Category Archives: Zoning

12/18 Beech Mountain, NC town planner proposes outlawing tiny houses

Beech Mountain Town Planner James Scott (right, standing) makes a presentation regarding “tiny houses” to the town council. Town attorney Stacy Eggers IV (left, seated) is listening to the presentation

Beech Mountain Town Planner James Scott (right, standing) makes a presentation regarding “tiny houses” to the town council. Town attorney Stacy Eggers IV (left, seated) is listening to the presentation. Photo by Thomas Sherrill.

Town Planner James Scott made three presentations to the council in which he asked for future public hearings on three items. The first request was for the town to amend its regulations regarding fire extinguishers to align with the state’s ordinances. The motion was approved.

The second was to explore a proposed ordinance regarding the minimum size for detached single family dwellings. Beech Mountain currently has no minimum size, so it falls in with the state’s policy, which Scott believes to be 200 square feet. [Note: this is not precisely correct, although practically a good estimate. NC law requires that homes meet the 2012 International Residential Code which requires a house have at least one room that is 120 sq ft or larger, so with a kitchen and bath, a tiny house meeting the 2012 code would likely be at least 200 sq ft.] After going over all of the detached single family dwellings in the town, Scott proposed a minimum size of 800 square feet, which aligns with the smallest known dwelling in town limits.

Read more –

12/17 Ma Casita seeks to provide tiny houses as affordable housing in Lawrence, MA

Conceptual model for  tiny steel houses on a Lawrence city lot.

Conceptual model for tiny steel houses on a Lawrence city lot.

In a city where a big chunk of the population, half, spends a big chunk of its income, half, on housing, the chance to own a tiny house with a tiny mortgage generates big interest.

It excites Franallen Acosta, 23, a 6-foot 6-inch Lawrence man who ducks when entering many homes but is keen to build wee houses in this densely settled city of nearly 80,000 souls.

The 2012 Lawrence High graduate wants homeownership for more residents. He has faced housing uncertainty himself; has friends who have battled homelessness; and his mother has for 20 years spent the lion’s share of her pay on rent, likely in the neighborhood of $200,000.

“And she’ll never get that back,” he said.

Acosta also wants to create jobs in his home city, where, according to state labor statistics, unemployment stood at 5.3 percent in October, a major improvement from the 10 percent level of two years ago but still almost twice the state’s 2.7 percent rate in October.

Acosta’s response to unemployment and expensive yet limited housing in Lawrence is founding Mi Casita. Translated from Spanish it means “My Little House.” It’s a small step along a challenging, steep path…

Lawrence’ Director of Business and Economic Development Abel Vargas says the city is working with Acosta on clearly defining tiny houses in ordinance language and identifying a property that meets his needs.

Acosta has filed ordinance language, which upon review will need City Council approval. He has filed survey results, asking residents about the need and their desire for tiny houses.

“He has taken the appropriate steps,” Vargas said. “His idea is promising…”

The next major steps will be to find financial backers — people with capital to support the initiative — and to line-up buyers.

To that end Acosta invited a tiny homes builder to showcase the product at an LCW outside event.

He has also has identified 30 people who are interested in living the homes.

It’s unusual for tiny houses to take root in a post-industrial, urban center such as Lawrence where 11,000 people live per square mile compared to a statewide average of about 840 people per square mile.

Acosta isn’t deterred. The city is sprinkled with vacant lots and the need for housing is here.

Read more –

11/02 Steilacoom, Washington Town Council to tiny-house dwellers: You can’t live there

Shannon, Peter and Hart Johnson in front of their tiny home

Peter and Shannon Johnson built a tiny house and installed it on their property in Steilacoom. The city is, like many municipalities elsewhere, grappling with how to classify such homes. By Peter Haley

Steilacoom’s “tiny house” couple have come up against town officials again and lost.

The Town Council denied an appeal filed by Peter and Shannon Johnson, who challenged an August administrative decision that ruled the couple’s 200-square-foot home could not be used as a permanent residence.

Acting as judges Tuesday night, council members unanimously upheld Town Administrator Paul Loveless’ position that the couple’s home is considered a recreational vehicle and as such the couple can’t live in it full time. Town regulations do not allow people to permanently live in an RV.

The decision came after two hours of a quasi-judicial hearing where the Johnsons argued the town’s code doesn’t exclusively state it is illegal to use an RV as a place to eat, sleep or live.

Following the ruling, the Johnsons said they were disappointed, but not surprised.

“We could pretty much tell they were going to deny it,” Peter Johnson said.

The couple said the impression they got from town officials leading up to the hearing is “this is how it’s been, this is how it’s going to be,” Shannon Johnson said.

Peter Johnson said he was frustrated that Mayor Ron Lucas, acting as the hearing’s facilitator, repeatedly shot down Johnson’s attempt to argue his case based on a proposed change to town code.

That change, recommended by the town planning commission, would further restrict RV use by limiting how long people can stay in RVs. Peter Johnson questioned the necessity of the stepped-up restrictions if town code, as city officials claim, already prohibits living in an RV.

“I believe that the act of looking at new ordinances confirms the ordinances don’t exist as they were enforced,” he argued.

Lucas said the council can’t consider a “hypothetical” code change that may or may not pass. The council could only consider regulations currently in place, Lucas said.

Town Attorney Larry Hoffman argued the Johnsons knew they were wading into a gray area of zoning regulations before they moved into the tiny house Peter Johnson built on a flatbed trailer.

He cited email communication between Peter Johnson and town planner Doug Fortner in which Fortner told him the town did not have regulations specific to tiny houses.

Fortner referred to minimum square footage requirements in the International Residential Building Code that require a home to have at least 120 square feet of habitable space, a second room with a minimum of 70 square feet and a minimum height of 7 feet.

Fortner also noted if the couple wanted to build a secondary structure on their property, known as an accessory dwelling unit, it would have to be a minimum 320 square feet. The town allows these structures on lots with a minimum of 9,600 square feet in some residential areas.

The Johnsons’ tiny house, which sits on a 120-square-foot trailer base and is estimated to be a total of 200 square feet, doesn’t meet the building size minimums. The Johnsons’ property on First Street also is not eligible for an accessory dwelling unit because the lot is too small.

Read more and watch the video:

10/27 Ordinance would allow for tiny houses for veterans

tiny house under construction for Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin

tiny house under construction for Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin

In front of a crowded room on Wednesday, the Racine Plan Commission recommended that the city create an ordinance to allow for a tiny-house village for veterans.

Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin is planning on placing 15 tiny houses on 1624 Yout St. as temporary housing for homeless veterans. The organization is seeking a rezoning and a conditional use permit to operate a transitional living facility at the location.

The commission recommended the City Council create an ordinance and set a public hearing in November.

“We’re preparing an ordinance because nothing like this has ever been done before,” Mayor John Dickert said. “This is a very laser-focused ordinance … this is a very specific, veteran-specific ordinance.”

Jeff Gustin, co-founder of Veterans Outreach, said he’s thrilled with the outcome.

“Our working relationship with the city has grown,” Gustin said. “We’re all on the same page and we all have the best interest of our veterans in need.”

Read more –

10/25 Portland, Maine tells owner of tiny RV homes in Bayside: Hit the road

Brent Adler stands in front of his tiny houses

Brent Adler, who owns residential buildings around Portland, contends tiny homes are allowed because they are essentially recreational vehicles, but the city says he’s violating the land use code. “I don’t know what we’re going to do,” he said. Photos by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

City officials have given a local property owner 30 days to remove two unusual dwelling units in Portland, Maine’s Bayside neighborhood that they say violate the city’s land use code.

The owner also has the option to seek building permits, but it’s not clear the non-traditional homes would qualify, even with potentially expensive upgrades such as a new water main to the property.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” said property owner Brent Adler, who has tenants ready to move into two units on Chapel St. on Nov. 1.

The offending structures are two tiny homes perched atop trailers that have their wheels hidden by flashing to give the appearance of a foundation. The units, each with roughly 400 square feet of living space, have been hooked up to electrical, water and sewer lines.

Adler, who owns residential buildings in the city, said he believes the tiny homes are allowed because they are essentially recreational vehicles and he could not find any language in the city’s land use code prohibiting him from parking RV units on his land and renting them out.

However, Michael Russell, the city’s director of permitting and inspections, said in an email Tuesday that RV parks are not addressed in the code and are therefore prohibited.

“Any use that is not specifically allowed in the zoning ordinance is disallowed,” Russell said.

City officials issued Adler a notice of violation Friday for “erecting structures without a permit.”

Read more –

10/14 Coconino County, Arizona invites the public to discuss draft of tiny house zoning & coding rules

Coconino County, AZ community development logoCoconino County Community Development is hosting an open house on the draft permitting process for tiny houses on Tuesday, Oct. 18. The event is open to the public to learn about the draft policy and to provide feedback before it is finalized later this month.

The open house will be at Willow Bend Environmental Education Center, 703 E. Sawmill Road from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Source for the event:

Here is the draft (note: these rules have not been yet adopted):

Permitting Regulations for Tiny Houses in Coconino County
Draft- August 19, 2016

Definition: Coconino County Community Development defines a Tiny House as a house smaller than 400 square feet; it can be site-built, partially site-built, or on an approved trailer. Houses shall not be smaller than 200 square feet.

Zoning Code Requirements for Tiny Houses:

  • Site built tiny houses built on an approved foundation system shall be permitted in zones
    allowing detached single family dwellings; must meet Community Development regulations for Tiny Houses
  • Tiny houses built on trailers, where the suspension/axle components have been removed and the chassis permanently attached on an approved foundation shall be permitted in zones allowing detached single family dwellings; must meet Community Development regulations for Tiny Houses
  • Tiny houses on mobile chassis where the suspension/axle components remain are considered semi-permanent and the chassis shall be attached on an approved foundation system, and shall be permitted in zones allowing for manufactured and mobile homes; must meet Community Development regulations for Tiny Houses
  • Tiny houses licensed as Travel Vehicles by the State of Arizona are non-permanent housing and must be self-contained, these shall be permitted for uses similar to recreation vehicles; these homes fall under ADOT jurisdiction
  • Site built tiny houses or tiny houses on trailers where the suspension/axle components have
    been removed and the chassis permanently attached on an approved foundation, and meeting all other multifamily zoning and Community Development Tiny House requirements, shall be permitted in multifamily zoning
  • Site built tiny houses, or tiny houses on trailers where the suspension/axle components have been removed and the chassis permanently attached on an approved foundation, and meeting all other Accessory Dwelling Unit zoning and Community Development Tiny House
    requirements, shall be permitted in zones allowing for Accessory Dwelling Units.

Building Code Requirements for Tiny Houses:

  • Tiny houses shall be built and inspected in accordance with the Coconino County adopted
    building code and ordinance.
  • The house can be partially or entirely built on-site or off-site. If built off-site, it needs to have been inspected and approved by a recognized agency approved by the Building Official. All Tiny Houses on Wheels (THOWs) that are built off-site and brought to Coconino County as a dwelling unit will require a plan review and special inspection by Coconino County Community Development to ensure the structural and life safety aspects of the THOW. The County can request additional remodel permits, inspections and engineering of off-site THOWs that have not been inspected and certified by another jurisdiction or third party agency-on a case by case bases.
  • The County has made the following building code adjustments to accommodate tiny houses:
    1. Minimum room dimension is 6’6” with no room smaller than 65 square feet, excluding
      storage areas and bathrooms
    2. Ceiling height is 6’4” in open livable areas, creating a non-obstructed path for egress and
    3. Egress and ingress must be provided in sleeping and living areas
    4. Lofts built as storage shall not be permitted as bedrooms, unless meeting ceiling height and egress/ingress requirements
    5. Bathroom and kitchen required, clearance in the front of the toilet needs to be no less than 15” from center of toilet to wall or cabinets
    6. Ladders/lapiers may replace stairways to loft areas (must have uniform run and rises,
      provide stair or ladder detail on plans)
    7. Loft areas used for storage may have reduced fall protection
    8. Number of electrical circuits may be reduced to reflect loads
    9. A minimum of 60 amp electric panel required
    10. Energy Code Concessions: R-15 minimum in framed floors, ceiling insulation and wall
  • Tiny houses built on trailers will need to a have Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSO), or a Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO), or be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV). Documentation must show the load capacity for the trailer. Before a Certificate of Occupancy can be issued, documentation must be provided to Coconino County Community Development verifying the load of the tiny house is within the load capacity of the trailer.
  • A Certificate of Occupancy will only be issued for tiny houses set on permanent foundations. If the home is removed, the Certificate of Occupancy is no longer valid for the mobile tiny home on wheels. If the tiny home is re-set on a permanent foundation within Coconino County, a foundation permit and special inspection of the tiny house shall be required to obtain a new Certificate of Occupancy.

Wastewater Requirements:

  • Tiny houses set on a permanent foundation will be required to have a wastewater system sized to accommodate the occupancy and fixture count.
  • Tiny houses used as RVs and sited at an RV park must be fully self-contained
  • Compost toilets need to meet ADEQ approved list
  • Graywater needs to be approved for permanently sited tiny houses, to ensure no issues with wastewater system function, as well as environmental considerations like high ground water, wells, and permeability of soils.
  • Tiny Houses on Wheels (THOWs) can include plumbing for graywater-but if permanently sited, the THOWs must go through an approval process

Engineering Division Requirements:

  • Permanently sited Tiny Homes need to meet all Engineering requirements, including drainage, road encroachments, floodplain and roads.

Source for draft code:

Draft code document: Draft-Coconino County Permitting Regulations for Tiny Houses.pdf

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:, 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.

09/20 Aiken, SC now allows tiny houses on wheels on their own land

Aiken County Administrator Brian Sanders

Aiken County Administrator Brian Sanders

Aiken County Council passed on third and final reading Tuesday night an ordinance involving tiny homes, which conditionally allows those not built on site in certain County zoning districts.

The small dwellings, classified by the state of South Carolina as RVs, drew a large crowd during a July public hearing, but the measure Tuesday was met with little discussion or opposition by Council at its regularly-scheduled meeting. The ordinance passed 8-1, with Council member Willar Hightower opposed.

The ordinance makes campgrounds and RV parks allowed wherever mobile homes are also allowed, though the new zoning districts are limited to a single camp site on a minimum of 2 acres and certain conditions must be met.

Hightower voted against the ordinance, saying he believes 2 acres for a tiny home “is a bit much.”

Read more –

09/20 Popular tiny houses fighting to find a home in urban Wasatch Front communities

Alpine Tiny Home in Utah

Alpine Tiny Home in Utah

The tiny house movement has found a home in the Beehive State, but finding a place to put the small dwellings has become a challenge for anyone wanting to live in most urban communities along the Wasatch Front.

“When you deal with tiny homes there is a lot of gray area and that’s kind of the frustration with the tiny home community,” said Morgan Brim, who is the planning and development director for the small Utah County city of Vineyard.

He’s referring to city codes regarding the tiny homes , which aren’t really considered RVs or mobile homes, but in many cases, are not the same as traditional house – which makes it tough to find a legal place to put them.

“[Tiny homes] tend to be on the fringe of the local zoning laws,” Brim said.

The growing community of Vineyard is considering changes to the municipal code to allow tiny homes a place to set up in their city, but like other municipalities in northern Utah, officials are still deciding how, where, and how many tiny homes will be welcome.

“We’re not in favor of it, we’re not against it. We’re simply doing research on it,” Brim said.
Their examination of tiny homes comes at a critical time for people buying tiny houses, many of which are manufactured in Utah County at the booming business of Alpine Tiny Homes.

“Keeping up with the demand is the biggest challenge,” owner Boyd Riding said.

There’s a waiting list for an Alpine Tiny Home. Riding says most of his buyers are ditching their traditional homes and downsizing to just a few hundred square feet.

“The whole idea of a tiny house is to have less and to literally live simply, you don’t need all of the stuff in your home.”

The average tiny home buyer is debt free and well educated, Riding added.

“They’re the kind of neighbor you would probably want to have,” he said. They’re people like Leonard and Cidne O’Reilly, who recently retired and sold their Utah County home in hopes of leaving behind their stuff and moving into a tiny house.

Read more –

09/13 Seattle Is Regulating Away Micro-Housing

Seattle Micro-housing, by the rules, 2013-2016. Sketch by David Neiman

Seattle Micro-housing, by the rules, 2013-2016. Sketch by David Neiman

Although micro-housing is not a nationwide phenomenon, it has become a niche option in cities with expensive housing. College students, young professionals, and beginning families, rather than living in the suburbs or cramped with roommates in cities, can live alone in centrally-located apartments that are slightly smaller than the average hotel room, and often have shared common spaces. Starting in 2009, Seattle became a leader in micro-housing development. But as this momentum grew in the Emerald City, NIMBY opposition arose, followed by restrictive regulations. Now these regulations have combined to effectively kill the concept, taking thousands of affordable units off the pricey Seattle market.

This was the conclusion reached by local architect David Neiman, who just wrote an extended piece for the Seattle-based Sightline Institute called “How Seattle Killed Micro Housing.” The article is a case study in how regulations can metastasize indirectly; it’s not that any one Seattle law states, point-blank, that micro-housing can’t exist. But the units have become so burdened by design reviews, parking mandates, micromanagement of layout, and location limits, that they make little economic sense for developers, and few are built. In this respect, they have become de facto “illegal…”

Neiman drew up one scenario in which a micro-housing project built beforehand would have provided 40 units, at an average of 175 square feet, and $900 monthly rents. Following all these regulations–which were mandated by a city administration that claims to care about affordable housing–that same project will provide only 21 units, at a 330 square-foot average, and $1400 monthly rents.

Read more –