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We Need Your Help To Make Tiny Houses Legal

Part of the problems most of us face with tiny housing is that there are laws and zoning that prevent most of us from achieving our tiny dreams because we’re forced to build larger than we really need.

In many cases, we’ve found our own ‘loopholes’ that have allowed many of us to live tiny on our own terms.

But why do we sometimes have to feel that we are living in a ‘grey area’ when we’re not hurting or endangering anyone by living simply?

So if you’re thinking about petitioning your local government to allow the construction of tiny homes here are some tips that might help you get started (and a petition that you can sign really quick to start encouraging change right now).


Tips on how to Petition for Making Tiny Houses Legal from Jay Shafer

“Hi guys. I just finally signed your petition and forwarded it to some other folks.

I haven’t had the time to see what legal strategy you’re already employing, but I’ll offer my unsolicited 2-cents anyway.

The ICC makes the building regulations that States adopt. The ICC’s, mostly, a bunch of folks from the Building Industry who pay to have a say in such matters. Its a private sector institution comprised of private sector members. 

State Governments adopt the ICC’s rules (almost verbatim) and mandate that their subordinate municipalities abide by the rules. The Fed. Gov. has no authority over anything not addressed by the constitution directly; that power is left to the, so called, “People” (ie. States), and some housing issues would seem to fit this bill.

The States, and their subordinate municipalities, are allowed to govern this housing stuff only because it is, they claim, a matter of “public health, safety and wellbeing”. 

The problem with the State’s claim to authority, here, as far as I’m concerned, is that neither the ICC or anyone else has done ANY testing to show that their minimum size standards for housing actually increase safety. In fact, when you look at all the well-documented damage being done by all the unnecessary, unused, mandated space being built by America’s Housing Industry, it’s clear to see that only the opposite has been proven. 

Municipalities are told they have to abide by their State’s minimum requirements (almost invariably ICC regs. straight-up), but the State’s say that these local governments can add their own, more stringent, amendments to the State codes they are subject to. 

It would seem that, if the Constitution has no authority over specific housing issues, and the States only have authority insomuch as their mandates actually improve the safety of housing, then minimum size standards should be governed by the broader Individual Freedoms grated to us by the U.S. Constitution.”

– Jay Shafer, Four Lights Tiny Houses

What Now? Start With This

If you agree that zoning should be changed to allow tiny houses to be built and lived in so that we can have more affordable housing available all over the world you can start inspiring change by signing the petition below:

=> Sign the petition here (just takes a minute)

If you enjoyed this update and tips on how you can petition to allow more tiny houses and change zoning you’ll LOVE our Free Daily Tiny House Newsletter with more! And as always if you want to you can re-share this post with your friends using the social/email buttons below. Thanks.

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Martha
    July 8, 2014, 1:49 pm

    The big problem with making tiny houses “legal” is that the days of a handy person being able to build his or her own tiny house on a shoestring will be over. Codes will have to be followed, inspectors checking everything, permits and fees, etc. I’d say leave it alone until some tax-hungry state decides to require tiny homes to be “legal” and see what happens.

  • Marsha Cowan
    July 8, 2014, 3:30 pm

    I know you mean well, and in a perfect world what you are trying to achieve would be good, but we live in a world where once we seek anything (including legality for tiny homes) from the government whether local, state, or (God forbid) federal, we lose our rights over whatever that thing is. From that point on, we close the door to ingenuity and open the door to governmental control over every aspect of that thing and then are right back where we were trying to get away from, over regulation, demands on size, paying for required inspections and fulfillment of the required code, etc. It is best to let individuals deal with their own local government officials to overcome their own specific obstacles, than to storm the gates with a petition that will put us on the government’s black list. Individuals in each local can quietly bring attention to the tiny house movement and accomplish locally an appreciation for the life style and get so much more done by way of changing minds and codes. Please stop this before you ruin it for us all.

  • Allen
    July 8, 2014, 8:14 pm

    I do belive the housing industry regulates what we do for monetary reasons, and maybe munis do for tax purposes. But it will take a lot of calm and realistic folks getting together with written and well thought out solutions in my opinion. I agree partly with Bruce, you need healthy sanitation, not sure heat or electric should be regulated though. In a not too distant past, many people had the working knowledge and ability to build their own home, how about now? I do hope to talk to some local assembly members where I live about tiny house communities but may get laughed out of the room, dont know yet. I think a petition is a great idea, but is this one written more in anger and frustration?

  • doug
    July 9, 2014, 12:03 am

    I would agree with several of the statements made; specifically concentrating tiny house advocacy at the local level. Every jurisdiction is different and that is why the construction codes (ICC) are established as minimums. Also the code provides the Building Official (code administrator) with considerable discretion. They have the ability to interpret the codes to allow for tiny houses. They simple need to consider that a tiny house design will not have a detrimental impact on the public’s health, safety, general welfare. Having said that, why would anyone want to subject themselves to unnecessary regulations as a DIY project? I could understand building standards for commercial builders, which could be achieved in the tiny house community. But attempting to make tiny house construction and siting mainstream is a big mistake in my view. (Retired Urban Planner and Building Official)

  • Cynthia
    July 9, 2014, 4:24 pm

    I may be out of place since I do not own a tiny house although I believe them to be very valuable for people in today’s economy, etc. I have read the comments posted about zoning for tiny houses and feel this would be a big mistake, too. It seems that in all the emails I get for this subscription I see a common thread…..basically freedom. That means different things to each person but with zoning there will be bigger imposed rules, stricter regulations, etc. and freedom would be lost or at the least a cap be put on it not to mention HOA/POA’s rules, dues, etc. I believe that it would be better to be able to live in a tiny house community specifically set up for tiny houses or maybe consider living in a state that has no building regulations like Montana, where everyone does their own thing. This way freedom is still the main benefit. I will say I am so impressed with all the innovations that people come up with in making their tiny home their own and love reading about the reasons they did it. Some things are worthwhile because of the difficulties. Taking time to think it through, I feel, would ultimately be in the best interest if the main benefit was at the forefront. Again I don’t own a tiny house and as a great grandparent I don’t think I ever will but do believe in the concept and support it because of what it represents. Freedom. This may sound funny since there are laws restricting that freedom but freedom doesn’t mean we can do what we want but rather the right to choose how to live, where to live and so on. We all have to find ways to live together. It is like a good marriage which means the parties involved know how powerful and priceless the selfless art of compromise is and what it can achieve in the big picture. I believe that to compromise and not go for zoning will better serve everyone in the future but again this is just my opinion. To hear about the love people have for their tiny houses, their reasons for having a tiny house and desires in life is also priceless and I hope it won’t be lost. I for one would see this as a tragedy.

  • Tiny
    July 9, 2014, 5:08 pm

    Since when has the ICC had a minimum square footage requirement? From what I’ve seen, minimum square footage is something that varies from county to county. There’s nothing stopping you from following the ICC building code when you build your tiny house… except that its inconvenient.

  • Glema
    July 10, 2014, 5:29 am

    How about pursuit of happiness? hmmmm TH on wheels can be proven to be healthier than larger homes with more unhealthy materials being used in the larger homes building stages can’t they? One of the reasons for some of the larger homes laws is because of the over crowding of houses, where there are too many people living in too small a space. That’s the excuse often used at least.

  • Anthony McCarthy
    July 10, 2014, 8:37 am

    Having had my town targeted for massive development when it had no local zoning laws and been part of a long, uphill struggle in opposition to the boom-town developers, I’m reluctant to join onto this until I’ve thought through the implications for the protection of open land. I’d want to read a lot more about this.

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