Size matters: what size fits your needs and how size impacts zoning regulations

In spite of the growing enthusiasm behind the tiny house movement zoning laws and building codes still only address the square footage for newly constructed homes and do not necessarily address tiny houses. The zoning codes and regulations can be quite confusing. Differences in towns across America have started to accommodate tiny houses though when grassroots organizations have pushed for change.

Types of tiny houses

There are two specific types of tiny houses. The first is one which is on wheels, legally considered a recreational vehicle. The second is one on a physical foundation legally considered an accessory dwelling unit. Should you choose to construct a tiny house on wheels it will have to be registered as an RV inside your state. In many states across the US a self-built RV has to be inspected before you were given a license plate. For accessory dwelling units things do get a bit more complicated.

So where can you actually live?

If you registered the home as an RV and you want to travel with it then you don’t need to worry about building codes or zoning laws. You simply need to find a place to park it. You could stay in your friend’s driveway with their permission, pay to park it at an RV site, or parking on your own property. Many states prohibit RVs as a full-time home anywhere other than an RV parkand tiny homes for sale in PA. And obviously the length of time you can stay in your tiny home if you are at a camping site or an RV site is contingent upon the rules for that particular location. In any case the rule about living in an RV full-time is really only enforced if the unit is complain about were reported by someone else.

If you build your tiny home foundation things get a bit trickier. Many zoning and building regulations prohibit you from purchasing land and the building your own tiny house on it. Instead you have to build it as an accessory dwelling unit which means that it is a secondary unit located on a single-family lot. So you can build it on a piece of property that already has a primary home.

Building codes and zoning laws

Construction codes tell you how you can construct the home but the zoning codes tell you where you can construct the home. In many places around the country the building codes are taken from the international residential code which contains very specific size specifications for rooms as well as ceiling height requirements. Zoning regulations on the other hand are contingent upon local factors and will typically determine the size requirements for your home based on where you want it to be parked. You will have to check with your local planning department or zoning department to figure out this information. Most places have a minimum size requirement of 100 ft.².

The best states

There are many states which have more flexible regulations. California happens to be the absolute best state at this time for anyone interested in a tiny house. More specifically, Fresno is the best city within California as it has approved tiny houses on wheels without you having to be a caregiver. In some other cities like Napa or Alameda you can only have this unit on wheels if you are a caregiver. A few towns in Colorado have changed their amendments to accommodate tiny houses. Walsenburg was the first town in the state of Colorado to change their zoning regulations were tiny houses and now the city of Durango also has a special ordinance.

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