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Patti Phelps, left, an interior designer who helped design the Tiny House Initiative's homes including this one built by students from the Huot Technical Center in Laconia as she helps Janet Swanson, from Freemont during the annual New Hampshire State Home Show held at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester on Friday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

Official: No legal challenge to sale of student-built 'tiny house'

CONWAY — While saying questions remain, Conway School Board member Mark Hounsell said there will be no legal challenge to the sale of a “tiny house” built by students at the Mount Washington Valley Career and Technical Center.

As part of an effort to stimulate interest in the building trades, the New Hampshire Home Builders Association and the New Hampshire Lottery joined forces last October to launch the Tiny House New Hampshire initiative.

The aim, according to the NHHBA, was to have students at career and technical centers around the state, including at MWVCTC, which is located at Kennett High School, build tiny houses for display at the March 2017 Home Show in Manchester.

In the process of construction, it was hoped that the students would work alongside local contractors, who would teach them new skills while sometimes also doing things that were beyond the students’ current capabilities.

The contractors would exchange their time and materials for the opportunity to pitch their companies as prospective employers to the students, according to Todd Mezzanotte, who oversaw the “tiny house” initiative and is the associate national director of the NHHBA.

Under what Mezzanotte said was more of a gentlemen’s agreement than a contract between the Lottery, the participating schools and the NHHBA, the Lottery would select one tiny house to use as a second prize in its new scratch ticket game, while the other houses would be auctioned off with proceeds split between the schools and the NHHBA.

When the Home Show rolled around, however, only two of the five expected tiny houses were ready – one from MWVCTC and the other from the Huot CTC at Laconia High School.

The Lottery chose the Huot house, an action that caused much consternation in some Conway quarters, because, as Hounsell previously said, the understanding in that community was that the tiny house “initiative” was actually a competition wherein the construction had to be done predominantly, if not exclusively, by student labor.

But Mezzanotte said there was never an “entirely student-built” rule, nor was there likely to be one because the NHHBA repeatedly stressed how the CTCs should involve many partners in the project.

Earlier this month, Hounsell said the Conway School Board should consider obtaining an injunction to prevent the sale of the MWVCTC house, but in an email Tuesday he said that was no longer the case.

Hounsell congratulated the Huot CTC “for having their excellent house chosen by the NH Lottery as a game prize” and commended the two other participating CTCS at Alvirne High School and Exeter High School, which are continuing to build their three tiny houses.

In addition to the kudos, Hounsell wrote that he was nonetheless still looking for “fine-tuned clarity regarding the financial accounting” behind the initiative, including the role of the NH Lottery and why promised sponsorships didn’t materialize.

Valued at $50,000, the MWVCTC house went up for bid on the “Bidding For Good” website and drew five offers — the highest being $20,000. It was taken off the website’s market on April 7.

Yesterday, Mezzanotte said the house — and the tiny houses now under construction — will be placed on several other auction sites, including eBay, and will remain there until sold.

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