Category Archives: Michigan

10/11 Briley Township, MI amends codes to welcome tiny homes on foundations

lake in Briley Township, Michigan

Briley Township, Michigan

Briley Township in northern Michigan has adapted its zoning regulations to be more tiny house friendly. They have defined a new type of dwelling, an economy efficient dwelling.

  • An Economy Efficient Dwelling is a dwelling that is more than 240 sq ft and less than 500 sq ft with a minimum side elevation of no less than 12 ft and no more than 20 ft, minimum length of 20 feet and a maximum length of 30 ft built to all Michigan building and sanitary codes and qualifies for a certificate of occupancy.
  • An economy efficient dwelling must be placed on a permanent approved foundation.
  • These homes are allowed in residential 2, forest rec, and agriculture areas.

Source: http://brileytownship.com/doc.zoningordinance.pdf, page 4.

Barry Braun, the Zoning Administration & Enforcement Officer writes, “If I can be of help to you or your members, I do stand ready to answer any questions or assist them with their efforts. While we do not allow movable structures, our ordinance is friendly to smaller residential needs. Our building inspector is also pleased that we have made changes to benefit this national trend.” You can call Barry at (989) 785-4624.

Atlanta (within Briley Township) is the Elk capital of Michigan and has vast amounts of public lands for hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, ATV’s and other recreation in the Great Lakes state.

09/16 Kalamazoo’s First Tiny House May Change Housing Laws

Habitat for Humanity volunteers pouring the foundation for Ben Brown's tiny house.

Habitat for Humanity volunteers finished pouring the foundation at the site of Ben Brown’s tiny house. Behind it is Brown’s garden shed, not that much smaller than the house itself. Photo by Rebecca Thiele

The City of Kalamazoo is considering changing its housing laws to accommodate tiny houses. These homes are often less than 400 square feet and use things like built-in tables to maximize space. Recent reality TV shows and documentaries have made living small seem chic. Some say tiny houses could be a more affordable option for people living on a small income.

Ben Brown is excited as he shows me around his future home in Kalamazoo’s Eastside neighborhood. He says it fits well within his budget.

“I know I can not only pay it off, I can have savings – and it doesn’t have to look like a shack. It can actually be palatial, a castle, a palace,” he says.

Once it’s built, the house will be less than 270 square feet. Search for studio apartments in Kalamazoo and it’d be hard to find anything less than 300 feet.

Monica Priest is the development director at the Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity, which is helping Brown build the home. Priest says they’re hoping that this house will be the first of many tiny houses that they build in Kalamazoo. She says it could be a good option for people who are low-income or even homeless. It’s also new – a luxury very few disadvantaged people get in Kalamazoo…

City Planner Rebekah Kik says, as far as she knows, there are no illegal tiny houses in Kalamazoo. There aren’t as many restrictions on tiny homes in Kalamazoo as you might think.

Kik says you can build a house as small as 120 square feet in the city. As long as it isn’t on wheels, you can put it pretty much anywhere in the city. That is, providing you have a big yard.

“We do have minimum lot size requirements through our zoning and I believe it starts at 5,000 square feet. So that’s a pretty big lot size to find to put a tiny houses on,” says Kik.

Land can be expensive. So that isn’t ideal for someone trying to save money on a home. Kik says there also aren’t a lot of open 5,000 square foot lots in the city. The other problem – “accessory dwelling units” aren’t allowed. “And that’s fancy speak for putting a tiny house in your backyard and maybe even having it for your mother-in-law, or one of your grandparents, or even your college student, or having it available for rental.So that’s another page we’d really like to open up,” says Kik.

Kik says the city is trying to organize some kind of community forum to gauge public opinion on tiny houses.

Read more – http://wmuk.org/post/kalamazoo-s-first-tiny-house-may-change-housing-laws

01/04 Will tiny houses gain traction in Michigan?

Richard Brown's first tiny house

Richard Brown’s first tiny house


For the holiday season, Richard Brown has only one decoration: a green stocking.

It’s not because Brown hates the holidays. It’s because when you live in 165 square feet of usable space, you get selective about your possessions. But Brown’s tiny house isn’t bare; colorful, contemporary prints adorn the walls, a shelf holds a diverse collection of books that includes Wood Pallet Projects and Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, and a little pillow that says “home sweet (little) home” beckons visitors to sit down in the Ikea-style chair.

Before he downsized his possessions to the essentials, Brown had a typical suburban life, living in a conventional 1,200-square-foot house in Southfield. But after some life-changing events including the end of a relationship, it was time to figure out next steps…

[Now] he custom builds tiny houses (so far, no orders but he entertains a lot of inquiries), but for the two he has built so far, they reflect his personal style. The exterior features cedar clapboard siding but it’s not a little log cabin. Inside, there is a modern industrial feel, with exposed wood fasteners and a metallic backsplash in the kitchen, as well as features such as the entertainment system, LED lights, and a sleek heating element.

Before settling in Whitmore Lake, Brown found the best arrangement in the mobile park community where his two tiny houses are located (the other one is a model home for sale).

Another issue Brown notes is that people think it’s easy and cheap. He spent about $20,000 for his house including materials and furnishings, but “you have to remember I was the labor,” he says. “That’s a huge cost people don’t realize but I also spent hundreds and hundreds of man hours doing legwork, sourcing materials. That’s not an easy undertaking.”

Despite the challenges, he envisions redeveloping the land in Whitmore Lake where he wants to have a tiny-house community…

Jonathan Bellow's tiny house

Jonathan Bellow’s tiny house

Jonathan Bellows’ tiny house brings him a lot of pride — and a lot of heartache. The former Flint resident began building his 130-square-foot tiny house in 2009 on his sister’s property in Flint. It took him about a year to build the home and he lived on his sister’s land for a while. But then his sister sold the house so he had to move. For a while he was “squatting” at his uncle’s property, but then the uncle sold the house, forcing him to move again.

He started going to town hall meetings to get approval to put his tiny house on a permanent site and kept hitting roadblocks. There was no way to do it legally in southeast Michigan, he says. He then focused his efforts on finding wooded property where he could put his house, and where it would be difficult to spot from the road. He purchased 4 acres of land and moved the house there.

“I knew full well what I was doing,” he says of putting his house on the land even though it wasn’t technically legal, adding that “there is just no legal pathway” to having a tiny house in southeast Michigan. But he was committed to his home.

He moved his house to his new property in September 2011. In January 2012 he came home one day and found a sticker from the township, he recalls. Bellows called the township and was informed that he couldn’t live in the house, which was deemed an illegal dwelling. If someone was still living there in 30 days, it would be taken away. He moved to Oregon and left the house behind.

“It was heartbreaking to leave,” Bellows says, his voice heavy with emotion as he describes feelings of relief and sadness over the situation. The structure sat vacant for a few years until a couple recently bought it, and they moved the tiny house to their property “somewhere in Ann Arbor.”

Three years after Bellows had his zoning issues, Roberts finds herself facing the same barriers as she seeks to build her tiny house in metro Detroit, saying the biggest legal challenge she has encountered has been the minimum square footage. She’s contacted several communities, including Rochester, Richmond, and Capac, all of which have minimum square footage requirements ranging from 800 to 1,000. Roberts adds if there was a way around this aspect, building a tiny house would be “smooth sailing…”

The city of Ann Arbor has been the center for most of the interest in tiny houses in southeast Michigan. The council passed a resolution in June directing city administrators to advise on the practicality and legality of tiny homes in Ann Arbor. Stephen Kunselman, a former Ann Arbor councilman whose term ended in November, sponsored the resolution in June after efforts to build a tiny-house community on city property fell through after safety concerns were raised.

Read more http://www.hourdetroit.com/Hour-Detroit/January-2016/Tiny-Houses-Big-Dreams/

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: http://www.iccsafe.org/about-icc/overview/international-code-adoptions/

International Code Council Map

International Code Council map

08/09 Tiny house turns into big headache for Michigan man

Forced to move out of this tiny Michigan home

Forced to move out of this tiny Michigan home


“What I really enjoyed was the sense of independence and the sense of freedom,” said Bellows, 36. “It was the sense that I built it. So if anything went wrong I knew how to fix it…”

He found a 3.8-acre piece of land in Lapeer County, but Bellows said in order to be there legally the home had to be at least 960-square feet.

So in January 2012 — after almost five months of living in his tiny house on his own piece of land — he was forced to move out.

Read more at http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2015/08/michigan_man_says_130-square_f.html

Ann Arbor council member proposes tiny house village across from YMCA

Toward the end of a six-hour meeting, Ann Arbor City Council Member Stephen Kunselman made an announcement early Tuesday morning.

The 3rd Ward Democrat said he plans to bring forward a resolution at the council’s next meeting on June 15 to direct city staff to come up with a plan for establishing a small village of tiny houses on city-owned property across from the YMCA, just west of downtown on Washington Street.

The concept of tiny houses has been discussed by community leaders over the past couple of years in the context of expanding the supply of affordable housing.

Read article at http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/06/tiny_houses.html

Park Model RV Regulations, State-by-State

The RVIA has provided a table showing regulations by state for park model RVs
http://www.rvia.org/UniPop.cfm?v=2&OID=3531&CC=7616

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.

Ann Arbor, MI looking into approving ADUs

Dozens of affordable housing advocates, many of them also advocates for the homeless, flooded the Ann Arbor City Council chambers Monday night (April 6, 2015) to call on the city to take action on accessory dwelling units. Paz-Norman and others who spoke at the start of the City Council’s meeting Monday night called on the council to budget $25,000 to hire a consultant to come up with zoning recommendations for accessory dwelling units. Read more here: http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/04/affordable_housing_advocates_c.html

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.