went from more than $1,500 to less than $500.

Caught in the fever of clearing debt, Kothney-Issa and Marek picked up odd jobs two or three at a time, and trimmed their spending dramatically. In two years, they erased $125,000-worth of debt — nearly a year faster than they’d planned.

Excited by their success and wanting to spread the word, the Bushes dove head-long into their YouTube channel, making videos about everything from debt-free living to anniversary celebrations. They have more than 40,000 followers, and their story was featured on Good Morning America and CNBC.

The same year, the couple picked up sticks and moved from an RV park in Florida to a micro-community in Lake Dallas, Texas. It’s one of the first of its kind, and it was developed by Terry Lantrip.

"I've been in Lake Dallas for about 36 years and I own the newspaper here,” Lantrip said. “I started buying up property in the downtown area because it was dirt cheap.”

It was at an Earth Day event where Lantrip saw nine tiny homes on display, and long lines of people winding out of them. The lines were so long Lantrip didn’t get to see the inside of any of the homes, but he did see a lot of interest.

“So I thought, ‘Well, wait a minute, I've got this acre that I don't know what to do with. I wonder if that would be a good option for that property,’” Lantrip said.

Thus was born the Lake Dallas Tiny Home Village. Lantrip said since day one he’s had a wait list of more than 100 tiny home-owners who want to move in. The village can host 13 homes total.

“You know, I have traditional rentals, I have apartments and homes, and this is just a different clientele,” he said. “Tiny home people are a completely different kind of folks.”

They are kind and caring, said Lantrip. They know each others’ names, and they keep the place clean. The Bushes confirm that movie nights and evenings around the communal fire pit are regular. Tiny home people are the kind who ask if they can pick you up anything on a trip to the store.

And the Bushes were two of those people, at least for a while.

But when the couple found out they were pregnant, they wanted to be closer to family. In October last year, they headed home to Kansas City with a vision.

“We got a chance to be a part of that very unique space, and we just really enjoyed it so much we wanted to duplicate something like that,” Kothney-Issa said.

Meanwhile in Kansas City, where debates over affordable housing have raged for years, diminutive dwellings have become kind of a thing.

That’s thanks largely to the Veterans Community Project on south Troost, which developed a set of 49 of them for homeless veterans.

The city’s department of planning and development, too, seems encouraging.

“We always say that as we try to work with people, we really try to get their projects to a state of 'Yes,'” said Jeffrey Williams, director of planning and development for Kansas City, Missouri, where the Bushes have already purchased a four-acre plot for their project.

Officials say city regulations around itty-bitty buildings are fairly lax, but things get more complicated when a home’s structure includes a set of wheels, like the Bush's does. A development like that requires community approval, and probably a zoning change.

It’s a long process, but Kothney-Issa and Marek are confident.

“If we got it all done in a year, we'd be extremely impressed and satisfied and happy,” said Marek. “But it’s likely going to take closer to that year-and-a-half to two year mark.”

And they’ve enlisted Lantrip to help.

“At this point we're feeling pretty confident,” said Kothney-Issa.

If you check their YouTube channel, you’ll see they’ve already started clearing brush from the land — it’s four times the size of the Lake Dallas project.

You’ll also see that Kothney-Issa has given birth to their first child, a baby girl.

Before her arrival, the couple switched out their living room sofa for one that converts to a bed, but they’re still on the fence about living tiny as a family of three.

“We've made a lot of changes and preparations for her here, but as she gets older,” Marek paused. “I don't know. It might be kind of tough.”

But not impossible. Lantrip says five children currently live in his community.

“The whole village looks after those kids,” Lantrip said. “That's a really neat environment for those children to grow up in.”

If the Bushes have their way, it’s just the kind of village that could help raise their daughter in Kansas City.

As culture editor, I oversee KCUR’s coverage of race, culture, the arts, food and sports. I work with reporters to make sure our stories reflect the fullest view of the place we call home, so listeners and readers feel primed to explore the places, projects and people who make up a vibrant Kansas City. Email me at luke@kcur.org.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.