Category Archives: Model Zoning

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 –

10/14 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 –

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 –

05/17 Relaxing rules on “Accessory Dwelling Units” drastically increased affordable housing in Durango

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 9.24.16 AM

Planners call them Accessory Dwelling Units—plus the inevitable acronym, ADUs. What they mean are the granny flats and in-law apartments sprinkled throughout cities and towns across the land, the finished basements, above-garage studios, rehabbed carriage houses, and other outbuildings on parcels generally zoned for single-family homes.

But here’s what they really are: an instant source of affordable housing, if only they could be freed from extensive restrictions that cities and towns have in place that tightly limit who can live there.

When I was at the Office for Commonwealth Development under Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, we tried to increase the supply of new multi-family housing at smart growth locations, in town centers or by transit stations. Yet it quickly became apparent that there were thousands of existing homes already, in the form of Accessory Dwelling Units. The trick was just to open them up.

This was no small task, as it turned out. Fueled by NIMBYism and concerns about density and school enrollment and parking and congestion, cities and towns wrote reams of codes requiring that property owners prove any occupants of ADUs were actually related. If not, owners could expect to be visited by inspectors checking out separate entrances and working kitchens and evidence of occupation, and brace for a fine. Eagle-eyed neighbors spotting a second mailbox or satellite dish were more than happy to alert the authorities.

In the face of this kind of code paralysis and regulatory over-reach, it’s understandable that reformers would just give up, and try to change policy in other ways. But in recent years, a sensible program of disentanglement has emerged from an unlikely place—the small city of Durango, Colorado, just north of the New Mexico border…

Durango overhauled its Land Use and Development Code, which called out Accessory Dwelling Units as an acceptable component of housing stock…

The big problem, however, was what to do with existing ADUs.

Since many of these homes were technically illegal, a form of “ADU Amnesty” was launched. Starting with two neighborhoods as a pilot program, the city asked owners to come forward about ADUs on their property. Residents could fess up in three categories—pre-1941, when there were essentially no rules about ADUs; 1941 to 1989, when ADUs could be considered legal but non-conforming use; and 1989 to the present, when tighter zoning was in place.

If somebody established an ADU completely under the radar, they were asked to pay the fee they were supposed to pay, ranging from $2,000 to $9,000, and the property got logged into the city’s inventory database. Owners signed affidavits on basic structural safety, and filled out forms on the number of occupants, age of the structure, and the utilities in place, and furnished a photo.

Getting the transactional details on the record was basically a process of regularizing what was a robust informal economy. And with the existing ADUs thus inventoried, and the rules in place for new ADUs, the city was all set, right? Not exactly. Opposition was fierce, and clever.

Read more –

01/13 Tiny houses on wheels now legal as backyard cottages in Fresno

Nick Mosley pokes his head through an egress window in the loft of a California Tiny House

Nick Mosley pokes his head through an egress window in the loft of a California Tiny House.

Tiny houses are getting a big break from the city of Fresno. Now, other communities across the country are interested.

The pint-sized houses on wheels – complete with kitchen, living room and loft – are now considered backyard cottages thanks to changes in the city’s zoning and development code. That means tiny homes can be used as independent living quarters on the same lot as a single-family house granted it meets some requirements. Previously, the mobile units could only serve as temporary lodging.

The big deal is this “allows you to put tiny houses on your property and live in them legally, full time,” said Pat Mosley, owner of California Tiny House, a Fresno builder.

The new ordinance, spearheaded by Fresno City Council Member Esmeralda Soria, went into effect Jan. 3. California Tiny House will drive its latest model to City Hall on Thursday where Soria and the mayor are expected to tour the home. The public is also invited to get a look.

Fresno is believed to be one of the first communities nationwide to adopt a zoning code making tiny houses [on wheels] legal [in the backyards of existing homes without having to be a caregiver unit].

Read more:

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

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!

Model Code for Accessory Dwelling Units

From the editors of, what follows is a proposal for a model zoning code that ensures ADUs are small and discreet, while also providing enough latitude in their creation that they actually get built.

Accessory Dwelling Unit Model Code

1. Purpose. Accessory dwelling units are allowed in certain situations to:

a. Create new housing units while respecting the look and scale of single-dwelling development;
b. Support more efficient use of existing housing stock and infrastructure;
c. Offer environmentally friendly housing choices with less average space per person and smaller associated carbon footprints;
d. Provide housing that responds to changing family needs, smaller households, and increasing housing costs; and
e. Provide accessible housing for seniors and persons with disabilities.

2. Definition. An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a smaller, secondary home on the same lot as a primary dwelling. ADUs are independently habitable and provide the basic requirements of shelter, heating, cooking, and sanitation. There are two types of ADUs:

a. Garden cottages are detached structures. Examples include converted garages or new construction.
b. Accessory suites are attached to or part of the primary dwelling. Examples include converted living space, attached garages, basements or attics; additions; or a combination thereof.

Comment: Alternative name possibilities are listed here.

3. Eligibility. An ADU may be added to a house on any residentially zoned lot.

Comment: Some codes restrict ADUs to certain zoning designations, lot sizes, and/or geographic areas within the jurisdiction. Such restrictions significantly constrain the number of eligible properties and suppress the number of ADUs that can (legally) get built under the code.

4. Number. One ADU is permitted per residentially zoned lot.

Comment: Vancouver, BC allows both a garden cottage and an accessory suite on a residentially zoned lot. This has not been tested to our knowledge in the US, but seems like a promising idea.

Possible additional language: “Where more than one house is allowed on a single lot through a planned development process at the same or similar density as would be allowed by subdivision, one ADU is permitted per house.”

5. Creation. An ADU may be created through new construction, conversion of an existing structure, addition to an existing structure, or conversion of a qualifying existing house to a garden cottage while simultaneously constructing a new primary dwelling on the site.

Comment: It’s not uncommon for jurisdictions to limit ADUs to certain types (ie. internal or detached) or to properties where the primary dwelling is of a certain age. Such restrictions constrain ADU development, since property-specific conditions (ie. existence of basement, size of lot) often limit the type of ADU that can be created.

6. Density. ADUs are exempt from the residential density standards of this code.

7. Approval. Applications for ADUs must meet the following criteria. Requests to adjust these standards are handled through a [ ] process.

a. The applicant must demonstrate that the ADU complies with all development and design standards of this section.
b. The applicant must demonstrate that the proposed modifications comply with applicable building and fire safety codes

Comment: It’s appropriate to require a land use process for adjustments to code standards. But when discretionary land use processes or conditional use permits are required for every ADU, this becomes a significant barrier to ADU development. Land use fees and process time, neighbor notification requirements, and approval unpredictability make an already expensive and challenging project even less accessible to owner-builders (see Martin Brown’s post on barriers to ADU development). In practice, many prospective ADU builders never take the first step if the code doesn’t support as-of-right development.

8. Occupancy and Use. Occupancy and use standards for an ADU shall be the same as those applicable to a primary dwelling on the same site.

Comment: ADU codes that place more restrictions on tenure (ownership vs. rental), short-term rental, affordability and/or home business than would apply to a primary dwelling on the same lot result in less ADU construction. Owner-occupancy requirements make properties with ADUs unsuitable for income-based valuation by appraisers, constraining their value and making them more difficult to finance. Affordable housing restrictions on ADUs sound appealing, except that deed restrictions and tenant income screenings are (unsurprisingly) obstacles for mom-and-pop landlords (fortunately, ADUs provide a surprising amount of market-based affordable housing without subsidy or use restriction). An in-depth discussion of how these restrictions limit ADU development is provided in ADUs and Don’ts.

9. Design. Design standards for ADUs are stated in this section. If not addressed in this section, base zone development standards apply.

a. All ADUs (accessory suites and garden cottages) must meet the following requirements:

i. Size. An ADU may be no more than 800 square feet or the size of the primary dwelling, whichever is less.

Comment: In addition to a total size cap (typically 600sf – 1,000sf), some codes also cap ADUs to a certain percentage of the size of the primary dwelling. Note that such constraints effectively act as a small house penalty: limiting the size of ADUs on lots where the primary dwelling is already fairly small, but having no impact when the primary dwelling is big.

Possible additional language: “The size of a basement accessory suite occupying the entire footprint of a home built prior to ____ may be up to [1,000 – 1,200] square feet.”

ii. Parking. No additional parking is required for an ADU. Existing required parking for the primary dwelling must be maintained or replaced on-site.

Comment: Parking requirements for ADUs can significantly increase costs and remove lots from consideration where it is impractical to add a parking space. A major survey of Oregon ADUs revealed no evidence that ADUs contribute to neighborhood parking problems.

b. Accessory suites must meet the following additional requirements:

i. Location of entrances. Only one entrance may be located on the facade of the primary dwelling facing the street, unless the primary dwelling contained additional entrances before the accessory suite was created. An exception to this regulation is entrances that do not have access from the ground such as entrances from balconies or decks.
ii. Exterior stairs. Fire escapes or exterior stairs for access to an upper level accessory suite shall not be located on the front of the primary dwelling.

c. Garden cottages must meet the following additional requirements:

i. Height. The maximum height allowed for a garden cottage is the lesser of [20-25] feet or the height of the primary dwelling.

Comment: Definitions of height vary from code to code. If they go to the peak of the roof, consider a higher height limit. If they go to the average height of the roof, consider a lower height limit.

ii. Building setbacks. Garden cottages must be located at least six feet behind the primary dwelling, unless the garden cottage is in an existing detached structure that does not meet this standard.
iii. Building coverage. The building coverage of a garden cottage may not be larger than the building coverage of the primary dwelling.
iv. Yard setbacks. No portion of an existing building that encroaches within a required yard setback may be converted to or used as a garden cottage unless the building complies with setback exemptions (ie. for garages, properties abutting alleys…) available elsewhere in the code.

Miscellaneous Topics

Design Compatibility
Some cities, including Seattle, WA, Vancouver, BC, and Eugene, OR, don’t have any special requirements that ADUs match the exterior appearance of the primary dwelling. There’s a good case for this, especially since ADUs represent a sizable investment and builders have plenty of market incentive to make them look appealing and appropriate for the neighborhood. Design compatibility requirements often single out ADUs while offering no such constraints on other types of accessory structures (ie. garages, art studios…). For these reasons, compatibility guidelines are not included in this model code.

However, since design compatibility requirements are quite common and sometimes help build public acceptance for ADUs, following is some implementing language that could be appended to Sections 9.b and 9.d:

(Add to Section 9.a. – All ADUs)

iii. Exterior finish materials. Exterior finish materials must visually match in type, size and placement, the exterior finish materials of the primary dwelling.
iv. Roof pitch. The roof pitch must be the same as the predominant roof pitch of the primary dwelling.
v. Windows. If the street-facing façade of the ADU is visible from the street, its windows must match, in proportion and orientation, the windows of the primary dwelling.
vi. Eaves. If the primary dwelling has eaves, the ADU must have eaves that project the same distance from the building. If the primary dwelling does not have eaves, no eaves are required for the ADU.

(Add to Section 9.c. – Garden cottages)

v. Exemptions. Garden cottages are eligible for either of the following exemptions:

1. Design compatibility. Exceptions to Sections 9.a.iii.-vi. are granted for garden cottages that:

a. Are under 500 square feet and under 18’ average height, or
b. Meet Community Design Standards, defined elsewhere in the code.

Comment: These exceptions provide design latitude for smaller garden cottages and an alternative path in cases where the primary dwelling is ugly and/or out of character with neighboring homes.

2. Alteration. If a garden cottage is proposed for an existing detached accessory structure that does not meet one or more of the standards of Sections 9.a.iii.-vi., the structure is exempt from the standard(s) it does not meet. Alterations that would move the structure out of conformance with standards it does meet are not allowed. If any floor area is added to a detached accessory structure, the entire structure must meet the standards of Sections 9.a.iii.-vi.

Impact Fees
Although not typically included in zoning code language, the way building permits and impact fees (sometimes called ‘system development charges’) are calculated for ADUs can have a big effect on how many get built. This is especially true if such fees represent a significant percentage of the total project cost (particularly likely with relatively inexpensive ADU conversions). Finally, high fees can steer ADU development ‘under the radar screen,’ where there’s no permitting or inspection at all – and a greater likelihood of dangerous life/safety conditions for residents.

It’s common for jurisdictions to charge reduced impact fees for ADUs. Portland’s decision in 2010 to waive impact fees on ADUs to meet public policy goals played a significant role in the subsequent increase in ADU development. Depending on municipal policy goals, there may well be a case for setting ADU fees below what would be charged for a standard single family home or dropping them altogether

Prepared by Eli Spevak, with special thanks to co-editors Martin Brown and Kol Peterson, Jordan Palmeri, and Ben Schonberger for their assistance with this project. In assembling this code, we borrowed language and structure from multiple ADU codes including Portland, OR and Grants Pass, OR.