It’s been a while since I discussed the issues of tiny house zoning, codes, and communities.
And asked the question, “can you actually live tiny legally?”
This post will give you my ideas when it comes to legally living tiny, creating communities, and opportunities in the tiny house world.
You’ll also get to read an email from a reader who asked some really great questions (he’s a land use planner).
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Legally Living in Tiny Houses
“I am curious about the “tiny house” as a legitimate, full time housing option…do they/can they…meet building codes, be attached to the ground, be connected to public water, sewer, and other public utilities, meet energy code standards, meet zoning codes, etc.”
I urge you to read more about legally living tiny, creating communities and even opportunities below:
Tiny House RV Living
In some cases, it can be a legitimate, full-time housing option if you look for places where you are allowed to legally live in a motorhome, RV, or travel trailer because you can actually build your tiny house to meet RV standards and have it officially registered as one.
Living Tiny on a Foundation
They can also be built right onto a normal foundation if you wanted with hook up to the public water system, sewer and other utilities but since most populated areas have minimum housing standards you would have to build this as a guest house or in-law suite and you would be subject to those regulations in your area (in most cases having to make it around at least 500 sq. ft. or so). So it may not always work out (you may need to adjust your design to meet code which could still be worth it).
Creative Ways You Can Get Your Tiny House Ideas Approved
In some cases you might be able to use a little creativity and maybe add a garage, indoor/outdoor patio space or sunroom, air-conditioned storage unit, larger bathroom, extra bathroom, office, bedroom, etc. to add square footage to your design so you can meet code and start building legally.
Building Bigger Than “Tiny” Just to Meet Code
Many people that go tiny end up wanting to build a shed, a separate office, guest suite, or expanding after a year or two.
So maybe if we think ahead a lot of us might realize that maybe we would like to have two bathrooms instead of one, or a dedicated office, extra bedroom, garage, etc.
If this makes the house a better for you long-term, wouldn’t it be smarter to do it now? Probably.
Another idea is to build an in-law suite right into your house to make it larger in order to meet minimum size standards and then you have a built-in guest house for guests or to rent out.
If You Definitely Want to Live Tiny
For the rest of us who definitely see yourselves living tiny, you’d want to seek rural land to purchase, lease, or negotiate to stay on.
Other options include long-term RV lots that you can also lease or purchase or simply rent seasonally and move around.
Tiny House Communities: Coming Soon?
“I am very much in favor of small housing…just not sure we have created the right product to serve the workforce year round and in conformance with codes. Wouldnt it be great to have a subdivision of small lots and small houses with some communal amenities? Thanks for discussing this important subject.”
We Need More Small House Communities
I couldn’t agree more about the fact that we desperately need more small housing communities all over the country right now.
There are lots of people who are in their late years who don’t want to and don’t need to be in a nursery who’d rather live in a tiny or small cottage instead with minimal worries and upkeep.
Would You Buy or Rent a Tiny House, Cabin, Cottage or Studio If You Could?
I would! And there are also couples and singles professionals who don’t like having to share their living quarters with one, two, or more other people just because rents are high. There just aren’t enough small and affordable living options for single people and couples without children in most areas. Would you agree?
Opportunity for Real Estate Developers and Investors to Build Tiny and Profit?
All of that being said right now is a great opportunity for real estate investors and developers to serve others by creating communities with tiny houses, small cottages, cabins, tiny villas and micro-apartments for long-term living.
Non-Profit and For-Profit Communities and Developments
This can be done in a for-profit and also a non-profit way. Non profit communities for veterans in need, the homeless, and those with disabilities. The for profit communities to serve professionals, business owners, college students, and retirees. Something like that, right? What are your thoughts?
Original Email from Reader
Hi! I am a professional land use planner and community sustainability specialist. I also built a small, affordable and highly energy efficient house in Aspen, Colorado where some of the highest green building standards are in place It is a place where affordability for the workforce is paramount. (Average house price is upwards of 4.5 M!). I am curious about the “tiny house” as a legitimate, full-time housing option…do they/can they…meet building codes, be attached to the ground, be connected to public water, sewer, and other public utilities, meet energy code standards, meet zoning codes, etc. Someone in my current location of Wood River Valley in Idaho is making attractive tiny houses…but when I inquired about these questions and intended users, the answer was about recreational, cabin-in-the-woods, guest house in the driveway, sort of thing. I am very much in favor of small housing…just not sure we have created the right product to serve the workforce year round and in conformance with codes. Wouldnt it be great to have a subdivision of small lots and small houses with some communal amenities? Thanks for discussing this important subject.
I’d Love to Read Your Thoughts Please!
Non-Profit vs For-Profit Communities
What do you think about for-profit and non-profit communities? Do you agree that we should have some of both?
Do You Think the Opportunity in Tiny Housing Developments is Real?
What, if any, opportunities do you think there are right now in the world of real estate and tiny houses? How successful do you think RV parks converted into tiny house communities would be? Or more micro apartments in cities?
Is it More of a DIY Trend with Little to No Opportunity for Developers, etc.?
Or do you think it’s more of a DIY trend where people are building micro homes themselves on a budget for WAY less than a company could ever offer it to us?
The opportunity of Helping People in Need with Micro-Housing
Right now a lot of us are facing an opportunity to help homeless people work their way out of it by helping them build micro shelters that they can store their belongings in and get some privacy at. This is becoming a growing trend. I encourage other tiny home builders, companies, designers, and enthusiasts like you and me to contribute to and even start projects like these.
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I definitely think we need more tiny house communities. My concern with the idea of for profit communities off is that whoever runs those companies will simply be out for money instead of really believing in the values of the tiny house movement. Mainly, affordability. I worry that we will end up with tiny house communities charging exorbitant rents and pushing out any chance those of us on a budget would ever have of in living in one. I suppose this could just be my general distrust speaking though.
Julie, I think you are one hundred percent correct–a “for profit” development would, in short order, put tiny home dwellers right back to where most of us are right now–we would again be expending most of our resources to simply get by.
Agreed. If you think for-profit developers won’t exploit the down-sizing movement into tiny homes, just look at San Francisco where the proposed micro-apartment development will still cost in excess of $1,500/month for a 214 sq.ft. space. Worse yet, these are rentals and not even condos thereby further marginalizing individual owners from being able to gain a foothold in that self-inflating bubble of a real estate market. Across the bay in Berkeley, you’d be hard pressed to find a new condo development for sale whereas they are a plethora of new rental condos at inflated dot-com prices. We should consider putting limits on the number of dwelling units any individual may own for rent and possibly eliminate corporate owner rental housing. Developers can still make a fair profit building and developing units for sale (just not to rent). I know this is radical to suggest that corporations are not people but we’re in a radical market as a result of corporate greed. Tiny houses should be excluded from this Malthusian marketplace or else we may get the same disenfranchised mal-adaptive communities we find in some RV or MH parks where land-ownership (and profits) are for corporations only. Rent is slavery, corporations are not people, no one should be able to withhold ownership from those who want it at a reasonable rate of return.
All three of you are right. I think they should be built by non-profit or by the people who are actually going to live in them or their relatives. If things were set up like that from the beginning I would hope that it would stop the for profit developers.
There is a big problem in my area with high rents and so called low income housing that is way beyond what a low income person can afford. I know people who are between 60-85 that are STILL working to make ends meet. I feel we are being forced to live in situations with multiple apartment mates (if you can call them that) simply because the ever rising rents. I know that if I am not able to get a small house built in my daughters backyard. I will end up in one of the government programs. Yeek!
I moving forward into the tiny home movement. How many people have the burden of helping financially to keep their loved one out of those places? doesn’t it make sense to build a detached tiny home for that aging family member.
There are ways to get around zoning in some locations so you can live tiny nearby your daughter (or son). Its a special circumstance and can be addressed by your local zoning office.
On the other hand, everyone who wants to live tiny may not be able to or want to build their own home. So according to you they can’t pay someone else to build it for them. That sounds a bit ridiculous. Isn’t this movement about gaining freedom? That means people can do what they want including building homes profit as humanity has done for centuries. Even in that climate theres more than enough room for charitable building. Habitat for Humanity is going strong and it can be done tiny too.
Best of luck to you in finding a way to build what and where you want.
I’m glad he asked those questions. I’m really torn. On the one hand I see the huge appeal of being able to haul my house easily anywhere in the country, wherever there is work. But on the other hand, I’ve lived in my current area my entire life and don’t see myself relocating far away. Because of that, my dream, being in an area where tornadoes do happen, is having a tiny house on a foundation with a tiny basement/storm cellar to retreat to when the weather is terrible. And the idea of a garage or car port really appeals to me too, because I live outside the city where there is no public transit.
It would be fantastic to be part of a small living community where we could share ideas and maybe even have a community garden.
Kat – – you might want to look into conscious communities. They usually build a number small dwellings around a communal area/building. Often hold common meals. One or two I’ve heard of hold certain large items in common such as washers/dryers, yard and garden equipment. One even had a common carpentry workshop. They painted the tools’ handles with day-glo paint so people would remember, “Oh, yeah, that hammer belongs to the workshop. Time to take it back.” Then the community needed to own only one table saw, band saw and drill press etc.
Generally, such communities come together due to two or three shared values. Tiny living would certainly serve as one of those.
All land is generally held in common – so getting started does take some capital including any lawyer’s fees to set up an LLC or some such and hammer out the community rules.
Europe has lots of them scattered around and they’re starting to take off in the US.
They are building a communal community her in my town, Omaha. But, it seems to be for the rich as the tiny homes will be sold for $165k. Otherwise a great idea but I cannot fathom paying more for a tiny home than my current mortgage for a 1200 sf house! For profit indeed!
Could you give some specific examples for here in the US?
The one thing I see overlooked time and time again is the variance process. It is used by developers and businesses on a daily basis to get around codes. It is usually a give and take process, where the govt allows you to not follow certain codes so long as your do follow an agreed upon alternative. In some jurisdictions it will be more formal than others, but there is almost always a way around codes. The key is to take a teamwork approach, and above all do not be aggressive or combative during any part of the process. Most govt employees in these types of jobs are probably a bit bored, and would like the chance to explore new options. However, govt employees also suffer Napoleon complex when they feel attacked in the slightest, and will not hesitate to shoot your project down should you present it in a “me vs govt” way. Be politic about it, not political, and you might be surprised what you can accomplish!
Jerry, The variance permit may be useful for a one-off unit; what I think developers use more often is the CUP:conditional-use-permit. The CUP is a multi-year drawn out process which is expensive and fraught with compromises. It may defeat the affordability of a tiny house community being proposed by a non-profit. City planners seem to be very enthusiastic about the tiny house village concept but it is up to us to help guide the zoning and building codes so a legal avenue may be proposed to the land-use planners. Also, the CUP process is very susceptible to NIMBY opposition, therefore sensitivity to the neighborhood may be the arbiter of success. Careful planning, education, and advocacy are needed so you can demonstrate how your tiny house community will be an asset to both the city and your neighbors.
I agree with your comment about utilizing a Conditional Use Permit.
Jerry, thanks for some very very good advice. I am in the process of getting a permit to remodel a garden shed into a mother-in-law dwelling, and have been frustrated multiple times by the time it has taken, as well as the attitude of the county workers responsible for my “case.” Byzantine would be a good description of the process. 🙂
I completely agree that we need to have more small space zoned areas. I love that we can live small on a boat in England, but want to be able to do the same in Colorado. So anyone else want to brainstorm around Colorado small space living let me know!
Hi Sarah, we bought land in southern Colorado, no building codes. They do require a septic installed before inhabiting a structure, but no size limits on your structure. We went down last fall and built an 8 x 12 cabin/studio on timber foundation, its not finished but will work on it when time allows. Its off grid which was part of the attraction for me, beautiful Rocky Mt views, lots of freedom to do as you please, which is getting extremely hard. Good luck, Allen
Allen, whereabouts in Southern Colorado are you at? I’m based out of Durango and am in the process of going through city by city, county by county in the four corners area and eventually beyond, to develop a database of acceptable locations to help out potential clients. Best, Greg
I also live in CO and am looking into tiny home living. Maybe we can combine our research efforts & share any new info we find? This has been a few years into the making & I am excited for the opportunity to this “alternative” style of living (quality over quantity)!
You can google me under Nance Vixen.
Of course you can build and live in tiny houses legally but the areas that allow that are generally very rural and they have few or no codes. These rural areas may only require an approved water and septic system and many will allow alternative approved systems like commercial composting toilets.
The problem is these rural areas are usually in the middle of nowhere not close to a city and most people would feel isolated and vulnerable.
The answer to that is to get a small group of people to go in on property near each other or even create a small house community of your own. Share the cost of drilling a water well and it isn’t that much. Help each other build your homes and then start a farming cooperative with a roadside stand and grow the community. That is how all small towns started!
I love this idea LaMar! It sounds a lot like a commune. I live in Kentucky, and I suspect it would be possible to find a county here where there is cheap land and you might be able to convince the local officials to be more lax about codes, but you’d still have to be offering something in return–usually “higher than the usual” property taxes. But these are not places you’d want to live alone–especially if you are unconventional and an “outsider.”
LaMa’s idea is what I thought too. What the more perfect dream is to establish the tiny house with all the necessary, basic, self-sustainable systems, from power supply, hot water supply, to green food self supply. If each one or a few people have the knowledge or willing to learn and apply the useful skill to help each other build the house and then community, very soon we’ll save a lot of capital to fulfill, to manifest everybody’s dream. I’d invest money to build and help others.
People or our society have waste a lot of energy, resources, and even life time that still can not accomplish anything. Except living in an mundane life without a great achievement in spiritual phase. It’s time to change.
I am all for building tiny house communities! But, NOT on tiny lots packed like sardine cans! Tiny houses on decent sized lots to have some privacy, nature, garden and my doggies to run and play in. :))
Now that would be an ideal tiny house community to live in! 🙂
Connie, I agree–I want a garden, a couple of goats, and some chickens. It would also be nice to have a larger communal structure where members of the community and guests could gather at times.
That is exactly my dream – two goats (to provide milk for me and my cats), a few chickens (I do have four chickens already – they love me!) and organic garden! Is there website where ppl can find or fund projects for tiny house communities? Email me pls if anybody knows such info [email protected]. Tx! 🙂
I would LOVE to have a couple goats and some chickens too! It would be great having a community center for larger social gatherings/meet up groups/classes. I wish there were a tiny house community like this somewhere!
Thanks Connie, great ideas, I agree
Density will be directly related to land costs and your goal for affordability. For a rural community, see Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. For an urban community, we can pack as loose or tightly as you can afford. A tiny house community in Manhattan or San Francisco would be prohibitive on a cost/sq.ft. basis but Queens or Berkeley might just work and still have that open yet private feeling.
Yes, If I could find or be a part of a movement like that It would be great
I would love to have a small yard with my tiny house. Maybe 8-10 ft on both sides and 4-5 ft. front and back. or a community with lots lets say 30’x 30′ that way if you want more land you can build smaller. Is that even a possibility in the San Francisco Bay Area?
In Pima County, AZ, a mobile home park can be as little as 18,000 sq. ft, or just under half an acre. Lot minimums are 2000 sq ft so nine units could go on that parcel. Formation of a community land trust allows a 99 year lease of the land and the right to own any improvements on the land. When folks leave the enhanced value of the land stays with the community and maintains affordability for the next generation. If all units utilize compost or incinerator toilets major infrastructure costs are avoided. I think it’s one of those “if you build it, they will come” and the current initiative in Sonoma County can become the template for how to go about it.
I just wanted to acknowledge you very valuable, realistic and practical contribution to this discussion.
Perhaps a website should be created (hint: Alex) where people can connect for the purpose of creating a community? I’m all in favor of Connie’s vision, one where houses are comfortably separated, with plenty of land, part personal, part communal.
Thanks Eric, great idea! I’m actually working on a section called Tiny House Communities (coming soon!) that will feature communities and communities-to-be. So stay tuned for the announcement this week.
Alex, please keep me posted on the info about Tiny House Communities – my goal is to find the one and move in during this summer. Thank you for doing such a wonderful job! Cheers, Elena
You’re the best Alex! Great news. To give you my personal thought on whether or not a tiny house community would be profitable for a builder/developer. I would think not. Unless they up’ed the price significantly for the lots. I would be willing to pay much more than normal for a lot that had a tiny house community developed on it. I would love to buy a nice sized property near the mountains, build a clubhouse, gym and community swimming pool and rent out lots for a very minimal price – not to make money, but just to live in a tiny house community! 🙂
I am disabled, retired and looking for a piece of property to put a tiny house or modular one. I wanted to go back to the upstate New York in Hudson Valley I just can’t seem to find property. I would love to be in a community in that area. Yes the taxes are a little bit higher in New York but that is my home. That’s where I grew up and I want to go back. I don’t know how to go about looking for land a small modular house for a tiny house. Can someone please help me with this. I’m very interested in getting into a community maybe I’m just a little bit ahead of the game but I’m going to need to move out soon because I want to have my own house in the garden again
This way you guys can see any options that we’re already aware of and maybe even begin to develop new communities with your support behind it.
GREAT !! can’t wait, good for you.
Eric, thank you for your wonderful suggestion! I would love to find and move into a tiny houses community this summer. But how do I find such? If anybody has any info – pls kindly email me [email protected]
Great idea Eric!
Yes, (hint:Alex) Great idea. Alex if not you maybe you could connect with people who know how to create such a website that already are behind the movement to help out.
I definitely believe that the people should have the option to build or buy & live in smaller/tiny/micro homes, especially eco-logically friendly ones. However, they should also be VERY affordable. I would love to find or develop an extremely SIMPLE, safe & affordable house plan that people could easily construct themselves. There has got to be an EASY way to live the Simple (as well as happy & fulfilled) life. I have a family & have been looking (and dreaming) about this for years. There is a way…
I agree. I think there’s enough people out there that we can all get together and find land or start a community. That’s how we built this country. Remember the covered wagons that went out west. Only problem is the west Is too expensive to live. I’d love to go back to the north west I lived there for over 12 years but it just doesn’t seem to be anything affordable as far as property to buy and put a small house. I’m very interested in starting a community.
I live in Melbourne Florida. Just 5 miles from my home is a 55 and up community. It is a co-op and you buy your lot and can live there in any size home as long as it fits on your lot. There is a monthly fee that covers property insurance, property taxes and property maintence. This is one way of having a tiny house to live in.
What is the name of the community? It sounds like what I’m looking for. I’m planning a summer road trip to visit tiny house builders, communities, and possible building locations. I have a “tiny” class c motorhome and plan to sell my townhouse when I retire in 5 years. My idea is to build a tiny house as a port, but travel much of the year. A community would provide better security for the tiny home while I travel.
What is the name of the community? It sounds like what I’m looking for. I’m planning a summer road trip to visit tiny house builders, communities, and possible building locations. I have a “tiny” class c motorhome and plan to sell my townhouse. My idea is to build a tiny house as a port, but travel much of the year. A community would provide better security for the tiny home while I travel.
Isn’t Melbourne right next to Vero Beach?
Yes it is. Going south it would be Melbourne, Palm Bay, Sebastian and then Vero Beach. So maybe fifty minutes to an hour away from eachother.
Casa Loma on US 1 . Buy in is 19,000.00 for lot and monthly fee is 206.00.
I can’t afford to pay a monthly fee. There are many disabled people out there that have a certain amount of money that’s been put into their house and they have to roll it over 90 days. They do not have the money to pay rent. We all have to find our own property. Because once that 90 days are up Then they start taking back all your disabled benefits until you have spent down the money that you received from the house that you had. I think there’s a lot of people out there that are in the same position as I am and there’s a real need for it.
I’m glad to read that not all communities have a minimum in some of the comments. It seems crazy to me, especially as a single person. I could see requiring a certain amount of space per person. My dream is to by land on the North Shore of Lake Superior and put a tiny house on it, on a foundation, not necessarily connected to public systems. I have yet to research zoning in Northern Minnesota yet though.
I would like to put forward the idea of Cohousing Communities. They are small intentional communities built by people like us, not developers or landlords. They differ from communes because there is no shared income or ideals, though people tend to have similar lifestyles. They’re relatively new to the States only in the last 40 years, but there are about 150 communities in the US already and more starting every year.
They have privately owned individual homes, similar to a condominium arrangement, with a shared community space. They prioritize outdoor space and neighborly interaction by putting parking along the perimeter of the lot (usually 15-20 homes) and inviting walking spaces weaving around gardens and to front gates. Each home is on the smaller side (~1000sqft, though that’s nothing for us Tiny Housers, we could go even smaller!), but has the amenities of a full house to allow a private existence for each family. Then, a large community space is shared by all families and can include a dining hall, guest bedrooms, large kitchen, classrooms, gardens, barns, craft workshops/offices, and more. Most communities offer a shared dinner at least half of the week in the common house, and many say it revolutionized they way they view their neighbors.
I had the great pleasure in learning about them extensively from a woman who helped establish the first in Tennessee, called Germantown Cohousing in Nashville. I’ve also visited communities in Tennessee and Georgia. There is a lot of good literature out there, I especially recommend “Creating Cohousing” by architects McCamant and Durrett, who brought the idea back to the States after a decade learning from the Denmark communities.
Here’s a introduction video for a cohousing community off the coast of Vancouver. It gives a great summary of how these little communities work: http://vimeo.com/41931559. You can find a lot of information at cohousing.org, including a directory of existing or upcoming communities or classifieds for others like us who are trying to get the ball rolling.
Imagine it- 15 or so of us join together to buy land and help build each other’s tiny homes in good old fashion barn-raising style, sharing resources to make our home bigger than the sum of its parts. I am prepared to spearhead such an effort.
The establisher of the Germantown community and I are already discussing a second TN location. I’m currently finishing school in the Chicago area, but I am open and eager to go wherever the opportunity takes me. Alex and others, please point me in the right direction!
Unfortunately and despite the best of intentions, Co-housing communities all too often simply put one in a smaller house, on more-crowded land, and at premium prices. The few I’ve looked into have home starting at 140K. That completely defeats the purpose, in my mind, of Co-housing, which ought to be affordability. It seems the Co-housing movement has sadly lost sight of this principle.
Alex, any chance you can connect me with the land use planner that wrote the original letter? He and I would probably have much to talk about! Thanks! Greg
Robert wrote that in Arizona they could have a mobile home park on a little less than half an acre. That sounds like a good sized lot to me. Why not have a mobile home park that never gets tennants? Just the “owner/manager”? All legal. Just you and your tiny house on half an acre and a purposefully poor marketing plan. Hmmm…
My tiny city in northern Canada has just recently done away with the minimum housing size in an effort to bring about more affordable housing. Unfortunately, lots are still very expensive and one must blast into bedrock to tie into the city’s water and sewage system. BUT we can build tiny legally.
I want to build a tiny house for myself. I don’t know where to put it?
Can a wagon (car) carry a tiny house? It’s six cyl. I don’t have a truck. Guess i need to build a home first. I like the idea of everyone helping and community but I don’t know where to go? Seems we have many people on the same page
yet not fully together to do. This is the start of something great, been thinking of this for years.
Love your blog and all the interesting and informative articles, Alex. But your very bad habit of not dating your posts drives me beyond crazy, and it makes me want to rap your knuckles every time I read one of these posts! Some of these things are VERY time-sensitive, especially when you talk about zoning codes and legislation and similar things which change over time. Something that might have been very restrictive 5 years ago might not be so today, so the articles could become very misleading over time. You can’t go by the dates on the comments, because as is the case with many blogs, when posts are left up for years and years (and some are, indeed, worthy of doing so), people comment on them over a span of years. So I could see a comment dated today (in 2014) linked to a post that was originated – with no updates – 4 or 5 or more years ago. When we’re doing research on the legal issues (and there are so many!) related to living tiny, this is VERY IMPORTANT to know that we are getting and read material that is relevant in TODAY’s legal arena.
Please, please, please DATE your posts – ALL of them!
Ok Karen I’ll look into getting the article publishing dates on here I can definitely see how that is frustrating. Sorry about that!!
Wow, Alex, thanks for the uber-quick reply – I appreciate it! I look forward to seeing dates appearing in the future! 🙂
My pleasure! And if you refresh you should see the dates now. On comments and at the top of each post 🙂
Ah, who knew a date could be such a beautiful thing and bring so much joy! 🙂 THANKS, Alex!
P.S. If there IS a date on your post(s), it is the best-kept secret on your blog, so please point me to it, but also consider putting at the top of the article, in a prominent place where it can easily be seen, and not buried amid lots of other fine print, sponsored ads, or other clutter. Thanks! ~Karen
Thanks for this section, it is very timely! My husband and are both disabled and for us building a house is just not an option. This leaves us with the necessity of buying our tiny house when we do, meaning it is absolutely essential to find a place with a very small rental cost or buy-in. I’ve thought of the co-housing model but have been appalled at the unbelievably ridiculous prices. Clearly the affordability aspiration has fallen by the wayside. Buying land communally is another possibility, though this will take time. So I’m very happy to see there are tiny house communities in the works or already begun! This could be our best chance of finding a hassle free place to park our tiny with other like minded folks! Subscribed!
Thanks Natalie! Welcome!
Alex and Allen, I really enjoyed reading this article – it was definitely an eye-opener – so thank you for posting it! I also enjoyed reading the comments, and I spent a very long time this past weekend reading each and every one of them.
One topic in particular that really interests me is the idea of a group of people getting together and buying communal land for the express purpose of setting up a tiny home community. I believe if enough people did that across the country, as time went on and city/county/state officials observed that it was (hopefully!) a success, they might be better able to recognize the viability (and necessity) of such a concept and be more open to changing existing laws so that tiny homes could exist in more places., without compromising on property values or the safety of the public and/or individual homeowners (especially in the tiny homes).
I would like to see a full-on discussion dedicated to the topic of communal land and tiny home communities. There are so many “what-ifs” that are worthy of discussion. One of the questions that is foremost in my mind is how to go about maintaining the balance of peace and harmony blended with freedom of individual expression. The Nazi-like behavior of many HOAs is very disturbing, and the very idea that people can actually lose their homes because their roses are the “wrong” color is unfathomable. But at the same time, there would need to be a consensus, within individual communities, on what behaviors were acceptable (or not), and how to go about enforcing those expectations.
Like what do if one of the neighbors has a bad habit of piling beer and other debris in the yard rather than using a trash can, and refuses to stop the behavior after being nicely asked? Or worse, what if the group has agreed on a very strict code of ethics and behavior regarding sewer and water treatment, and suddenly, you see one of the neighbors just haphazardly dumping their waste into a pile on the property, where it can be exposed to animals who can get and spread diseases, or worse, dumping it in the water?
We’ve all heard horror stories about neighbors from hell in various residential communities. That could really throw a wrench into the stew of what should otherwise be a Pleasantville-type existence! 🙂
So, anyway, all that to say that I think it would be very useful to see a discussion of this play out and see what creative solutions people come up with for proactive design of such a community. In concept, it sounds like an awesome idea, but it will only be awesome if those little details are addressed and worked out in a harmonious manner. Otherwise, there will be nothing to change the already negative public misperception (by some, at least) that a tiny home community is nothing more than a trailer (trash) park where the homes are made of wood instead of aluminum,
Not all people who live in trailer parks are trailer trash, and not all trailer parks are “trashy,” but sadly, it is such a widespread belief that it is a hard stigma to overcome. Since the idea of a tiny home community is still relatively new in terms of residential housing options, this is the time to make sure that stigma doesn’t take roots in the form of real-life situations where tiny home communities are actually living up to that reputation. Instead, we want the public to see that it’s just like the McMansion communities, only smaller. But just as well behaved. 🙂
So a discussion of how to make that happen while not infringing on individual freedom of expression (or threatening to foreclose on their home, as the HOA Nazis do!) would be very interesting, indeed.
What do you think?
I’m glad this post has spurred so much discussion. It has been very interesting reading!
Our Tiny House, custom built by Lil’ Lodges, (over 400 square feet)is built better than most homes, it’s specs exceed HUD (mobile home) specs, and is engineered to withstand 130 mph winds. Since we have 220 electric and residential appliances, we don’t fit in an RV park. We have a house, TINY, but a house!
National standards says modular homes must be 320 square feet or more and park models cannot exceed 400 square feet, so many Tiny Houses qualify to be located in mobile home parks. Although TINY, TINY HOUSES may face more restrictions, my husband and I are battling York County, Virginia to be able to stay on the site WHERE WE PREVIOUSLY HAD A 40′ FIFTH WHEEL. Sometimes officials just don’t know the facts or have erroneous ideas.
Retirees, young couples, single parents . . .many people need to be able to purchase and live in affordable, quality housing. Even the smallest units should have attractive areas – after all, we Tiny House enthusiasts are being responsible and doing our part to save the planet; we don’t take much space and we don’t waste natural resources!
I notice that many folks have questions around organizing to develop land, minimal rules, sharing some spaces and facilities. I might suggest something I was involved with a decade ago: “cohousing.”
A group of people can get together and be as integrated or individualistic as they choose, as large or as small as feasible given the land available and the number of committed parties involved. It tends to be “self selecting” in terms of who eventually puts their money where their mouths are. But there are resources on how to get started, and what types of communities have prospered. Mother Earth News has back articles on the subject, and much can be read and found at http://cohousing.org . It’s not for everybody, but I believe it’s flexible to accommodate most groups of people if they keep their primary goals and not their personal pet peeves in focus.
I was a founding member and past president of a cohousing association in Washington, DC., but ended up moving to more rural pastures.
I am currently looking to build a TH this winter up in central VT. Where it will go is the issue, but I would be interested in talking with like minded folks to see if there’s a common solution available.
i have been reading and looking forward to building a tiny house ,but the city council has said no .i think that our ordinance is stupid if it is less than 500 sq ft in is considered inhabitable. it all has to do with big business,housing is so outlandish it is pathetic.my dreams of a tiny house squashed.
Meet some local developers in your area and get them on your team. They usually have money behind them and may be willing to fight to at least have a trial TH subdivision. Who knows, it could happen in your area.
Anyone know of anything being started in Canada? I’m in Winnipeg and am looking at land outside the city as I don’t think tiny homes would be allowed. However I go back and forth on the issue as it’d be nice to be within walking distance to groceries and the library and such, but being able to have chickens or a bigger garden would be nice too.
I’m with Holly and her Cohousing article. I’ve read about these communities in Denmark, (probably by the same authors) and as an almost-senior I wish there were more communities like this existing in North America. Working to do ANYTHING with a group of other people is always trying, but by the time you get to this age, you realize that a time will come when living in a community of some sort is going to be a requirement, not an option. I could always handle living alone in a small space if I knew that there were community buildings nearby where my neighbours and I could get together to socialize and help one another.
While I’m here, please let me thank you Alex for the very valuable service you provide to all of us Tiny/Small house affectionados.
I think that in the (near) future, we may have to go where the work is. I’m speaking as a person who is not a “professional”, but one who lives by physical labor. During the OPEC oil embargo and recession during the mid 70’s I worked the oil patch all over Texas and had to follow the drilling rigs. I did that for 5 years and wore out as many old school buses. I remember well that when it was cold I used furniture pads and blankets to keep warm and washed in cold water from the rigs or a nearby creek or pond. Living was hard but I was young and took it in stride. I’m 61 now and got rid of my house 3 years ago and bought an unimproved acre-and-a-half, I put up a 20×30 pole barn and a 6′ chain link fence all the way around it. I joined the YWCA for showers. For $23.60 a month I get a full membership, sauna, hot tub, the works. Now, that’s cheaper than regular sewer and water in a house. I “camp out” on my property in a 32′ camper that I paid $200 for. I just use the back bedroom to sleep in “sometimes” and the door is left open so my dog and cat can go in and out. I have propane space heaters and a -20 degree sleeping bag. I’ve been acquiring used lumber for a while and I have started on my frame for my tiny home. I guess my point is that if I have to go in search of work again, I am going to do it in comfort this time.
My land is zoned agricultural but assessed residential even though I’m not in town and there is no house. So, in order to be assessed agricultural also, I have to have animals for 2 years to get a farm “exemption”. I’ll be getting some dairy goats and chickens. Once I get the animals, the agricultural zoning allows me to have a “caretaker” living on the property, which of course would be me. The other advantage to having a “tiny home” camper on wheels is that it’s not taxed like a house. The only reason these places want the tiny homes to be stationarily (is that a word?) mounted to the ground is so they can tax you.
The reason I’m throwing all this out there is maybe it will help someone see their situation in a different light. To me a tiny house represents independence, not a socialist utopia where the proletariat give up their ambitions so the ruling class can live in luxury.
I’m working towards self-sufficiency and independence. All I can say about people who want this so called “tiny house movement” to be some kind of upscale version of what they have now is rock on brothers and sisters. I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to do this to GET AWAY from the failing status quo, and live a simpler life AWAY from people who simply HAVE to have external rules and worry about how other people should live.
My grandmother traveled in a horse and buggy (she wasn’t Amish) and when I was a kid people still used outhouses (I’m not advocating them) and houses still had gas light fixtures that burned “towngas” produced locally in the “gas house” and people “voluntarily” got along and were actually friendly and interesting because they weren’t cut out of the same “cookie-cutter” mold. Am I actually starting to rant? Maybe, because I feel like I could go on, so I will end it here and simply say, ‘this is just one mans’ opinion’
TJ, I like you! I don’t think I could live in a -20 sleeping bag, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. I think all anybody wants is to be left alone and allowed to exist without a lot of red tape. You brought up an interesting thought… in making a TH community (affixed to the ground) would mean property taxes. NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT, however, in my area (Memphis) you’d not want a trailer because we have too many tornados around here. SO, Hmmmm food for thought. Thanks for that. Our Property Taxes are assessed on “presumed value” of the unit. I wonder if a TH community might need to act like CONDOS, the land is valued at whatever and each unit is assessed on it’s value since the sq. ft. will vary greatly. Since these are permanent structures with code-legal stairs, head height, and egress, one would think that their value would grow as normal houses. HMMM.
Me thinks the MAN will be taking my money again!
Where is the section of tiny house communities?
It looks like the exploitation of tiny house developments will have the same impact as owning a mobile home/trailer in a trailer park and eventually being priced right out of the park. At least with a tiny home on a smaller trailer you can find some where else to go. Not so with an ordinary mobile home. Finding a piece of land you can buy outright and live a self-sufficient lifestyle without being extorted into using utilities you didn’t intend to use is almost impossible. I don’t know many folks who can afford to be forced to live beyond their means to support a consumer-based society. Eventually, homelessness will be the result. It’s a damn shame.
Hi, I’d like to add another question to the mix that I can’t find an answer to. Are there any regulations about where a tiny house can be built? In other words, if you cannot obtain permits for the building process, what can you do to protect yourself from a neighbor who complains to the city for the construction? Do they have any right to complain, and can I do anything about it? Has anyone experienced this?
Subdivisions often have covenants regarding what can and can’t be done in the subdivisions. Often “out buildings” have to match the Main structure, so if the big house is all brick, the out building has to be all brick of the same color, as well as roof pitches, etc. Neighbors WILL complain if you build a TH on a foundation in the back yard if it is unsightly or a nasty neighbor because they want to keep THEIR property values up. BUT if on a trailer and portable, there is not much they can do about that unless you aren’t allowed to park RV’s on the property either, which is in many S/D covenants.
Check the subdivision covenants (code office has these for all subdivisions). If not a subdivision, check the code office for the town/city codes as to what can be built in a back yard and what can’t. Just tell them you are thinking about building a small out-building with “whatever” sq. ft. in your back yard. DO NOT TELL THEM you wish to live in it full time or that it will be habitable unless you plan to hook a toilet up to the city sewer. Just feel them out with out answering too many questions (or giving your name). That way, you won’t get red-flagged. By all means, do not annoy your neighbors. IF they ask, just say, it’s a little studio office… blah, blah, so they won’t think anything of it because if you plan to live there peacefully and don’t intend to ever annoy your neighbors, chances are, they won’t be bothered. But check for subdivision covenants FIRST.
As professional architect and planner for more than 40 years, My wife and I decided to move to a more beneficial climate (weather-wise and governmental-wise), so we moved to Costa Rica. Curiously, the standard size house here in the coffee mountains is about 600-900 square feet. During the last eight years I have designed a number of little houses with delightful results. Inexpensive construction costs plus a sensible permitting process has ensured that here is a place for ” Little Houses for a Grand Life.”
Tiny Houses are FABULOUS in states/countries with great climates, I admire you for doing the Costa Rica move! I’d love to do that one day. But I’m stuck in the states, but there are great ways to go Tiny even if there are codes to follow. I’m with you, though, I love designing tiny, or “smaller than normal” making use of every square INCH of space in a house. There is no need to waste anything.
We’ve been working to set up a tiny housing complex for people transitioning from our homeless shelter. It’s a terrific concept and it’s more than just the typical 8’x20′ trailer format. We’re working with an architect who has actually built bigger tiny housing (more 350-500 sq. ft.) and it can be done stick built and beautifully. Yes, zoning is always an issue. We’re in the extremely impacted housing market in the SF Bay Area, and we see this as a very replicable way to solve at least some of our crisis in housing. But the starting point is location/land and that is quite a hurdle in tight urban/suburban areas.
I love the small house movement and would also consider sharing space on a farm for example instead of having my own place… Really love animals and would like to have some sheep, cows, chickens, etc…. Certainly be easier if had a few others who could lend a hand. I think I would be pretty content to not necessarily have my own small house but to share a larger farm with maybe 4 bedrooms that provided get away space for everyone. It would take people who have the ability to get along with others…. which is not always so easy. I guess there are tradeoffs.
I have looked into shipping a pickup truck and trailer frame to the country of Belize. There are Mennonite craftsmen there who will build the tiny house on the trailer for very cheap money. Would build on/off grid so could locate anywhere. Can rent a space to park right on a white sandy beach for $100mo. so no hurry to buy land. Or park in town and use as a winter get away.
Homelessness isn’t going to vanish, and neither is the need for affordable housing. Rather than bear the burden for people who can’t work due to no place to bathe and no address to provide,it would make financial sense for communities to convert lots to multi-unit tiny house sites. Rent to own might also be an option for the homes. Homelessness is a black hole while a low cost home could equal hope and progress.
Tiny House developments would exceed mobile home parks in quality and lasting value. Lots should be rezoned to allow tiny houses; vintage little homes are already appreciated, so let’s have more!
Codes can be divided into 2 groups, safety & zoning. Safety must be adhered to, zoning much less so. No one wants people to die because the house couldn’t withstand a snow or wind load, or didn’t meet fire codes. Also there are some minimums needed for paramedic rescue, such as 24 inch door for showers and what not. As for function, an 18″ buffer around a queen size Murphy Bed/Wardrobe 8X7.5 (60 sqfft) is actually close to code for a bedroom (71 sqft). If you just specified the small space for rooms with Murphy Beds we could be done.
As for energy efficiency, if the house is Net Zero (produces as much energy as it consumes), who cares about individual pieces of the energy efficiency code. Most code is designed for very large houses. Passive House, one of the better standards for energy efficiency is done on a per sqft of floor space. If there is 1/10th of the floor space and the house uses 2 to 3 times the energy per sqft it’s still a big win. Also, with the price of solar Photo Voltaic (PV) and batteries coming down, it will soon be cheaper then grid tied or even super insulating.
We just need to update the building codes so they reflect how people want to do things and still keep them safe and lower fossil fuel consumption. It’s not that hard but it’s not trivial either.
As always just my USD 0.02 worth
I’m new to this tiny house concept. I just love it. My hubby will be retiring in a little over a year and we’d love to build about a 650 sq feet one level house on our land in a small town. Our big house burnt and we tore it down but the big unattached garage is still there intact. I am disabled and cannot do steps. We would hook up to sewer and water, but want to do solar for all electric. So are you saying that there are codes that won’t allow us to build that size of a house? I guess I need to do some research as to why if it’s built to codes for electric, water, sewer and fire. Why should it matter how big it is on your own land?
Susan, You ask some great questions. 1.) if you are near a small town, a 650 sf house will probably not be a prolem. Most large cities are ok with a 600 sf house. Memphis requires 250 min. So that’s the good news. Some cities have other zones. (There’s a lady in Florida who wantd to take her normal subdivision house off grid, so she trapped rain water, she composted her toilet, she did solar and the city had issus with her and condemned her house, or some such thing… there’s a story on this website about it). So I wouldn’t recommend trying to do that in a city.) But for you to go 1/2 off grid in a small town is probably not going to be a problem. Personally, I’d do the public water/sewer just becaus it’s so convenient. Our sewer also includes trash pickup so that, too is a benefit. Solar is wonderful, but costly. Good news, many solar products are made in th USA, which I love.
I have a few plans (I’m a designer) that are between 400 – 1000 sq. ft. that were designed for people such as yourself. I’m not trying to sell you plans, I simply want to show you what is available in that size structure without stairs. Quite a lot, actually. If you are interested, I believe my website shows up with my comments, you can contact me through that website and I’ll send you a link to all my plans in that size (or others) just for dreaming of the possiblities.
I do recommend that you call your code office to ask what the minimum requirements would be for your town and concerning to be hooked to the electrical grid or not. Most small towns don’t have many regulations with exceptions of what the state mandates for small towns. You generally only have code troubles when you get into Large cities. This could be a very fun adventure for you!
EXAMPLE: I live just outside Memphis in the county next door. Codes are much different where I live over those in Memphis. We are “rural” but very close to the city. There is a house down the street that is not in a subdivision, just on acreage. I believe they only have 3-5 acres, mostly wooded. The “big” house was built probably 30 years ago and is a log cabin… in the woods, or what’s left of the woods. They also built an out-building type shed/lean-to building to store their tractors in . There’s an old dead VW bug down there and it is really picturesque as opposed to trashy. They have since built 3 other “cabins” on their property back behind the main house. They are all probably close to 800 sq. ft. with little porches and country-type windows, wood siding, all fitting with the main house. They apparently park cars back behind the main house because you never see a car anywhere on the property other than the VW bug. I’m thinking that either the grown kids have moved into the little houses or the grandparents have moved all onto the same property. It is my ideal as far as keeping family close for generations, but not TOO close. Those little houses could also be rental units for all I know. But, whatever the case, they are clean and neat and there is never any noise, etc. Just a very pleasant space on the globe.
One would think you could do this too in a small town.
Good luck! contact me if you would like. email is jz at jannezack dot com
Regarding my LOCAL codes. In Memphis, we are in a “D” seismic zone (same as LA or SanFran (crazy right?). I am a residential designer and the seismic zoning is terribly hard on us. That said, we have to comply. Because of this smaller houses require just as much seismic stuff as larger houses. Sometimes this means that windows need to be 4′ from the end of a wall (or else you have to buy a big expensive piece of steel). So, if one could afford the additional seismic stuff, a tiny house would be very easily adapted to our local codes.
We currently have a 250 minimum sq. ft. requirement for housing. Just because it’s not 172 sq. ft. on a trailer, if you think about the fact that “legal foundatin” housing requires LEGAL staircases – 36″ wide with 10″ treads and a max of about 7 3/4″ rise, then you have just added your extra footage to the loft. Oh, and head height at the top of the stairs must be 6′-8″ min., so no climbing up a ladder and ducking into a loft, but the overall height limitations of a THOW goes away with a foundation built unit. So does the “cramped” height of the area below the loft. It can be a full 7′, or 8′ or even 9′, but just remember, however tall your downstairs ceiling is, your staircase has to be adjusted, (7′ ceiling requires about 12 treads, 8′ – 14 treads, 9′ – 16 treads), however, if the unit is very narrow, narrow enough for 2 x 6 ceiling joists, then you may be able to lose 1 tread in each of these situations.
Each of us Tiny House lovers could possibly create our own Tiny House P.U.D. neighborhood. It takes money, but. We’d need to buy a parcel of land, and wouldn’t need to be really big, but probably bigger than an inner-city lot. Possibly 2-3 small lots in a row. Have the required town meetings regarding zoning. Someone would need to decide the “Covenants” for said Tiny House Subdivision (THSD). I mean, the pictures we’ve seen of the Bone Yard in DC, that is incredible. Each unit has LOTS of room, but they aren’t allowed to live there full time, if my memory serves me right. But, regardless, there is no junk outside any of the units, you don’t see water tanks and solar panels parked on the ground, everything is “installed” in or on the units. There is no lawn equipment parked outside the units. (Have you ever driven by or through a mobile home park in the south?) I have been through parks in So. Cal and they are pristine! I’d love to live there, but here in the south, this is simply trailer park trash. Trashy may not describe the people living there, but the units and lots are filled with debris. Old mowers, broken bikes, shovels and rakes leaning against the house, items taped together with duct tape, just trashy. Oh, and don’t forget the 55-gal barrel where they burn their trash. THIS is what I could not live with, so the rules for real houses would need to apply for a THSD. Should “sheds” be allowed to stow lawn equipment and camping gear? Maybe there should be a long narrow building at the rear with “storage lockers” for the inhabitants to “rent” with their “lot” to store any outdoor equipment they need. Or maybe the restrictions of each home would require some small exterior storage to be included in the design of each home, thus an Architectural Review committee would be required for the THSD. The “rules” would need to be friendly for the free spirits, but what is treasure to some is trash to others. But, if the “rules” for the THSD could be esblished to try to meet in the middle, then I think a THSD is totally possible in an URBAN area as well as rural. (Rural would probably be a lot easier.)
Most cities have Minimum squarefootage requirements. Most have LOT SIZE requirements. Tiny Houses that are 8-10′ wide x 16′-30′ long would no require a huge amount of space, just enough space to get them delivered (if on wheels). BUT building one on a foundation, you could separate them by about 10′ or even less, but you really don’t want to be able to hear your neighbor snore, so that would need to be considered.
I once developed a 2-acre plot (200′ x 400′) with 13 house units (1300 sq. ft. each). This was to be a Senior Adult Housing subdivision. Just because you want to downsize does not mean you want to move into a “Starter Subdivision” with smaller homes, but which has since turned into a war zone with crime and drug labs. You want a small house on a small lot, on a normal budget (not a hyped up senior citizen expensive budget). You want neighbors with nice yards, you want easy living, but not a lot of grass to mow. This is what I designed, a downsized, yet nicely accommodated homs. They were designed to be 12′ apart. They would face the street (narrow – deep lots) but one side of the house wouldn’t have any windows because this would be the entertainment side of the house next door. The house next door would have all their windows facing front, back or to THIS side only. Basically each unit would be as if it were going to be a duplex or a zero lot line on one side without windows. Your neighbors can never see into your home becaues the houses are close together.
Anway, each home had a 2-car garage, so there would never be any reason to have any junky things outside the house (mowers, ladders, 55-gallon burn drums). There was even room toward the rear of the subdivision for guest parking and a gazibo and a walking trail around th 2 acres. This would be a gated community so that the residents had that extra feeling of security, but also grandkids would have free reign of the street while learning to ride bicycles. The goal was to also use golf carts as the “local subdivision method of transportation”.
However, this was planned for a town with extremely strict building requirements and they have yet to approve it. But still could.
While this example is not necessarily “TINY” to some people moving from 4100 sq. ft. into 1300 sq. ft. I’d say that is a start at the tiny life. Now to do the same idea with a THSD with 10′ between structures and no windows on one long side so that that each TH would have a side yard for entertaining without bothering their next door neighbor, how cool would that be. Or, simply plan an outdoor party area with hour limits (such as 10pm.) I also believe that children would enjoy living in a place like this, but there may need to be a minimum of a certain square foot per person rule. I know kids are resilliant, but kids also grow up and get bigger. I’ve seen some TH where the kids who are now 4-7 need to bend over to get to their sleeping areas… just imagine when they are 16 and 6’2″ and have to still go to that tiny sleeping area. THIS is why there are codes. Kids age and grow. I’m not saying kids can’t share rooms – even 4 kids sleeping in a tiny room is not bad, but to live this way for 18 years (from infant to college) may be cruel. Just because YOU like to live without modern amenities doesn’t mean THEY will.
However, if this were a legal, code approved home, the windows would be larger (second floor in our area 3′ x 5′ min). Hopefully, when building on a foundation you’d select a minim width of 10′ rather than the typ. THOW 8′-6″ max. Ceiling heights would be higher.
I’d love to develope a TH subdivision and have scheduled a meeting with a developer to do just that. Ideally it would need to be a more urban setting so that you can walk to grocery/stores/shopes/restaurants but wouldn’t have to be. The idea is I live here because I want to live simply, not just because this is the only place I can afford… if this is the case, it turns into trash town. BUT to live anywhere near Memphis means one must own a car. Public transport is here…. but I wouldn’t call it efficient. Maybe I’ll send sketches for the TH movement to review.
I built my tiny house on wheels and bought some rural land in Wisconsin, but after 6 months they said I could not live in something so tiny and the zoning laws prohibited it, so they kicked me off my own land. I was a bit deterred, but then I found some rural land in Minnesota and their zoning laws permit tiny houses of any size! Also, if you do not have pressurized water you are not required to hook up to a septic or well. I keep going back and forth whether to try starting a Tiny House community on my land in Minnesota. It is 20 acres, with another 40 acres available. That will be plenty of space for tiny housers to put down roots in a little community! The only problem is Minnesota has some pretty cold winters, but tiny houses do not cost much to heat!
Ben, are you still thinking about starting a community in MN? That’s exactly what I’m searching for. I’d like to connect if you’re still interested. Thanks!
Am I crazy in thinking this? I purchased 9 acres in a small Michigan town that is part tillable land, part old apple orchard. The trees are low density and very hard to maintain–after 3 years I’ve been toying with the idea of using it for a tiny house community of no more than 8-9 houses, with a central place just off the property for ‘bad weather’ days, or a guest house. It would be a tiny house-permaculture community, with the residents using their tillable portion of the land for organic crops, etc. Have other places done this? Is it viable in an area that gets lots of snow in winter, or would this be a fair weather thing.
My son recently formed a company (Arkansas Tiny Houses LLC to build tiny and small houses. Our main concern is size of lots and size of houses. Our idea is that the tiny house on footings is an excellent alternative to mobile homes in our area (tornadoes are a huge concern), student housing for colleges and universities, and housing for people that is affordable. We are following building codes even where they are not applicable. During this process we also discovered we could strip down old run down mobile homes and use the carriage to build on. Our average material and labor costs run from, $20-$40,000 for a well done modern house, and we are still making a profit. This whole movement is for those who think out of the box and use their creativity for a better way to live. This needs to always be conveyed to local governments when presenting the case for tiny houses, it is a win,win for everybody.
I just purchased 10 beautiful acres in a rural area of North Georgia. My daughter is buying it from me as soon as she sells her house (soon). It is about three miles from our small town. Do you think I will be able to build a small house on the same land but on the opposite side of the property. I am very active 68 year old female and still do all the outside mowing, etc. but still want some level of privacy. I do not want to live in her back yard. The driveway to the property is about 3/8 of a mile off the two lane road and surrounded by wooded land on all sides. About six acres is cleared with many places to put a very small house. Would codes allow for a in-law house to be very far away from her main house? Thanks for your help.
Why can’t there be a more balanced solution that is sort of “non profit” and sort of “for profit”? What if an initial private investor bought/got a loan for the land, but he would be required to live on the land in a tiny house. The investor would install the RV hook ups and prep the land for future tiny homes. As lots became available, the investor would accept “tenants”, and offer them lease to own agreements. So basically, if you were to move in to a tiny house community, you would rent for a year or two at a fixed price, and then if you wanted to buy, some of that money would go towards paying a down payment on your little lot of land, and you would start paying monthly mortgage payments to the investor until the lot was yours. There could be regulations on what percentage of the original land cost the investor could charge newcomers, to hold the initial investor accountable. But the investor should still receive a reasonable profit, because they did all the hard pioneering work and bore all that risk for the sake of establishing the others. So what you end up with is an excellent, short term landlord, who LIVES with his “tenants” as well as a landlord who’s primary goal is to earn a little income supplement in return for being a property steward. The only problem would be if the landlord retained too much power even when others had purchased their lots. There needs to be some kind of communal leadership that honors each lot owner based on their contribution to the community. Like a council of stewards. Like a family kind of, without getting all creepy like.
Anyways, perhaps a non profit fund could launch something like this, but I have not been in favor of many non profit business structures because they don’t think ahead. It’s like feeding the hungry with handouts and neglecting to build an infrastructure to empower the hungry to feed themselves. I think non profits are best suited to start movement, but sustainable wealth producing, aka profit, is best at keeping those movements going, and making them the best they can be. I think the 3 keys to my tiny house development idea is that:
1) The financial benefactor must live on the property, IN a tiny house
2) Power is dispersed in the long term
3) The legal requirements (perhaps this might be a type of zoning) would prevent any deviation from the originally intended land use.
Now for those who would be dissatisfied with being required to buy their lot, I would say that this kind of rent to own situation is much more like a rental agreement. It would be exactly like renting, except that you’re building equity. Aka the seller carries the loan, not a bank, because the seller is not interested in gaining a huge lump sum, they just want their monthly payments. Also, the lots are so small that I doubt these monthly payments would be very high at all, so it’s not as if it won’t be competitive with land rental alternatives. As far as reselling/renting owned lots, individual lot owners could not move out and rent their space, and they couldn’t sell their space to anyone outside. They could only sell it to the community leaders as a shared asset.
Anyways, It’s all about prospering a community of like minded people, and holding the people in power accountable by requiring them to live WITH the people who are under their care. And if this were for disabled or homeless folks, you could still follow this model but maybe tie the wealth to something less interchangeable than money. Maybe farms could implement a community like this in exchange for some farm work? Or maybe a community for veterans could be funded by the VA, and the veterans could use their government subsidies to buy lots? Or maybe ministries could start tiny house communities for at risk families while requiring them to attend skill providing classes, skills which they would be required to use to pay their monthly payments. Everyone has something of value to contribute, that’s what makes us human! I see everything in life should be “for profit”, but most people don’t understand what true profit is.
For those looking for lots to build on there are many mentioned in the posts above where the minimum dwelling size is not an issue. There are also a few new cities in the last year where the ordinances have been changed to allow a tiny house to be built or placed as a primary dwelling on a city lot: Spur, TX and Walsenburg, Co. Spur is promoting itself as the first tiny house friendly city in the States. Check out http://www.spurfreedom.org for info. There is now more than one tiny house there. Walsenburg has a variance to their ordinance that allows tiny houses on a city lot also (do a search for Walsenburg tiny house ordinance). Both cities do require the tiny house be permanently placed, either on a foundation or on blocks and tied down with wheels removed and stored (I consider tiny houses more like mobile homes than RVs but vastly superior in build… I lived in a MH once). Both require hookup to city utilities. I haven’t investigated Spur as much as Walsenburg at this point since I am favoring that location. Weather is really nice in southern Colorado. A bit cooler in summer than my home state (Iowa) but warmer winters. Walsenburg only requires hookup to city water and sewer. I’m fine with that since that resolves those two issues easily. I would have solar for all electrical needs and propane for what is left (heat and cooking). I would also only use the sewer hookup for grey water disposal and use a composting toilet (such as a Separette) resulting in no black water. Perhaps even have a diverter for the grey water to enable using that for landscaping irrigation even though I’d be hooked up to the sewer system. Nothing says I have to send anything down that drain. Also in Walsenburg there is a tiny house company that just received approval to build a tiny house community just behind the city library. 16-24 units are planned I think.
Colorado City and Teluride are also considering the same kind of ordinance changes. I’ve also read of many other cities and/or counties considering this change.
Bob I live in that area of Colorado and haven’t heard anything about a tiny house community or Colorado City allowing tiny homes. I know Colorado Springs is hoping to change laws in the near future, but as far as I know Colorado does not allow camping on your property, so no RV style living. Could you link where you found that info because I’d love to be able to live tiny in the area.
> as far as I know Colorado does not allow camping on your property <
Our property is outside the Colorado Springs city limits in El Paso County, but when I checked with the state and county we most definitely could have put a Tiny Home or Park Model RV or 5th-wheel or other camping trailer on our property and lived in it. A well requires a well permit anywhere in Colorado, and in our county a septic system would require a septic permit. Colorado's Tabor Amendment unfortunately classifies undeveloped (even zoned-residential) land as commercial property, subject to the full 29% valuation for property taxes, compared with the Tabor-reduced 8-and-something percent for residential property, so property taxes can be high until the you pour the foundation and the land can then be reclassified by the Assessor as residential. Simply parking a 5th-wheel or Tiny Home on the property is classified as simply an RV, not a permanent house, so a permanent foundation is needed to redesignate the property as residential and lower the property taxes. A Park Model mobile home would require a Mobile/Manufactured Home building permit. At one point, any structure 120 square feet or under did not require a Building Permit. But check with your local/regional Building Dept.
Thanks for that info, Keith!
Loving this article!!
I’ve always thought living in a community of like-minded people, per family would be a wonderful way to live.
Weve been looking at land in Duragno, Co.
I’ve seen a large amount of land, for an incredible price!
I’m talking 30 acres.
I what I’m wondering is, could we buy the land and make our own tiny house community on it.
THAT, would be AWESOME!!!
If anyone knows any info, please let me know!
Peace, Love and Live Tiny.
Homeless house-carts are an intriguing temporary solution to getting people back on their feet, but tiny house communities for the homeless, I think, would turn into a tragic shanty town in a big hurry. The same way the project housing started out nice and then attracted drug dealer and gangsters, it could easily end up giving the same ugly stigma to tiny living.
I have heard tiny living is legal in Portland. Does anyone know how it is regulated there? I would like to see more tiny houses in my area.
Tiny housing to my knowledge is not yet completely legal. There is a conscious community that shares space on a large lot with a big house and then several tiny houses in the large backyard. They worked with the city every step of the way. On the other hand a young couple recently got booted out of the Mt Tabor neighborhood after someone complained. Grrrrr!
They built a darling tiny house, cleared a blackberry bramble on a lot owned by their parents. They’re young, native Portlanders, and they tried to house themselves they best they could in this crazy out of control housing market.
I really think Zoning and City or County Administrators need to take a long look at accommodating their communities with options for Tiny Homes on wheels. If the Tiny Home has curb appeal, what does it matter otherwise?, most Tiny Homes are closer to being self contained than their cousin the trailer in a trailer park, are built better, and usually built with a “green” conscience, unlike the “Trailer”. If I was a Zoning head cheese, I would allow tiny homes as long as sewer and gray water matters were in order. To hold Tiny Homes to a standard to that of a “traditional” mobile home seems a bit stretchy in zoning practices. America’s cities and Counties have adopted building codes that make the average person house poor. A person should only need to spend 1/10th of their income on housing, but places like San Francisco, New York, Denver, LA, are becoming ridiculously out of control expensive for housing. Today’s avg. wage does not match costs of living. For instance, in the 1950’s an avg. family with one earner could afford a house a new car and two vacations a year for a family of four on $15,000 a year income. Extrapolate that in today’s world, and you can see the numbers start to become unbalanced. The avg income in America is $34,000 yr. and on $34,000 a year, you are close to being homeless these days. Tiny homes make sense!, adopted ordinances and zoning needs to correct itself for the times. Tiny Homes are BOOMING, America needs to get with the program.
Hear, hear! With incomes continuing to decrease compared to inflation, these homes are a wonderful, lower-cost option for most of us, and especially the disadvantaged. Unfortunately, absurd building (and zoning) codes can be needlessly prohibitive and slow as molasses to adapt, paired with a greedy government whose tax revenue benefits from the larger size of homes. We need to stop assuming that a larger government means better lives for the people, as in this case, it clearly does not.
Tiny homes are legal here: Small town in the ND oil boom area and up to two RV’s on a property permanently are allowed. You can purchase a trailer mudroom “extension” anywhere in town because thousands of people need them! RV homes (most tiny homes are legally park model RV’s ) have to meet health and safety standards for sewage and sturdy steps as well as limits to occupancy if there is not much space between units. The idea is for safe egress in case of emergency even in heavy snow. As for community, living close to people and living small really builds it. My husband lived an the RV on friend’s property for a year. I visited for a week at a time and my two girls moved in with him for 2 months!! Our great friends lived in their trailer with 5 kids and two dogs!!! about 20 feet from our front door. My husband and I were considering the purchase of a 10 acre ranch an hour away during one of my RV visits. After we walked from his RV to the neighbors who lived in a normal house to buy eggs, cooked them in the RV and got ready for a birthday party we were going to host in the trailer (it was moved by invite to a bigger space owned by our friends) we thought no, we need this community for our kids. We stopped the purchase of the ranch. We now have 20 acres and a modular secured to a foundation nearby our friends. While we really enjoy the running water we remember fondly our tiny time!!
I spent 4 years doing a land exchange with DNR then moved on to 2 years with county & planning dept getting a tiny cabin 12×16 set up on land… on 28 acres… finially subdivided property sold part of land with cabin then bought a travel trailer 8×29 and moved to other lot of subdivided Thru all the various steps/ hoops I found it best to Ask or Help and most were willing and Patience is Key.. and an attention to detail and Fine Print… couldn’t get anyone to
come out and do an actual septic design for a Outhouse… Then noticed Composting Toilet…. and got the OK for that… Now we visit our travel trailer aprox once a month for a week… and love it Also… had to sign contract to have travel trailer sewage tank pumped out once a season.
It’s so frustrating to have to watch so many intelligent, forward-thinking people try to navigate the ridiculously silly and needlessly restrictive game that is Building Code law. This conversation makes it even more apparent how utterly useless and counterintuitive some regulations have become, and if there are frequently ways to “work around” some of these codes, then why do they exist at all? It’s absurd. We still live in an era when the government has too much power over the lives of its people. Here’s to a future in which these laws are overhauled, and the people – especially those in desperate need of housing – are given a fair and simple course of action to get it.
A thought occurred to me as I was watching a recent doc about living legally in a tiny house. It was about the changes in Fresno and Ojai that had to occur for them to accept tiny houses. Part of the trouble it seems to me might be the classification of a tiny house as an RV, which has many rules- not for full time habitation, no camping in city limits, not even able to park it on your own land because of the no camping rule. What about a totally new RV classification for tiny homes as a continuously inhabited dwelling? Many many people live full time in RVs, they are homes not recreational vehicles. I have lived in mine for the better part of 4.5 years.
I think that’d be a great idea! It’s so hard to find a place to “fit” tiny houses in the current codes. What we need is something like this, a separate classification or a special section for full-time RVs/Tinies. — Tiny House Talk Team