Category Archives: Indiana

12/11 Tiny house community coming to South Bend?

Nikki and David Stillson's tiny house

Nikki and David Stillson’s tiny house

A group hopes South Bend will become a pioneer in America’s tiny house movement with a tiny subdivision on the city’s near northwest side.

The plans, still in the concept stage, would involve six to eight tiny houses, defined as measuring 250 to 400 square feet, built on permanent foundations across two vacant lots at the corner of Cushing Street and Portage Avenue, said organizer Mike Keen, a retired professor of sociology at Indiana University South Bend and founder of the school’s Center for a Sustainable Future.

“People want to downsize and simplify their lives by building smaller homes with less stuff to put in them,” said Keen. “What they say is ‘smaller house, bigger life.’”

The homes, built on site, would cost $50,000 to $60,000 and would target Millennials and baby boomer “empty nesters” looking to downsize and be closer to their children and grandchildren, Keen said.

Keen recently took early retirement from the university to launch Thrive Michiana LLC, a sustainability and innovation consulting firm.

Working with him to build the homes would be Dwayne Borkholder, president of New Energy Homes, a new division of Nappanee-based Borkholder Buildings & Supply. Aside from their tiny size, the homes would be “zero energy,” meaning they are 70 percent more energy efficient than a traditional home for the same cost per square foot, and rooftop solar panels generate the other 30 percent of power.

Borkholder has been building regular size zero-energy homes for six years, but recently started working to adapt that technology to tiny homes. The pair plan to present their ideas, along with some drawings of how the homes would look, and answer the public’s questions Tuesday at 4 p.m. at downtown’s Union Station, 506 W. South St…

Also planning to attend Tuesday is Nikki Stillson, who lives in a 188-square-foot house in southern St. Joseph County with her husband, David, and their cats, Sebastian, Layla and Melo. They don’t live in a TLC, but rather, in the backyard of David’s mother, for whom they are primary caregivers. Their house is on wheels that are on cinder blocks.

The couple talked with The Tribune in December 2014 when they were still planning to buy the home, and they started living in it in September 2015.

“I absolutely love living in my tiny house,” Stillson said. “It’s just enough space. We don’t find that we run into each other. We tweak little things here and there each year, just like you would in any house.”

The couple uses an RV electrical hookup and water hose from the main house.

“The biggest thing we love about it is the financial freedom,” said Stillson, noting they paid for the tiny house in full with cash from savings. “We’re not paying $800 a month to live in a place that all we do is sleep in. We’ve been better prepared to save for our future. We’re not living check to check. We’ve been able to travel a lot more. We’re enjoying the little things in life.”

She and David, an information technology manager, run the “Michiana Tiny House Enthusiasts” Facebook group

Read more –

Building code map

Handy map of the US. Just click on your state (in the link, not on the picture) to see which building codes are in effect:

International Code Council Map

International Code Council map

Park Model RV Regulations, State-by-State

The RVIA has provided a table showing regulations by state for park model RVs

What is a park model? 

Below is a description from the RVIA:

On July 1, 2012, RVIA created a new membership category for manufacturers of park model RVs (PMRVs). A park model RV (also known as a recreational park trailer) is a trailer-type RV that is designed to provide temporary accommodation for recreation, camping or seasonal use. PMRVs are built on a single chassis, mounted on wheels and have a gross trailer area not exceeding 400 square feet in the set -up mode. They are certified by their manufacturers as complying with the ANSI A119.5 standard for recreational park trailers.

PMRVs are most often used in recreational vehicle campgrounds. They may be owned by the campground and rented to guests, or they may be brought in and used exclusively by their owners on a site rented or leased from the campground. They can also be placed by their owners on private property. These RVs are used for recreational purposes only. They are not meant to be permanently affixed to the property, they do not improve property values in any way, and they are neither designed nor intended by their manufacturers to be used as permanent residences.

Two different types of park model RVs are offered. One type is less than 8′ 6″ in width and is designed for frequent travel on the highways while the other and more popular type is wider than 8′ 6″ (usually 12′ in width), and must be transported with special movement permit. The 8′ 6″ unit typically is expandable when it reaches its destination utilizing slide-outs or tip-outs. The wider units, being less mobile, are usually sited in a resort or RV park location for an extended term, typically several years. Park model RVs are titled as vehicles by the various states. This is because PMRVs are built on permanent chassis such that they can be and are moved either within a campground or between campgrounds.

Log Cabin Rule in Indiana Protects the Right of the DIYer to Build Own Home

The State of Indiana allows counties to establish building codes. However, section IC 36-7-8-3 (d) specifically excludes those codes from applying to "private homes that are built by individuals and used for their own occupancy." This is known as the Log Cabin Rule.

Note, however, that the law most likely will not protect tiny homes on wheels, which are generally considered RVs.

In addition, counties sometimes try to fight the law even for homes on foundations:

Indiana State Code IC 36-7-8
Chapter 8. County Building Department and Building Standards
IC 36-7-8-1
Application of chapter
Sec. 1. This chapter applies to all counties.
As added by Acts 1981, P.L.309, SEC.27.

IC 36-7-8-2
Establishment of buildings department
Sec. 2. The legislative body of a county may, by ordinance, establish a county department of buildings, with an office of building commissioner and inspectors.
As added by Acts 1981, P.L.309, SEC.27.

IC 36-7-8-3
Establishment of building, heating, ventilating, electrical, plumbing, and sanitation standards; ordinances
Sec. 3. (a) The legislative body of a county having a county department of buildings or joint city-county building department may, by ordinance, adopt building, heating, ventilating, air conditioning, electrical, plumbing, and sanitation standards for unincorporated areas of the county. These standards take effect only on the legislative body’s receipt of written approval from the fire prevention and building safety commission.
(b) An ordinance adopted under this section must be based on occupancy, and it applies to:
(1) the construction, alteration, equipment, use, occupancy, location, and maintenance of buildings, structures, and appurtenances that are on land or over water and are:
(A) erected after the ordinance takes effect; and
(B) if expressly provided by the ordinance, existing when the ordinance takes effect;
(2) conversions of buildings and structures, or parts of them, from one occupancy classification to another; and
(3) the movement or demolition of buildings, structures, and equipment for the operation of buildings and structures.
(c) The rules of the fire prevention and building safety commission are the minimum standards upon which ordinances adopted under this section must be based.
(d) An ordinance adopted under this section does not apply to private homes that are built by individuals and used for their own occupancy.
As added by Acts 1981, P.L.309, SEC.27. Amended by P.L.8-1984, SEC.125.

Link to the official code:

Free Online Zoning Codes

Here are two sources of online codes:

  • Municodes from the Nation’s leading legal publisher.
  • The American Legal Publishing Company provides a free online library of state and municipal codes for most locations. Click on the map to go to the library and chose your state and city. Then search or scroll for descriptions of minimum lot sizes, setback rules, etc.

    American Legal Publishing Compay online library

    American Legal Publshing Company online library

    Information is available for all states except these 13: AL, CO, ID, KS, LA, MO, MS, ND, NV, UT, VT, WA, WY.