Codes? Parking Your Tiny House

February 21, 2012 § 3 Comments

It seems that a lot of people are saddened and I have read several responses to Jonathan’s predicament, so I thought I’d write one of my own…

Over the last few months I have gotten to know Jonathan fairly well. He has recently ran into some complications with his awesome tiny house. I expect these are issues that many will run into because tiny houses don’t exist in the code book.  I wanted to take a moment and talk about them. If you don’t know his story read it and then come back :). I will start out saying that I feel terrible that this is happening to him. Like he says though, it is going to be a good thing, for him (I would be/will be heart-broken… but I am still going forward). I think the issues he brings to the surface are important to talk about when talking about tiny houses, there is all sorts of info around on building them, but what about the legality of them, it’s much harder to find that sort of info, though there is some. Cities, in general don’t like tiny houses, but like with any set of systems, if you want real change in our laws to include tiny houses you need to work within the system to make that change occur. I am going to try to state a couple of reasons why the laws are how they are in hopes of providing a way to talk with city jurisdictions and change the way tiny houses are thought of. Being on the front end of a trend, it is all of our responsibilities to create the change that needs to occur. The change could after all be a benefit for cities AND for tiny house owners.

For the city (or state in Jonathan’s case), there is no way to quantify the value of a tiny house, if it is on wheels then technically it isn’t even considered a dwelling but instead a temporary structure. The problem most (all) jurisdictions have with tiny houses is that they have no way to tax one and therefore have made laws that say they are unacceptable within city limits. It is partially my goal to contest this idea and find a compromise between tiny house owners and local jurisdictions. You may think ‘well that’s an over-involved government imposing things that aren’t ‘right” (which I would COMPLETELY agree with, but this is the system we have set up). Cities outlaw tiny houses for some of the same reasons they are attractive to people like myself, they don’t follow codes and they aren’t ‘permanent’. Cities rely on tax funding. Tiny house owners don’t pay taxes on their dwelling. The tax money, in most cases (there are a lot areas in the states that don’t work like this but the majority of them do…) is what funds the fire stations, police stations, schools and other benefits that come with being in cities. Therefore a person owning a tiny house, living in a city/town that is enjoying these systems is not paying into them the same as all the other dwellings in the jurisdiction are. I believe the solution is to work with the jurisdictions to create a fair rate for tiny house dwellers, and most likely a different designation than a mobile home/RV for them. I would certainly not balk at paying into these community assets, there is simply not a system for quantifying it right now so its ‘illegal’ (I have heard that Portland is the only city to date working on this aspect, which is great news! It’s a start!). Tiny houses are generally allowed in rural areas outside of city zones.

There is no way to ‘fix’ crappy neighbors however, and they seem to be everywhere, it does seem best in the mean time to talk to your neighbors and discuss what will be going on, present it as a mobile guest house/studio etc. If any neighbors aren’t cool with it before it’s even there then perhaps you should find a second location until you do find a place to park it. It all comes down to a people factor, being respectful with neighbors and jurisdictions and also educating people on the lifestyle. I do hope we can find a solution with code enforcers and be able to peacefully allow tiny houses in city centers. I adore the tiny house idea and lifestyle, I am also a city type of person, I want to remain a city person. It does seem to be the biggest obstacle really is to find a place to park it where you can enjoy the city lifestyle and not worry about being evicted… I don’t really feel like it’s an ‘us-against-them’ battle with cities, it’s about educating leaders, working in the system we have set up so they can find ways to accommodate the demand for tiny house living.

It just struck me to put my thoughts into words.

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§ 3 Responses to Codes? Parking Your Tiny House

  • Kevin says:

    I agree that finding a fair way to tax tiny houses would be the best solution since we all use these government services, but I’m a bit concerned that most officials won’t see the point in putting effort into changing laws. Right now, most cities may only have a couple individuals seriously interested in building such a house, so there isn’t a lot of pressure on them to change things. But, maybe it is worth at least sending a letter to some of the local officials to see how they respond…

    • Macy M says:

      I think that is the best part of this whole online community we have going here, we can actively show a demand for this, may not be ‘local’ yet but it’s real, and a potential draw for cities, it can show incentive for them to change. With Portland starting to become more accepting of this lifestyle there is a small community showing interest in relocating or already positioned there. It seems that once one city starts to change it will be a model that is more easily emulated for other cities, at least in theory. Maybe I am an eternal optimist… but I think it will happen, it will just take patience, respect and a determined tiny house community 🙂
      I’m stoked that you found my blog Kevin :), thanks for leaving a note!

  • […] he wanted to buy land (huge bummer) and then somehow I got linked to Macy’s blog. She wrote a reaction post to his land situation and the tiny house community’s issue in general of where to set up shop […]

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