Category Archives: Advocacy for Friendly Zoning

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 – http://www.eagletribune.com/news/merrimack_valley/tiny-houses-big-city/article_478a11d0-e1fe-5960-9d83-a7d727a6652a.html

Aiken County, SC set to allow tiny houses on wheels on their own land

tiny house in Aiken County, SC

tiny house in Aiken County, SC. Photo by WFXG

Folks living in tiny homes are a step closer to permanent residence.

Tuesday, the Aiken County Council moved forward with a reading that would allow tiny homes to stay in the county.

Tuesday’s reading was the second passed in the Aiken County Council without any objections, but there is still another reading to go through at the next council meeting to make it official.

About half a dozen tiny home owners were at the council meeting Tuesday, hoping they wouldn’t have to start making plans to move.

Under the current proposal that was passed unanimously, they will be able to stay.

The rules are that they must have two acres of property, 50 feet between a public road and it would only be one home on that property.

Originally, the people against the tiny homes were worried they would bring down property value. It seems this wording on the ordinance seem to quell those concerns. There was no objection at the meeting.

“I mean how many RV parks do we want in Aiken County? I get that, it’s not something we would want either
but the fact that it’s a single campsite, there’s only one tiny house on the property. I think that’s doable for everybody,” said tiny home owner Kimberly Camplatarro.

The final vote and ending to this is scheduled for the next county council meeting that’s just over a month from today on September 20.

Source – http://www.live5news.com/story/32775713/tiny-homes-one-step-closer-to-staying-in-aiken

Living Tiny Legally, Part 1, from Tiny House Expedition

Published on Aug 12, 2016, Living Tiny Legally is a 3 part educational docu-series. It provides an in-depth, inside look into how a handful of cities from all over the country are making legal tiny housing, a reality.

An Educational Resource for Tiny House Advocates and City Officials

Part 1: Groundbreaking Progress + Model Tiny House Zoning

An in-depth look at how communities, including Fresno and Ojai (CA), and Rockledge (FL) are turning tiny via innovative zoning. Policy makers share their methods and insights to demystify the planning & zoning process. Advocates provide a better understanding of the tiny house movement and benefits tiny homes could bring your community.

Shareable Presentation: Tiny homes on wheels as accessory dwelling units

Here is a PowerPoint presentation created by Dan Fitzpatrick, our California State Chapter Leader. It’s similar to the one he used for his presentation to the Ojai zoning board and can be modified to suit your local community.

If you have any questions regarding its use or modification, please can contact Dan at daniel.fitzpatrick@americantinyhouseassociation.org

Generic Tiny House as 2nd Dwelling Unit PowerPoint

Ten Steps to Initiate Tiny House Friendly Zoning Changes

How to Initiate Tiny House Friendly Zoning Changes

  1. Research the existing zoning regulations to determine what is allowed within the current codes. You may want to contact both the city and the county, since different regulations can  apply to property that is within the city limits versus in unincorporated areas.
  2. Define your goals. Would you like to….
    • eliminate or reduce square foot minimums for new houses on foundations?
    • allow accessory dwelling units in the backyards of existing homes?
    • redefine accessory dwelling units to include tiny houses on wheels?
    • create a tiny house community (pocket neighborhood)? Will it be for tiny houses on wheels, on foundations, or a mix? Will residency be open to anyone or only a special group (veterans, low income households, homeless folks)?
  3. Draft a presentation that explains what you are asking for and how it will benefit the city or county. Prepare both a high level overview and a more detailed plan with definitions, illustrations, pictures and numbers. If possible, include references to other regions that have adopted the same regulations that you would like to see in your neighborhood.
  4. Decide whom to approach. It may take a few phone calls to the local zoning & planning commission to determine who would be the best person.
  5. Ask for an informal meeting with the individual you identified above. (Here’s a sample email.)
  6. During the meeting, maintain a positive, friendly attitude. Present just your overview and be receptive to any concerns raised. See the tips below. As the meeting wraps up, be sure you understand next steps –
    • Will there be a follow up meeting with this person? Do you need to provide additional information?
    • Or is the next step a more formal presentation at a regularly scheduled Planning Commission meeting? How do you get on the calendar? Is an application required? Must you pay a fee?
  7. Modify your more detailed plan based on the information you learned at your initial meeting.
  8. Prepare to speak at the Planning Commission: For those that an unfamiliar with your local government operations, all meetings most likely follow Robert’s Rules of Order. There will be an agenda, and you will need to get on it if you want to address an agenda item (like your tiny house zoning request). Contact your officials and request to be put on the agenda to address your item. If you did not get on the agenda ahead of time, there may be some speaker cards in the meeting room that you can fill out and turn into the secretary prior to the start of the meeting. When your name is called, move to the podium, state your name and address for the record, and address your item. How much or how little needs to be said will be dependent on any opposition you may face from the Commission members.
  9. Present your plan to the next level of authority, perhaps the City Council. The same meeting rules apply as above.
  10. If your plan is not approved (either is rejected or no motion is taken on it), don’t give up. You may be able to present it again at the next meeting.

Sample email from Rene’ Hardee to the City Manager
Dear Mr. McKnight,

My name is Rene’ Hardee and I am a proud citizen of Rockledge Florida! My husband, Chris, 3 yr old son, Max, and 10 month old son, Sam, and I currently live in a 2000 square foot house in Huntington Lakes. We love our neighborhood and enjoy our Rockledge Community very much. We frequent McKnight and McLarty Parks, are regulars at Malibus for Saturday morning pancakes, and look forward to the parades and craft shows that frequent Barton Blvd. Rockledge is the perfect location for our family; 45 minutes from Orlando airport, 15 minutes to the beach, 15 minutes from my job as a Quality Specialist at Sun Nuclear Corporation in Suntree, 25 minutes from my husband’s job as the IT Specialist at Space Coast Jr. Sr. High in Port St. John, and no more than 30 minutes from almost everywhere else in Brevard County.

The reason I am writing you today is twofold. First, I would like to thank you for all your years of hard work and dedication devoted to making Rockledge, FL a great place to live and raise a family. I truly feel like we live in paradise! Second, I would like to share with you a family goal that we have recently created and would like to ask for your assistance in helping us achieve this goal.

We would like to build and live in a small home of approximately 500 sq. ft. within the Rockledge city limits. While we are still several years from realizing this goal, we would like to ask for your consideration in zoning an area for housing of this size.

We have several reasons for wanting to make such a drastic downsizing. We have come to the realization that we need to simplify our lives. There is too much to do and not enough hours in the day to do it all. Because my husband and I both work full time, and because we love the community experience, we spend very little time enjoying our home. The 2 hours a night we have with our children before their bedtime is spent doing chores to take care of our 2000 square feet and all our stuff. Weekends are spent playing catch-up to all the chores that didn’t get completed during the week. We currently only use about half our house, but even that is more space than we need. The maintenance required to take care of such a large house is robbing us of our quality time as a family.

We have too much stuff. As you may know, the more space you have to put stuff, the more stuff you accumulate. And in the end, your possessions end up owning you. We would like a home that requires us to be choosy about our possessions. We want our children to be less driven by things, and more driven by experiences. We have begun the process of downsizing our possessions. We have a whole room full of things to be sold or donated, but there is still much more to be done.

We want to spend more time and money within our community having experiences. We love going out to eat, but rarely do because most of the money we would spend on meals is spent paying for and maintaining our large house. Freeing up our finances will allow us to spread the wealth, to our local eateries, shops, our church, schools, and shared community amenities, not to mention how much more we could contribute to our own retirement and children’s college fund for a better future.

I would like to be clear that in no way are we looking to evade our civic duty of paying our fair share of property taxes. Our children will soon be attending the public school system, and we plan on using the shared community facilities even more in the future. Maybe there is a way we can work out a win-win situation where we can build a small home, but still contribute financially?

I would love to dialogue with you more about this topic in person if you can spare the time. I have already met in person with Mr. Griffin and Ms. Bernard during my initial research phase and they were both very welcoming to my inquiries.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this letter, Mr. McKnight. I hope to hear back from you soon!

Regards,
Rene’ Hardee

His reply:
Rene’,

First of all, thank you for your kind comments about your city. It is truly a team effort that starts with the City Council and the policy decisions they make for staff to carry out. While we have 235 dedicated employees, we also have some wonderful volunteers that a make a big difference every day in our community!

I think it would be best if we sat down and discussed your concept rather than emailing thoughts back and forth. It is certainly a request I have never seen, but appears the Hardee family has the right priorities! Please call and we will set up a time to meet and discuss your ideas. My Assistant is Margaret and she will arrange a time that best fits your schedule.

Jim McKnight, City Manager

Tips for Your First Meeting
From a blog post written by Rene’ Hardee for Tiny House Talk:
I’ve found these tips to be quite helpful for meeting with City Officials:
– Dress for success. Business attire is appropriate.
– Give a firm handshake. Even the ladies.
– Use plenty of eye contact.
– Address the official by Mr. or Ms. Lastname, unless they tell you not to.
– Thank them for meeting with you.

Your initial interaction might go something like this:
You: Good Morning, Mr. Griffin! [extend hand] Rene’ Hardee. I know you are very busy, so thank you so much for meeting with me this morning.
Official: Hello Mrs. Hardee. How can I help you today?

This is where you should state your goals. These should always remain at the forefront of all your interactions. Share with them the challenges you are facing and ask for their help in achieving your goals. What are your options? Remember, you are looking to them as experts in your City’s regulations. They might have some really good ideas that you didn’t think were possible!

For instance, our family goals are to live a simpler life and have more quality family time. The challenges to this are the maintenance and expense of owning a large home, and the lack of options to legally own a Tiny Home.

11/12 American Planning Association’s November Issue of Zoning Practice is All About Tiny Houses

November 2015 issue of Zoning Practice

Tiny Houses, and the Not-So-Tiny Questions They Raise

[The first part of the issue describes tiny houses and communities, which you are probably familiar with, so skipping down to the conclusion…]

At this point, most city and county zoning and subdivision ordinances are unprepared for tiny houses. Answers to questions about what tiny houses are, where they can be installed, and under what conditions can be found if you search hard enough—but they are not clear or obvious.

The good news is that there are several examples of how land-use controls can
be developed or modified to accommodate new and creative forms of housing and land development. RV park, manufactured home park, and subdivision, cohousing, and cottage development standards provide a deep pool of content from which tiny-house regulations can be tailored and developed.

As with most land-use questions, however, the appropriate tools cannot be crafted until some policy questions have been answered. To prepare for the arrival of tiny-house owners and community developers in the future, local governments should be prepared to answer these questions:

• Do we want to allow the installation of tiny houses for long-term occupancy, and if so, in what parts of our community?

• Do we want to accommodate only those tiny houses that meet our current building code or the federal manufactured home standards, or do we want to create exceptions for other tiny houses that can be made safe for long-term occupancy in other ways?

• Do all tiny houses need to be installed on foundations and with connections to our electric, water, and sewer systems, or are there some areas (maybe rural areas) where we would allow them under other circumstances?

• Are there areas of the community where they should be permitted as primary dwelling units?

• Are there areas of the community where they should not be permitted as primary dwelling units, but would be acceptable as accessory dwelling units?

• What changes to our building code, zoning ordinance, and subdivision regulations need to be made to achieve those results?

With a little forethought, you can be prepared for the day a tiny-house owner shows up with some or all of the questions discussed above—and avoid that “deer-in-the-headlights” look that so annoys the town council.

Read more – https://www.planning.org/zoningpractice/open/pdf/nov15.pdf

How Do I Get Zoning Passed for Tiny Houses in My Area?

tiny house plans & model

Excerpt from a guest post by Rene’ Hardee for Tiny House Talk.

How do I get zoning passed for Tiny Houses?

This question has plagued me ever since I got wind of this magnificent movement that is sweeping the Nation. Whenever I asked this question, I usually encountered either one of two answers; a complete avoidance of my question, substituted by more selling as to why I should build a Tiny House, or a lot of uncomfortable silences and eye contact avoidance, peppered with some “wells” and “uhms”. Neither answer was satisfactory for me.

You see, I am a family of 4; myself, my husband, and our two small children. We both work in the City. We don’t want a long commute. Our kids go to school. We need routine. We need stability. We need to know someone is not going to ask us to move tomorrow.

With no clear answers, I could have called it quits on our Tiny House dream. No one would have blamed me. I could’ve let others blaze the trail, excusing myself as being too busy or risk adverse. Or I could’ve simply waited 20 years until the movement became more mainstream.

But my desire to have a Tiny House didn’t seem to be waning, just growing stronger. So I thought I might hike up my big-girl pants and do something about it. Since there wasn’t a place already designated to put a Tiny House in my City, I decided to actually MAKE a place.

Below is an outline of the steps I took (with some lessons learned inserted) to get a new Tiny House zoning regulation adopted into the city of Rockledge, FL. They are meant to provide guidance to everyone who wants to build a Tiny House, but doesn’t know where to put it.

Continue at Tiny House Talk: http://tinyhousetalk.com/how-do-i-get-zoning-passed-for-tiny-houses-in-my-area/

5 Easy Ways for Your Town to become Tiny House Friendly!

  1. Establish “no minimum sq ft” zones for tiny houses on foundations.
    • Older neighborhoods that already have many small homes are good candidates for these zones.
    • In newer communities, allow for the creation of pocket neighborhoods, clusters of tiny homes, ideal for seniors or students.
  2. Streamline the permitting process.
    • Offer simple, economical, pre-approved, tiny house plans for purchase by prospective home owners.
    • Charge reduced fees for inspections and hook ups for tiny houses.
    • Create an easy-to-follow outline of the steps required, from applying for the initial permit to obtaining the occupancy certificate. Publish this in a prominent place on your town’s website.
  3. Create zones that allow an accessory dwelling unit in the backyard of an established home.
    • Include tiny houses on wheels in the definition of an accessory dwelling unit, provided the tiny house has adequate insulation for year-round living, and has proper sanitation and heating systems.
  4. Create instructions on how to register a tiny house on wheels with the DMV.
    • Be sure to use the words “tiny house on wheels,” along with “homemade trailer,” if appropriate.
    • Be clear and specific regarding what documents are required (bill of materials, receipts, certificate of origin for trailer?).
    • List any inspections that are required.
    • State whether the tiny house on wheels must meet NFPA 119.2 or A119.5 and how the owners can verify that their house does.
    • Train your DMV staff so that everyone understands what the rules are and can explain them to the public.
  5. Eliminate maximum lengths of stay in RV parks.

Want to help YOUR town become tiny house friendly? Share these steps with your local zoning & planning officials and your DMV. Let’s create a tiny house friendly America!

Beach huts at Hengistbury Head near Bournemouth in Dorset

Beach huts at Hengistbury Head near Bournemouth in Dorset

Tiny-small house community APPROVED in Rockledge, Florida

Great news in Rockledge Florida! After a positive discussion on April 7, 2015, about allowing a tiny/small house community within city limits, the Rockledge Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to forward the proposal on to City Council for approval.

Update 5/6/2015 – Approved!

Rene' Hardee announcement

Rene’ Hardee announcement

Update 5/30/2015 – Tiny House Zoning to go before the Planning Commission on 6/2/2015
http://www.cityofrockledge.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/330?html=true

Update 6/27/2015 – Rene has created a Facebook group for a Rockledge Tiny House Community.

Update 08/19/2015 – Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 9.44.47 PM

Here are the regulations: Rockledge Tiny House Regulations

Update 09/23 – The proposed legislation was PASSED! Hooray!

Potential Benefits for Towns that Embrace Tiny Houses

  1. Creates more affordable housing, thus reducing the number of people requiring public assistance.
  2. Increases density thereby allowing people to live closer to employment & decreasing the burden on highways.
  3. Allows generations to stay together via ADUs for elderly parents in the backyard of adult children, decreasing dependence on medicaid.
  4. Increases the tax base by creating more taxable single family dwellings (assuming tiny houses are allowed on their own land and property taxes are based on a minimum that covers services such as education and police/fire protection).