January 1, 2016

Tiny Houses, Big Questions

What are tiny houses?  Are they houses or trailers?  And where can they be installed?  A recent Zoning Practice article examines these and other questions surrounding the tiny house movement.

As the authors explain, the answers to these questions are not clear or obvious.  To start, tiny houses are not houses at all. Rather, they are recreational vehicles. The problem is that many people purchasing these houses intend to use them for long-term or permanent occupancy, which runs up against traditional building and zoning codes. 

The authors identify a host of barriers to installing tiny houses.  To start, many communities will not allow a tiny house to serve as a primary dwelling unit unless it is mounted on a permanent foundation and connected to local utilities. Others have minimum residential size limits that create a barrier to installing them. Even if the tiny house is installed as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on a lot that already has a primary house or use, most communities will still apply the same building, foundation, and utility requirements to ADUs that they do to primary structures.

Although most communities’ land use regulations are unprepared for tiny houses, the authors suggest that existing RV park, manufactured home park, subdivision, cohousing, and cottage development standards “provide a deep pool of content from which tiny-house regulations can be tailored and developed.”

Image Source: countryliving.com (labeled for noncommercial reuse)