Article by Laura LaVoie of Life in 120 Square Feet
One of the most common questions I’m asked about the tiny house movement is “Where can I build or park my tiny home?” You’ll quickly find that most municipalities are not tiny house friendly and you can’t build such a small home on a foundation. Even if you put it on wheels, which cause the regulations to change (RV rather than dwelling), there are still some rules that you need to adhere to. It can be frustrating for someone who just wants to downsize and simplify their lives.
However, there has been buzz for some time about one city that offers a very friendly experience to tiny house owners: Portland.
I reached out to Tiny House community members to learn about their experiences in Portland and I heard back from Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens.
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I sent Tammy a few questions and she didn’t just answer them for me – she sent back an audio response. Check out Tammy’s answers at Sound Cloud. I knew Tammy’s tiny house was situated in a back yard in Portland Oregon so I wanted to better understand how she found the space for her house, what her neighbors thought, and if there were any legal issues with parking her house in the city of Portland? She answers all the questions in this fantastic audio clip.
She also pointed me to this interview on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud that features her neighbors as well so you can get an insight on that aspect of tiny house living.
In the audio response, Tammy addresses two issues that I think are key to the tiny house movement. She refers to her small house as “A-legal,” neither legal nor illegal. Because of the wheels, it falls under a completely different set of regulations. She also mentioned that Portland doesn’t really have any concern about tiny houses on wheels so long as they are “cute.” I think this is an important distinction. Nobody wants anyone to park an ugly house in their neighborhood. I imagine if someone tried the same living arrangement with a beat up 1970s camper van that leaked oil we would have a very different discussion. With a tiny house on a trailer that adds to the overall landscape rather than detracts from it, the neighborhood and municipality would consider it a non-issue.
Tiny House Listings is not only a great resource for buying tiny homes but there is a separate tab for tiny house parking. There are certainly listings for Portland, but I was surprised to find listings all over the country including Waynesville NC which is very near to me.
You can also keep up with the latest Tiny House News from the Oregon Live Website. They feature stories about tiny houses in their area and across the country on a regular basis.
When considering whether or not you want to build a tiny house you need to keep things in mind like where you plan to build and where you plan to park. If Portland isn’t on your radar you may want to consider the area.
If you enjoyed this Q & A audio interview with Laura LaVoie and Tammy Strobel, please “Like” and share using the buttons below then ask any more questions you might have in the comments. Thanks!
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Thanks for taking the time to comment on these issues Tammy! My husband and I are in the brainstorming phase here in Delaware. The main question we have had is, “are tiny homes legal in a densely populated are?”
Over the past few years New Castle County zoning and planing has expanded the “accessory dwelling unit” code to allow families to either expand their current single family home or place another structure on the land. (My intuition tells me this is to make allowance for elderly baby boomers and young people struggling from joblessness)
From what I have read the unit must meet certain size requirements with a permit, however anything 200 sq ft or below does not require a permit. The structure must be placed in the back yard 3 ft away from the property line. Hopefully this can provide an example of what these codes are like here. Early on I had trouble finding information about this area through the mainstream tiny networks.
Tammy you are great role model…keep posting and keep up the great work!
Building codes are the bane of small house builders!
I would suggest anyone considering building a small house to first research the county codes. Some rural areas allow a non-permanent structure under 200 sqft not connected to water or power.
This is called a dry cabin and you can get around codes using this as a model for your home and my solar cabin is considered a dry cabin.
Your other option is a home on wheels that can be used temporarily for housing or parked permanently in a licensed RV lot or trailer park.
OR you could build it anyway and fight city hall!
I’m actually in the process (and by that I mean seriously considering) of moving to Portland, so this post couldn’t have come at a better time. Until I read this, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to take my tiny house dream with me. Thank you for this very informative and well written piece.
is there any questions and answers for rules in Canada