Finding A Right Place For My Tiny House
Is there hope for locating tiny houses in areas with zoning? Yes! Most occupied tiny houses are in zoned areas actually. Zoning can allow for small secondary residential spaces on a lot, known as ADUs (accessory dwelling units) or granny cottages, in-law units, secondary dwelling units, and tiny houses. Most often, local ADU regulations require a unit to be on a foundation. If this is the case, one option is to remove the wheels from the trailer once you park it in its designated area and save them for future moves.
Zoning can also allow for a single tiny house on a city lot or a piece of land. The most common challenge is zoning that specifies a minimum size (I’ve seen 450– 1,500 square feet in various cities) for any main residence. If this is the case, as a property owner you may be able to apply for a variance that would allow for a tiny house despite it being smaller than the minimum size required. No guarantee of success though. The neighbors usually must be notified of any application for a variance, and their opinion usually has weight with the zoning board.
Two other potential locations for tiny houses: mobile home parks and campgrounds. These can easily work for short stays, but some don’t welcome long-term parking of tiny houses that are not commercially built to meet the RVIA or MHBA standards. Start asking well before you finish building and need a place to park.
My favorite option is to place a tiny house on private land. To make this more widely possible though, changes to zoning laws are needed. Variances for smaller-than-minimum homes aren’t always granted. Some cities are rethinking those minimums, especially where real estate prices are high. Boston, New York, Seattle, Portland all have new minimums for micro-apartments. The need exists. It may take some time and organizing, but changes to zoning laws are possible and beginning to happen.
Would you rather work around the obstacles? Simply start with land that has an existing house on it. This qualifies as the main dwelling. Rent that house and live in your tiny “accessory dwelling unit” if the zoning allows ADUs.
Another alternative is to ignore local zoning and live in your tiny house until someone complains or the enforcers find you. Keep in mind that action from code/zoning departments is almost always triggered by complaints. In other words, as long as no one around you complains that you are there, you can live in your tiny house directly under the noses of building officials. Personally I don’t like this option because you could be fined or suddenly forced to move. Not my idea of fun.
The ultimate in simplicity though is land without specific zoning requirements. There are still many townships and counties– mostly rural– that have no zoning laws. You can live in any size house on a foundation as long as it meets the state building codes, or even in any tiny house on wheels in some locations. In fact, some jurisdictions still don’t have building codes, which makes it even easier to build the tiny house of your dreams! One caveat, just because there are no building codes doesn’t mean you should skimp on your build. Make it safe, make it healthy, and make it as high quality as you can.