Category Archives: Texas

06/13 West Texas Town Finds Tiny House Crowd a Bit Too Earthy

Hank Boerema’s new tiny house outside Spur, Texas. He decided to build there after the town passed an ordinance that requires designs to be submitted for approval.

Hank Boerema’s new tiny house outside Spur, Texas. He decided to build there after the town passed an ordinance that requires designs to be submitted for approval. Photo by Brandon Thibodeaux

Nearly two years ago, this town of cotton farmers and cattle ranchers in the rolling plains of West Texas declared itself the tiny house capital of America.

The hope was to reverse a long population decline by luring devotees of the growing movement of eco-conscious, do-it-yourself builders who like to live in very small houses. Town officials thought their official proclamation and elimination of nearly all building restrictions would attract the kind of adorable abodes featured on television shows like HGTV’s “Tiny House Hunters.”

Some newcomers had other ideas. In the town of about 1,000 residents located 75 miles east of Lubbock, talk soon began to surface about plans to build yurts, straw dwellings and even underground dugouts resembling something out of “Lord of the Rings.”

That was too much for the tradition-minded folks of Spur. In March, the town council hired a building inspector and passed an ordinance that requires designs to be submitted for approval.

Spur also stipulated that tiny houses be connected to the electrical grid, water supply and sewer system. Before that, the only rule was that houses on wheels be put on concrete foundations because Spur is in tornado country.

“There are some people who came here with the belief that anything goes,” says Denise Rosner, 62 years old, who is originally from the Bronx borough of New York City and was the second tiny house dweller to arrive in Spur, where she lives in a 440-square-foot, traditional-looking home.

The new rules have divided Spur’s tiny house pioneers. “It was a bait-and-switch,” says Benjamin Garcia, 24, a web consultant. He moved to Spur in November with plans to build a house out of earth. “I was very forthcoming about what I wanted to build, and they said it was fine, and then they didn’t.”

Read more – http://www.wsj.com/articles/west-texas-town-finds-tiny-house-crowd-a-bit-too-earthy-1465867332

01/10 Zoning changes allow tiny homes in Breckenridge, TX

things to do in Breckenridge, TX
Breckenridge will soon join the ranks of those communities with “tiny houses” after city commissioners voted to make requested changes to the city’s zoning ordinances to allow seven tiny homes in Breckenridge.

“There was a request to put what’s called a tiny house, if you’ve ever watched a TV show about tiny houses, you know they’re little bitty houses that have a limited number of square feet,” said Breckenridge City Manager Andy McCuistion. “And, currently, our ordinance did not allow that.”

He said City commissioners had earlier adopted the ordinance to allow Intermodal shipping containers that had a minimum footprint of 320 square feet in certain R-4 zoning districts but did not contain the wording for the tiny houses.

“If we had thought about it, we could have added this wording at that time,” McCuistion said. “It’s the same concept. So we contacted our attorney that did our zoning to make sure we had the right wording.”

The wording on the ordinance defines a tiny house as “a single-family detached home that is less than 500 square feet in size. A tiny house on wheels is considered a recreational vehicle.”

It also says a tiny house should have a minimum footprint of 320 feet and be mounted on a permanent foundation. Additionally it says only one tiny house will be allowed per lot.

McCuistion said Kevin Kutnink, the man who requested the changes to the ordinances, wants to put in seven houses.

“This gentlemen that requested that we amend that ordinance has like seven properties that he wants to build houses on,” he said. “We think that’s a good thing for the city.”

Read more – http://www.breckenridgeamerican.com/ci_29365871/city-commission-votes-amend-zoning-weed-ordinance

Accessory Dwelling Units in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX

Formally known as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU), the legality [of granny flats] is dependent on local zoning ordinances and HOA rules, but the municipal code in Ft. Worth, Texas does currently allow them. See the specific Ft. Worth ordinance concerning an ADU here.

While Ft. Worth is flexible concerning an ADU and provides an allowance for it provided you meet the rules, the city of Dallas demands that an ADU is only permissible via a special exemption.

If you are considering renovating or building an ADU or mother-in-law cottage, be cautious and carefully research the local laws and limitations. Still, even in cases where local ordinances prohibit such a dwellings, an exemption may be made.

Source: http://buydallasdirt.com/information-on-accessory-dwelling-units-granny-pods-in-dallasft-worth/

ADUs in Austin, TX

A Change.org petition was helpful in securing changes in zoning that are more supportive of accessory dwelling units.

On Nov. 19, 2015, the Austin City Council voted 7-4 to loosen the rules restricting the construction of backyard cottages. Led by Gregorio Casar and Steve Adler, the new rules let homeowners build granny flats that:

1) Only one parking space required, and zero required within 1/4 of a mile of an Imagine Austin corridor that has a CapMetro line.
2) Can build an ADU on 5750 sq ft of land, which is the standard lot. They used to require at least 7,000 square feet.
3) Reduced setbacks so its easier to fit the dwelling unit on a smaller lot
4) Can build an ADU to .15 FAR (up to 1100 sq ft) instead of just 850 sq ft
5) Only SF-3 is eligible, not SF-2 – which are zoning codes that can roughly approximate to urban vs suburban.
6) Enables all applicable properties across the city to build a granny flat. Establishment neighborhoods will no longer be able to “opt-out” of their fair housing obligations and push people to live in other neighborhoods.

Source: https://www.change.org/p/austin-city-council-allow-granny-flats-and-other-small-houses-everywhere/u/14276434

Spur TX, first self-proclaimed “tiny house friendly” town in America

Spur, TX: In July 2014, in northwest Texas, the tiny town of Spur became the first “tiny house friendly” town in America, with no minimum size requirement for homes on foundations. Tiny houses on wheels are welcome if the wheels are removed and the house is tied down. See their FAQ page. Scroll down to the question, “Are tiny houses on wheels (aka Tiny House Trailers) welcome in Spur?”

Read the details: http://www.spurfreedom.org/city-proclamation/

(Originally, we included contained a link to a blog post from Conor Maccann about his tiny living experience in Spur, but his story is no longer on his website.)

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

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.

Garland, TX response to tiny houses

From Dale Adams, posted on the Facebook group site,
DFW Tiny House Enthusiasts.

The Garland Plan Commission is submitting its final recommendations for the new development code (GDC). Council met last night for a work session with members of the Plan Commission and staff. Scott Roberts and Anita Russelman answered questions posed by council members regarding Tiny houses. The link to the Garland City Council video is attached. To skip to the discussion, look to the right under “December 1, 2014 Work Session,” scroll down to item 3C, then scroll forward to 53:16.
http://garlandtx.swagit.com/play/12012014-786

Here is what was said. No changes will be made to allow for Tiny houses except as Alternative Dwelling Units (ADUs) on “Permanent” foundations in areas zones as “Single Family Estate”. These structures must meet current building codes, standards and set back requirements. As proposed, these would be used as either guest houses or rental units. Councilwomen Lori Dodson expressed concern regarding ADUs as rental units.

There was discussion regarding the allowance of a Tiny House Community. Plan Commissioner Scott Roberts, who is also an architect, stated one could possible built as a PD (Planned Development) but stated the likelihood as nearly “nill”.

Additionally, but not directly related to Tiny Houses, there was some discussion of allowing for RV Parks to be built in Garland. Since TH can be built, inspected, certified and insured as RVs, this may provide for an option for some.

I encourage all of you to watch the video. I was there and I would say the TH community needs a good PR firm. There was a bit of snickering on the part of those involved in the discussion due to the “Trailer house effect”. Public perception is that a TH community and THs placed in yards will be poorly designed/built and not maintained due to their “temporary” nature. We need to change that perception in order to get building codes and zoning changed. The eyes are on us. When you post comments on a sight like this one, people are watching. Lets start by finding ways to promote the cause in a law abiding way that is a benefit to the community and show that this movement is positive. Also, write letters to your city council, state representatives and anyone else who can influence a change in policy.

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.

Deed restrictions take the place of zoning in Houston

The City of Houston is not zoned. Therefore, the State Legislature and City Council have authorized the City to help with enforcement of recorded deed restrictions for the protection of neighborhoods, for the benefit of all residents, citizens, and taxpayers of the City, and to promote the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of the City. Read more here: Q&A Deed Restrictions – Houston.