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Rooftop Tiny House Living in the City

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This is a guest post by Jane Dwinnell as a part of her series Tiny House Travels: Chronicling Life on the Road.

February 5, 2013

Rooftop Tiny House Living in the City

We’ve settled down for several months — on a rooftop in the middle of big city. It’s a great place, and an unusual “tiny house” community. There are 15 homes up here ranging from our tiny house to RVs of all kinds to a fitted-out bus and van. There are water, sewer and electrical hookups — and a gorgeous panorama of the downtown skyline.


We’re in a southern city, warm and sunny, full of vibrant life and culture. Yet it’s quiet up here on the rooftop with twinkling city lights and stars at night, and a view of the tops of shotgun houses and graceful live oaks by day. The neighbors are a quiet group, most off to work or school each day. There are a few dogs and cats that patrol the rooftop, and there are several gardens-in-pots alongside some of the RVs. We also share the space with several small boats and some catering vans for the business downstairs.

It’s a great location — quiet and private, yet with all services within walking or biking distance. There’s a grocery store, hardware store, post office, laundromat, library, sporting goods store, emergency room, dentist, thrift store, and pharmacy. There are ethnic grocery stores and restaurants of all kinds, and our favorite sports bar. There is a three-mile-long waterway perfect for kayaking or canoeing. And best of all, there is a 1300-acre city park with lakes, bike paths, restaurants, an art museum, playing fields, tennis courts, dog park, and a disc golf course. We are all set!

For venturing further afield, there is great biking and public transportation. Our gas-hog of a pickup truck, so necessary for hauling the tiny house around, sits idle here in the city. Wonderful. And the rent isn’t too bad either, considering we’re not fueling the truck up all the time, and that we got a break on the price because we don’t need the electric  or sewer hookups because we have a composting toilet and solar panels. We fill our 45-gallon water tank every few days, and that’s it for utilities (besides our cell phone and MiFi — though there is free internet up here on the roof, courtesy of the hardware store across the way).

I know many tiny house people are country people — and we were for many, many years. We lived on a 45-acre farm a 15-minute drive from the nearest good-sized town (with grocery store, hardware store, etc). It was a wonderful life raising food, hanging out with our kids, and deeply enjoying nature. But I sure love the convenience of walking or biking to everything, and feeling the energy of the city without being directly in it.

The rooftop is safe, so our neighbors tell us. With everyone looking out for one another, and everyone ready to call 911 at the first sign of trouble, it’s great. Only once in the month that we’ve been here has a “stranger” arrived. Except for the other day when a cop followed me up the ramp while I was pushing my cart full of wet laundry. He probably thought I was a homeless person (people often assume that when I have my cart loaded with stuff). This local cop didn’t even know this community was here! That’s a sure sign of how private we are.

As you imagine creating a tiny house community in your own city, look to the rooftops! This rooftop was originally designed for parking, but as the businesses on the ground floor changed, parking wasn’t as necessary. The owners of the building saw an income-producer, a creative way to use the space, and it benefits everyone. Tiny houses don’t necessarily have to be on the ground.

Of course, by the time the hot weather arrives, we’ll be on the road to somewhere else. But, in the meantime, we’re enjoying sitting outside having a glass of wine in the evenings, chatting with the neighbors, or practicing putting with our portable disc golf basket. So much to do here on the rooftop!

More of Jane Dwinell and Her Tiny Home on Tiny House Talk:

Jane Dwinell, and her partner Sky Yardley, are retired, and live and travel in their tiny house. She is the author of Freedom Through Frugality: Spend Less, Have More, available exclusively on her website, spiritoflifepublishing.com. “Like” Freedom Through Frugality on Facebook for photos, tips, and adventures.

This post contains affiliate links.

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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!
{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Mariah McCord
    February 6, 2013, 10:11 am

    This is brilliant!

    • Alex
      February 7, 2013, 10:20 am

      Isn’t it!

  • alice h
    February 6, 2013, 11:31 am

    Good thinking! There are many opportunities that just take a stretch of the imagination, so good to hear of one that worked out well.

    • Alex
      February 7, 2013, 10:20 am

      Me too. Thanks Alice!

  • ImReady
    February 6, 2013, 12:06 pm

    I like this! I bet, up there, you don’t have to deal with mosquitoes, or wild animals, or burglars or loud traffic noise, or………..seems really peaceful!! Great idea!

  • February 6, 2013, 12:10 pm

    I think this is interesting. Can I ask what city it is? Also what about getting hot? It seems like it would be a lot hotter on top of the building?

    • Carlos
      February 7, 2013, 9:05 am

      New Orleans. The “1300-acre city park” reference and a quick Google search gives it away.

  • February 6, 2013, 2:01 pm

    How crazy is that! I always have loved sitting on a rooftop, I can just imagine what a fun experience that must be..

    • Alex
      February 7, 2013, 10:21 am

      I’ve always loved rooftops too so this would be fun. Never realized this was even possible either. Didn’t know they made buildings with that kind of clearance.

  • LaMar
    February 6, 2013, 2:02 pm

    Good use of an unused parking lot!

    I am thinking it will get very hot there in summer but for a winter local not too shabby with amenities close by.

    And you have a skatebaord or roller rink right outside your door for exercise!

  • Ruth
    February 6, 2013, 2:05 pm

    What sort of composting toilet, I wonder?

  • Robert Weiss
    February 6, 2013, 2:15 pm

    This is awesome. I can not believe you located a garage that had 13′ 5″ clearance to get to the roof!

    • Alex
      February 7, 2013, 10:23 am

      Me neither!

  • Jerry
    February 6, 2013, 2:37 pm

    What a creative solution, it works out great for everyone involved! Would love to learn how the building owner did the utility hookups. This could provide extra income to a lot of building owners. If I were an owner, I would ensure there were setback rules to prevent visibility from the street, but most commercial buildings have facades to hide rooftoop things like vents and airconditioners, so that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

  • Andrey
    February 6, 2013, 3:16 pm

    Wonder what they do with compost, as it requires at least 6 month of active composting to turn into ‘dirt’

  • susan
    February 6, 2013, 4:10 pm

    so where is this mysterious and wonderful place ?

  • Ann
    February 6, 2013, 4:36 pm

    I am curious how you found out about the availability of parking up there. Very interesting! Great idea.

  • Carolyn B
    February 6, 2013, 6:12 pm

    Another post, please. More details and photos! Love, love, love!
    Jane & Sky, please ask your neighbors if you can share their tiny stories too here. Early on I was wondering how you got to the roof but the rest of the article explained “parking roof”. How wonderful.

  • yeshlekhaesh
    February 6, 2013, 7:07 pm

    a small house on the roof of a building is common in Israel-and quite desirable. They’re usually quite basic (one or two rooms) and entail going up and down many many stairs if you need to go to the shop, but you have the space for pot plants and the feeling of freedom !

    • Alex
      February 7, 2013, 10:24 am

      Cool, I didn’t know that!

  • Rhonda
    February 6, 2013, 9:22 pm

    Where is this roof-top park located and does it have hookups? I would love to stay there. Sounds like so much fun. Also, how did you find out about it?

  • Joe3
    February 7, 2013, 12:35 am

    Man, I could live there, except I know the summers in New Orleans are hot and steamy … The city is one of my favorite places to visit, especially when staying at the casinos in Biloxi. And I always drive throught the Ninth ward to see what progress has been made since Katrina … I miss Mothers too!!

  • February 7, 2013, 10:40 am

    Hey everybody — Here are some answers to your questions/thoughts…

    This place has no more room… in fact, we had to beg the owner to make a space for us which he was willing to do because we didn’t need hookups… We knew about it because we saw the RVs up here and asked around what the deal was….

    Yes, it will get hot, and that’s the beauty of being in a portable, tiny house… we’ll just move on, somewhere cooler. I’ll be curious when that will be. We do get lovely breezes up here which is a little challenging in storms like last night… but mostly really great.

    There is no roof on the ramp — it’s open. This isn’t a traditional parking garage, but just a regular business building with a flat roof accessed by an open ramp. I’m too chicken to ride my bike down the ramp it’s so steep (and I actually wondered if we’d even be able to pull the tiny house up!).

    Re: our Nature’s Head composting toilet — it composts in just a couple of months. We have 2 bases and switch them out when one is full, and let it continue the composting process. Once it’s composted (and it is amazingly well) we bury it in the woods somewhere, with permission of the owner of the property.


  • February 7, 2013, 11:12 am

    Nice! Ive parked my tiny home in a lot of places but never on a rooftop. I see you got frisbee golf set up there too? Careful where you throw

  • February 22, 2013, 2:54 pm

    What a great use of space. Smart growth in a creative, affordable way. The only issue I see is that black top pavement is a heat trap (as the author likely knows). I wonder if they could add a large amount of raised beds, a green roof surrounding spots for tiny home to park? One of the leading causes of global warming is actually pavement.

  • Porscha
    August 26, 2016, 7:51 pm

    Is this community still happening? I’m looking to move to New Orleans and am also looking to get into a mobile house situation!!

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