White House Petition Requring States to Reform Zoning Laws to Allow Tiny Home Structures

White House Petition Requring States to Reform Zoning Laws to Allow Tiny Home Structures

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From a Tiny House Blog reader

Dear friends,

I wanted to let you know about a new petition on We the People, a new feature on WhiteHouse.gov, and ask for your support. Will you add your name to mine? If this petition gets 25,000 signatures by April 27, 2012, the White House will review it and respond!

We the People allows anyone to create and sign petitions asking the Obama Administration to take action on a range of issues. If a petition gets enough support, the Obama Administration will issue an official response.

You can view and sign the petition here: http://wh.gov/nBE

Here’s some more information about this petition:

Require States to Reform Zoning Codes to Allow Tiny Home Structures under 1000 square feet

The 1000+ sq foot zoning requirements currently in place in most states, were initiated by lenders/municipalities, in an attempt to force Americans to build bigger homes, thus incurring larger debt (so lenders could make more$) and municipalities could charge higher taxes.This practice limits the ability of Americans to achieve the “American Dream” of home ownership in a structure size that suits their needs. There is a growing trend to build smaller homes but it is difficult because of these restrictions. Laws requiring homes to be1000+ sq feet are unconstitutional and should be abolished. States should be required to remove these laws so that more families can live within their financial means, in a structure that suits their needs, and supports their environmentally held beliefs.

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cbutlerjr - March 29, 2012 Reply

I very heartily agree with the sentiment of this idea, but I don’t think a federal solution is the right direction.

While you are right in the fact that zoning for larger structures benefits lenders and builders, it’s a stretch to call that unconstitutional. If anything, a federal law requiring states and municipalities to change their zoning ordinances could be argued as unconstitutional based on the 10th Amendment.

Since every locale is different in need, it would be far more effective for people to work for change at the local level. You are more likely to get a city council to grant a variance than you are to get a bill through Congress.

Additionally, if we allow the federal government the ability to rule on this, what’s to stop them from ruling on other zoning issues that may not be as attractive?

    Sun - March 29, 2012 Reply

    The reason it is unconstitutional is because it dictates how someone is required to live. Please read up on your constitution before you make remarks like this.
    Variances are not the answer, that leaves things open for ‘interpretation’, and if the city council is big businessmen (As is usual) then of COURSE they will refuse it. Cities and townships are often too corrupt (Can you say New Orleans? I thought you could.) to do what is right for the ppl, only what is right for their wallet.

      CN Nicholby - March 29, 2012 Reply

      This is not true. The Federal Constitution leaves regulation such as this as the explicit province of the States. And most States have in turn left this as the province of counties, cities, and other local municipalities. As such, the appropriate venue in which to lodge such a complaint is with your local zoning board (and whatever rules making process they have) as well as with the State agencies that prescribe model zoning and building code adoption.

      If you are going to chastise someone for agreeing with the sentiment but suggesting a more appropriate route, you should take care not to be guilty of the very offense you are charging others with.

      tinycottage - March 29, 2012 Reply

      sorry, sun, but i believe cbutlerjr is correct.
      also, consider that if it were unconstitutional to place rules upon how we are required to live most laws would be unconstitutional as well.
      zoning codes are in place for safety (for people, the environment, etc.) working at the local level and providing justification, safety standards, etc. can get zoning and related ordinances changed.

      while there is a national building code, most states, then counties, then individual municipalities make additional code requirements, often based on regional issues.

      a “blanket” you can build anything you want, anywhere you want is parallel to you must build exactly what we say you can. there is middle ground. working within the structure of your local governing agency can prove to be very beneficial in matters such as this.

      cj - March 30, 2012 Reply

      Sorry Sun…you are wrong. Those same ‘variances’ keep other businesses from from changing your quality of life by installing something unsavory next door. It would be unconstitutional to tell someone they had no recourse in said situation. Secondly, you are proposing that in lieu of asking corrupt local politicians, we should appeal to an even larger, more corrupt govt. body? Can you say BP gulf oil disaster? Drilling in the Artic? Whale hunting? I thought you could.

      cbutlerjr - March 30, 2012 Reply

      “Please read up on your constitution before you make remarks like this.”

      I so very much want to let this go, but because you call into question my knowledge of the Constitution, I simply cannot.

      “The reason it is unconstitutional is because it dictates how someone is required to live.”

      I’m sorry, but that is not a basis for something being unconstitutional. You actually have to show that something is in conflict with a specific provision of the Constitution. Generally, this would also be reinforced by precedent case law. You have provided none of that. Barring a violation of a provision in the Constitution, the 10th Amendment would actually then leave it up to the States and the people.

      Minimum square foot zoning requirements, while personally abhorrent to me, are not unconstitutional in terms of “dictating how someone is required to live” any more than the minimum speed limit on the Interstate is unconstitutional because it dictates how I am required to drive. It is setting a guideline for what the boundaries of approval are.

      Now, we can have the conversation about whether that should be 1000 sf, 500 sf, 100 sf, or no requirement. And I think that most readers of this blog would agree that we’d love to see no minimum. But laws and ordinances that we find restrictive and maybe even oppressive are not necessarily unconstitutional.

    OhioFTW - March 31, 2012 Reply

    Cbutlerjr is correct.
    “Amendment X: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    In short, if the Constitution does not specificially say that the Federal Government CAN do something, it CAN NOT do so.

    Furthermore, Jennifer is also correct; If we are to advocate certain ways of living, the local councils meet publicly so as to give notice to the public on what is in the works, and get input. We elect them to office, and if we find their policies so disagreeable, we need to put them on notice that they are no longer welocme, effective the next time they are up for election.

    mary - June 25, 2014 Reply

    I don’t understand this, why would you want it to be recognized? By these smaller homes no counting as real homes you can live off grid and actually get away from all the lucrutivity of big business. As soon as this passes the government will make the smallest of small and sell it for the biggest profit. Keep it off the books, unconstitutional or not, keep your freedom.

Marsha CowanA - March 29, 2012 Reply

I have to say that it concerns me a bit. in my state, the housing requirement is only 400′ , and I think that is the requirement in most states, not 1000. As soon as the government fets involved, there will not only be a change in zoning laws, but also mandates on how these tiny homes must be built which will require codes and paid inspections. This would mean that the tiny home dream could greatly increase in cost as we would be told how we could heat, plumb, insulate, finish, etc. our homes. And composting toilets could also be regulated as well. Right now in my state, Sunmar and envirolet are the only recognized composting toilets , but I could never afford them. The use of recycled materials could also be regulated. I would rather work locally with my county on a one no one basis. Lease the government out of it.

TR Kelley - March 29, 2012 Reply

Very good sentiments. However, I also believe this is a local issue best handled at the State and County level.

    OhioFTW - March 31, 2012 Reply

    TR Kelley:

Jim - March 29, 2012 Reply

Totally a local issue. Don’t get the Feds involved in anything more. We need to cut back their involvement instead.

Loy Gross - March 29, 2012 Reply

Dumb idea. Zoning and planning laws balance safety and community issues with the local climate, environmental concerns and lifestyle. A ‘one size fits all’ solution is ridiculous. For example, should I build my home to hurricane standards in Ohio? How about earthquake standards in Nebraska? There is a national building standard which represents a minimum safety aspect, but states have province over zoning laws which they then typically hand over to counties and localities for good reason.

Another reason localities set their own zoning laws is choice. We, the voters in each locality, decide what our preferences are when we balance safety, community and lifestyle issues. I live in an agricultural area. Our town allows backyard chicken coops, but not skyscrapers. I would expect NYC’s zoning to be completely different. If you don’t like the way one area sets its priorities, there is another somewhere that will meet your needs.

If you prefer not to move, hit up your local zoning/planning board. Better yet, hit your town supervisor, city mayor, county legislator or other official with the actual clout to change your local zoning. Don’t bring the feds in. Like hitting an ant with a sledgehammer – you won’t like the results.

KEITH - March 29, 2012 Reply

Zoning regulations are local municipal laws that control land use and setbacks, not necessarily the building size. The building code controls issues like minimum room size, etc.. A better method would be to propose building code changes in this regard. Also, many of the miniature homes you see are not buildings at all. They are vehicles, or manufactured homes which are treated differently. You would need to change the standard now used for mobile homes. This proposal is well intended, but misdirected.

    Jennifer - March 29, 2012 Reply

    Considering that most Tiny Homes are built on trailers anyway… I gather the goal of this petition is to allow construction of Tiny Homes on a traditional foundation.

Karen - March 29, 2012 Reply

I absolutely agree that the American Dream has changed drastically and that the Zoning laws within each state, county should be changed, quickly, and accordingly for that specific area. I don’t think that Federal needs to get involved within each state or area concerning Zoning and Planning laws. I think that each of them need to decide what they want they’re community to become..large, unaffordable homes that sit empty because no one can afford them or small/tiny homes that are liveable and financially sound for a lot of people’s immediate needs. Getting federal involved is not idea. Americans needs are changing fast and we need leaders and politicians that can act expeditiously, compassionately, and effectively.

Jennifer - March 29, 2012 Reply

Change requires widespread support. Although the Tiny House movement is growing, we’re still dispersed sparsely throughout the country. If a precedent hasn’t been established in your zoning district, good luck fighting that battle. I support involving Fed. Government… Including creation of specific building regulations for tiny homes if necessary.

    Marsha Cowan - March 29, 2012 Reply

    One reason that housing is so unaffordable for many people is because of strict building regulations that drive up costs and block out certain income people. a four member family needs the same basics in the lower income level as in the upper income level. Right now, these lower income families can build a small home with recycled materials affordable. Add regulations and the money rises. Soon this housing market is available only to these with high paying jobs, too.

      -billS - March 29, 2012 Reply

      yeah just what we want, Hoovervilles. I know how the average renter respects property. Imagine the care given to something put together with scrap material. just like after the weather turned and all the occupyers left. everything would turn into a dump. you have to have minimum standards or else everything is reduced to the least common denominator.

        Kelsey - March 30, 2012 Reply

        Recycled materials are not scrap, they’re just normal materials that have been made from recycled materials.

      Jennifer - March 30, 2012 Reply

      I disagree. The petition specifically addresses building code sq foot zoning requirements. Recreational Vehicles or Tiny homes on trailers shouldn’t be affected. A change to the building code would allow people to put their home on a traditional foundation… should they choose to comply with all other restrictions.

Rebecca B. A. R. - March 29, 2012 Reply

Whether or not you think this should be a federal issue or a local issue–by signing this petition, it will at least bring it to the attention of the government and people as a whole. The tiny house movement needs the publicity, and needs to have the opportunity to educate the public about tiny houses more, so that laws can be changed at any level. I signed it, just for this purpose, b/c we all know that one petition to the white house is not going to really change anything, but it might get people talking and more willing to learn about the movement.

    Angie - March 29, 2012 Reply

    The Tiny/Small houses might need to be more noticed, but I don’t need the White House/Federal Government making any more rules. They screw up enough as it is.

    I am another that believes this is a state/local issue.

Jamie - March 29, 2012 Reply

Threw in my good name and re-posted. Keep your fingers crossed!

Dovierabe - March 29, 2012 Reply

Our local requirement is 1200sqft. Granted, this is down from 1600sqft just four years ago. A national law is not the solution. I know we Texans would object on prinicple.

I will say that changing local laws takes time and politics. When researching local zoning restrictions I mentioned wanting an 800sqft abode in true Texas Victorian style. I was told that the historical relevance made it an instant success with the city planner and I was given an open ended green light. In my opinion most cities set those laws into place to prevent people from constructing homes not in keeping with the local vibe. By aiming for a home that will fit in on Main Street, America I got approval. There’s a legal way around every law.

Davetta - March 29, 2012 Reply

I’ve just signed the petition. I have my fingers and my toes crossed. 😉

Harry Symonds - March 29, 2012 Reply

Like many others, I think we have to tackle it at the state level. In any case I will sign the petition to get visibility on the issue.

Steve - March 29, 2012 Reply

No person has any right to prevent another from building a home below a certain square footage. If someone can live in an apartment under 1000sqft, of course they can build a house with foundation under 1000sqft. Remove government’s ability to dictate to us, that’s the main idea. If we want (and most of us would) to live in a privately owned neighborhood that had restrictions to maintain standards… but with government controlling the standards, we have no choice (voting isn’t a choice, it’s a lottery ticket).

Curtis - March 29, 2012 Reply

Where can i sign this petition. Im a 29 year old man who did the american cookie cutter school college and out into a BS job world with no opportunity. I want to build a small home to live in put LOs angeles instead of renting. in one year I will pay for the construction with what I have now. Grimey ass zoning crooks. you can get anything built anywhere if you grease the right palm

kimk - March 29, 2012 Reply

There is no national law requiring 1000 square feet for a home. That would be a local law that you are looking at. Each community varies. Some cities in my area require 800 square feet with a garage and others have no minimum size beyond what the national housing codes are. I believe it is 1 room that is at least 120 square feet with 7 foot ceilings. I’m sure there are other codes as well that are designed for safety and hygiene. I think you have to go into dialogue locally with this one, or find a community that is more open to such a discussion.

molly - March 29, 2012 Reply

In my state it is a county issue. There are counties where there are no restrictions at all. I just searched the counties around where I live and they all have a 1000 sq ft minimum. That cannot include a garage or basement. All outbuildings cannot have any power or water without a permit, and you cannot camp on your land, so a tiny house on wheels would be illegal. There was no info given on how to apply for a variance or exception. It doesn’t even mention it as a possibility.

That is really disappointing. I live on the outskirts of the metro, where it is mostly farmland. I had thought I would be able to build a smaller home. It looks like I would need to be several hours away from the metro to do so.

2kids2cats - March 29, 2012 Reply

This is not a federal issue. Not even a state issue. Local, local, local. What is appropriate for one place may not be for another.

Jim - March 29, 2012 Reply

This is a local and state issue. So many are already complaining about big government interfering in peoples lives it would never gain any traction.
And this will never get through most local and state zoning and state laws. The local municipalities do not want the headaches of tiny houses as they are mobile. The tiny houses would move in and want the same fire protection, school services, police protection, youth centers, and emergency services that residents already have. And the local municipalities would be unable to levee a tax on a tiny house as it is not attached to property. And besides, if they found a way, the people in tiny houses would just move to a new place. So, they do not want the headaches, hassles, and people that could be considered transients plus use up the tax dollars meant for permanent residences.
Take the wheels off and install foundations under them so they are attached to property, then it would be possible to change a zoning rule. With the wheels, next to impossible.

    Jennifer - March 29, 2012 Reply

    I think the purpose of the petition IS directed at construction of tiny homes with a traditional foundation.

Jerry Hambley - March 29, 2012 Reply

Another crazy zoning issue in my rural county in Kansas relates to multiple residences on the same parcel of land. For example, I CAN build a home and a detached “Servants House” on my 80 acre farm but I CAN NOT build a home for myself and a small detached apartment home for my elderly mother. Crazy stuff!!

    gmh - March 29, 2012 Reply

    Crazy. I guess you just have to get around it by telling them your mother is your servant…

Barb - March 29, 2012 Reply

I know, everybody already posted this: It is a local issue. Not state, not feds.
Also, I’m leery about any argument that declares something “unconstitutional,” without providing any support for that argument. Constitutionality has a high standard. There must be a defined constitutional right and a fairly direct infringement on that right before a law might be considered unconstitutional. A state can easily avoid a rally cry of “unconstitutional” with its broad, powerful authority to legislate for the “health, safety and welfare” of the community. I think housing standards would easily fit into the health, safety and welfare category.

-billS - March 29, 2012 Reply

The biggest problem I see with this is, the end result is, more people in less place. Throw several Tiny Houses in a small area and you can have 4-5 times the people. And with current tax rates how will the schools and local municipalities be funded for the additional heads. Most Tiny people enjoy the little-to-no tax rate on a properly placed tiny home. Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it. When government realizes they the temporary tax loophole, they will quickly close it by raising the millage rate on a tiny. So if you all think you will get to build a 100 square foot home wherever you want and pay little to no tax think again. Taxes will follow.

    Andy H - April 8, 2012 Reply

    I’d LOVE to pay taxes on a tiny house if I could just BUILD the DAMN thing without these bureaucrats getting in my way.

laura - March 29, 2012 Reply

Reading this I’m so glad I live in Canada. If I can’t build in one area I can always find a nice plot of Crown Land and squat there. The inspector would have to fly in and I’d hope they forgot the floats 😛 (that is if they could find it in the first place and actually care).

Josh - March 29, 2012 Reply

What a waste of time – on more than one level. To begin with, the White House/Office of the President is the executive branch of government. When you want laws enacted you go to the legislative branch. Might as well send your petition to the Supreme Court while you’re at it. Most importantly, as has already been pointed out – laws regarding local building codes are not even remotely within the purview of Congress and the federal government. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I absolutely would not want the federal government involved in regulating things like this. Thankfully, the framers of the Constitution were pretty bright guys, and included the Tenth Amendment – “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The founders were huge proponents of the concept of “states’ rights,” and would probably be appalled and saddened by the amount of power the federal government already has.

And consider this – if you want to give the federal government the power to regulate this type of thing, it would then have the power to come back in the future and declare nationwide minimum building standards, such as a minimum square-footage requirement for full-time residences.

    2kids2cats - March 30, 2012 Reply

    There are times when I just love your ornery posts. This is one of those times. You are absolutely correct.

King - March 29, 2012 Reply

Don’t people know by now that you can’t get any “help” from the federal govt? They only make everything worse. Ignore them (mostly because we will all have to just to afford food as they destroy the economy). You want a regulation? Another new regulation? Are you friggin’ serious? Stop bankrupting me.

King - March 29, 2012 Reply

Go to New Hampshire with all the places with zero zoning (some are low tax too and there are towns working to abolish property taxes (Grafton NH)). Plenty of people in the agora to help each other. Check out the Free State Project.

ShelterKraft - March 29, 2012 Reply

As an architect and small home builder I agree with the main sentiment here that as far as zoning and building codes go this needs to stay a local issue. What should happen at the federal level though is that HUD and FHA regulations need to be changed to allow the financing of smaller homes.

Financing institutions follow the HUD and FHA standards and won’t finance a house under 400 sq.ft. except as an unsecured loan at a higher down payment and rate (like a boat or RV). This excludes a large segment of the population who are struggling to make ends meet and can’t break away from a month to month rent situation to owning their own small home.

By the way, this would be a great entrepreneurial venture for someone with the resources or contacts to set up a lending institution that does small/tiny home lending (micro-loans). If anyone knows of such a company please write me.

    Bill Rockhill - March 30, 2012 Reply

    Good point “Shelter craft” , It might be a good idea to set up “residential” financing for the “Tiny House” industry, but they must be “defined” first,are they going to be “on wheels”,( a flight risk) therefore justifiably a higher interest rate, are they to have a :well (tested), an engineered and health dept approved septic system, meet all the site requirements for “off street parking” etc. You get my point? If you are to build a “Tiny House” on wheels and it meets “travel trailer” requirements then there are already plenty of institutions to finance them, if you want to “self build” a tiny house you will be met with the same skepticism any body off the street meets when they go to a bank and say “i want a building loan” but have no “track record ” of ever building a house, these people have a tough time getting a loan also , and I believe “rightfully so” , no experience, the odds are against them completing the project on time and on budget let alone properly….this is not to say i am against anyone building anything, just look at it from the “banks” point of view, and lord knows I dont want to defend these guys….

    Josh - March 30, 2012 Reply

    What should happen at the federal level though is that HUD and FHA regulations need to be changed to allow the financing of smaller homes.

    Financing institutions follow the HUD and FHA standards and won’t finance a house under 400 sq.ft. except as an unsecured loan at a higher down payment and rate (like a boat or RV).

    Is this because they’re following “regulations” that prohibit them from lending, or “guidelines” that help make decisions on what is appropriate for a home loan? As you say, smaller homes can be financed with more up front and higher interest, but what leads you to think that anything would change that? The lender is still going to be taking a much greater risk with a small or tiny home than a conventional home. I don’t imagine a major mortgage origination company is going to have any incentive to bother with the occasional tiny home at much greater risk than conventional home loans. The problem of these homes being appealing to only a very small percentage of the population is still going to continue to cause lenders to not accept the home as security on the loan – if you default they’re stuck with something they can’t easily resell. I wouldn’t take that risk if I were trying to make profit, regardless of what the regulations allowed. I don’t see how it’s really an issue of government regulation – it seems like it’s an issue of internal regulations by mortgage lenders to prevent bad business decisions in the form of risky loans.

Jennifer - March 29, 2012 Reply

I would like to legally get a permit, build a 200 sq ft home, otherwise to the established building code, on a permanent concrete foundation, connected to city utilities, my own land, pay taxes and buy home owners insurance! Just like any other home owner. But, I can’t.

The REAL question is… Is living in 200 sq ft safe? And does our local government have the right to make this decision for us?

At the moment that decision IS with our respective zoning districts. Obviously, many people are unhappy with their local regulations. If it can’t be worked out locally, we have to move up the chain.

If you’re happy essentially squatting on your own property, awesome. I’m not.

Paula - March 29, 2012 Reply

The site is not secure and I’ve never seen a site that starts with wwws. , www. so I’m skeptical.

tiny watcher - March 30, 2012 Reply

Federal Govt has been too involved in things like Railroads and train whistles… 100ft swath thru the country all about us. Why cant horns be at the point of use for the regular and routing crossings and on the locomotive for emergency? why do we have to listen to the horns miles away for the chance that there will be a car at a crossing? Why dont i have to whistle when in my car at an intersection? BECAUSE THE FEDS are involved? Why cant the whistle be IN THE CAR?

Most states have a ‘SMART GROWTH” plan which does cover most of this size.. in fact the entire plan is determined by size of land and size of structure. Those who have tried to build a tiny know this. Go tot he SMART GROWTH website and check your respective state for the info and sub to the SMARTH GROWTH newsletter.

Most importantly, learn something about AGENDA 21 which is going to get more attention as the grip of smart growth tightens.. HERE: http://www.newswithviews.com/DeWeese/tom194.htm

Learn about it and start attending the P&Z meetings at your town/village and then at your COUNTY. If your local legislator/county board members dont know about this, educate them… again, http://www.newswithviews.com/DeWeese/tom194.htm take the time to explore AGENDA 21. You will not like it.
Keep the FEDS out of our business. Let each state govern for its people. At least then you can leave a state for one that is more to your liking and ethic.

    OhioFTW - March 31, 2012 Reply

    tiny watcher:
    As to the railroads, the Feds decide because it is interstate traffic; after all, trains going from, say, Detroit to Alabama would have to obey different sets of laws for every state or locality they enter for warning. Would it be better for warning horns to only be at intersactions? Maybe. But just concerning their control, it is the same reason they handle aviation with the FAA, and every state doesn’t minit its own currency (constitutionality of the Federal reserve aside…)

      tiny watcher - April 2, 2012 Reply

      eyerollll, the illustration was to show just how impossible any variation on the FEDERAL law by the common people would be… ITs a fed law. duh….

tiny watcher - March 30, 2012 Reply

I also find it interestiing that a place at a nursing home/assisted living is smaller that what one would be able to build as free standing. I would love to see tiny all about the place for elders especially, open plan, ramps, no steps, minimal lips at doors, sloped floow in baths/showers and appropriate kitchen structure. In a building, with sloped access (under roof) all to a covered, not necessarily an enclosed garage, area with enogh width to open car doors fully, and have space for two cars…. the owners and the caretakers UNDER ROOF. Size limitations also force some people into nursing/assisted when they could live independently if the structure was conducive. I can imagine a grouping of these in an area scattered in any municipality and would allow the resident the chance to continue to enjoy the personal triangle of activities they were accustomed to.. church, stores, pharma, friends, clubs, government, restaurants…. Once in a nursing home, there is little PRIDE OF PLACE since ‘IT AINT YOUR PLACE!”

tiny watcher - March 30, 2012 Reply

Re rules at county/town levels…
I think you will find that there are steps wherein neighborhoods were reviewed, public meetings held and town board/trustee meetings held allw ith public input and then documentable approval by a majority and then another level of public hearings and approvals at the county level before these are enacted. The participation at the time by the residents (which may have been zero ) in my experiences has usually been very low and not until the laws/ordinances are in place and they are applied to a parcel does it become apparent that there was a disconnect between what was being discussed, info beiing sought from the citizenry and what the ‘authority’ was trying to do. Non-conforming is a HUGE issue in communities where there are historic structures that WERE residential but are being used as commercial and vs. Additions to thes structures to make them conforming for handicap can actually be prevented if the cost is over 50% of the assessed value of the structure at some historic date. The goal most often is to have old srucctures torn down for the benefit of new and to regrow a community. People need to become involved in what is happening where they live but… i dont hold much hope for a big change in demonstrated uninvolvement. I could use some on this board as an example… We want a tiny and then get in uproar when we cant build a tiny where we live…. well, didnt you know about the laws where you live? dint you get involved? did you really think that you were going to be served by your elected officials if you didnt let them know you were interested in going tiny? when WAS the last time you attended a local board meeting? when did you attend a local school board meetng? Attend JUST TO FIND OUT WHAT IS HAPPENING or to learn about how to go about presenting to them….. dont answer. I already know the answer.
BECOME involved, listen, learn and deal with the issue locally thru the proper legal channels.

    Jennifer - March 30, 2012 Reply

    I’d encourage you not to presume how involved others are in their own community. Its very easy to know what’s going on.

    But, for those that aren’t up to speed on all their local board meeting… Try your local TV listings, or newspapers. Some cities (like mine) broadcast them publicly.

      tiny watcher - April 1, 2012 Reply

      Miss Jennifer, in the year or so I have been oin this feed, I am astounded at the lack of knowledge people have until they try to build a tiny and then it is NEW NEWS… Jennifer Mediaselect only the most outrageous to sell. Unless you are AT the meeting and the Chair/president allows you to speak, you likely will not have much of an idea of what is going on unless you do your homework. I read your comment at flippant. Government is not flippant. It is slow, and usually permanent!

        Jennifer - April 6, 2012 Reply

        I’m not sure I follow… My comment at flippant???

        In the week that I’ve been on this website, I’m astounded that you assume to know how EVERY county and city government is organized. And then you blast your opinions as facts.

        My local board meetings are broadcast live, in their utterly mind numbing entirety. Zero editing. Agendas are publicly available.

    Bill Rockhill - March 30, 2012 Reply

    Thats well said Tiny Watcher, you hit the nail on the head, YOU have to GO to the town board meetings and planning board meetings before you even think about “complthe review of aining”, I have served as an “elected” Town Coucilman for 8 years,I sat on the review of hundreds of proposed projects been to countless,variance hearings,public hearings, in general very few people show up in “opposition” to almost anything accept “obvious” commercial transgressions, all this “Hubub” and what “YOU” want will probably fly right by at a variance hearing….but do not expect to “Not Pay Taxes”….like everybody else..thanks Tiny Watcher…Bill

Brian - March 30, 2012 Reply

I was *nearly* the first commenter on this topic. Given the current national political scene, the post’s premise was *very* upsetting. I was about to launch into a fiery rant about the 10th Amendment, excessive Federal interference in our lives, etc. But then I thought, “Oh, why bother? Most regulars at this site are Lefties who don’t give a crap about limits the Constitution places on the Federal government.” So instead, I decided to wait to see what others would think.

Fascinating responses overall! The first comment and its responses were *very* encouraging. The Tiny House lifestyle appears to be an intersection between the Libertarian “off the grid and independent” mindset and the Leftie “save the planet from evil humans” mindset.

    Dovierabe - March 30, 2012 Reply

    It’s not so surprising when you consider this blog’s majority audience. We’re mostly adults seeking financial freedom while recognizing the need for government and taxes. From what I’ve seen posted on many threads here we’re also mostly Average Joes who want to live in not so average homes for various reasons, not limited to finances or tree hugging.

    tinycottage - March 31, 2012 Reply

    Most regulars at this site are Lefties who don’t give a crap about limits the Constitution places on the Federal government.”

    …i’m one of the original responders that you found “very encouraging” 🙂
    i’m a leftie — and yes, i worry about the limits and bounds of constitutional issues. personally, i do give a “crap”. discussions can get very heated when folks make blanket statements about others ideology.

    i’m building my tiny cottage because i like small spaces. it is because of aesthetic reasons….personally i don’t like hugging trees or labeling other humans as evil….i just believe in personal choice, provided it does not impede upon others.

      tiny watcher - April 2, 2012 Reply

      i am pretty much a regular on this blog and i doubt those who know me in person would consider me a leftie… thats the problem with people who want to LABEL and GROUP up people into a PArty that clearly isnt a party. We have a pres campaign going on at the moment and people throughout the county cant figure out from one state tot he next which of the rep candidates is the correct, single candidate. You just cannot group people and have any credibility. You’ll have to change your moniker, because i wont give you any credence in the future… duh.

    alice h - March 31, 2012 Reply

    Left or right are very limiting,one-dimensional terms. There are good and not-so-good people and ideas all along various ideological spectra. It’s not so much “save the planet from evil humans” as “preserve human friendly habitat from stupid, greedy activities that borrow too heavily from the future”. “The planet” will be fine no matter what we do. Habitat our species can live in comfortably, not so much. Unfortunately human friendly habitat is also home to a lot of other life that we’ll drag down with us if we blow it.

Bill Rockhill - March 30, 2012 Reply

Great comments …its good some “understand” local municipal government, the states and the fed have almost no control over zoning ..control begins in your local town then up to the county, the states are “lost” after this level…if you want to live in a “tiny house” in any town, that has “minimum size laws” , then you request a “variance” to that law, you make an application, have your legally drawn up plans, a proposed site plan and location for your tiny house and you go before a “zoning board” or in many many cases a local “planning board” , you might get “approved ” to build if not , then you file a grievance and go before a “zoning board of appeals” or in front of the “town board” and you have to show and answer approx. 5 questions, concerning how the existing zoning “creates ” a hardship, also your proposed neighbors can come to a public hearing in favor or opposed to it…this is how “YOU” change the rules, ONE building at a time……..
22 hours ago · Like · 2

Bill Rockhill - March 30, 2012 Reply

Of course not all states regs are the same , if there is s “conflict” at the county level,then the state gets involved, the state “adopts” federal “guidelines” these are passed down to the counties and then to the municipalities to enforce, these “guidelines” are very basic and are “interpret able” by the local municipalities, usually they want “fair and equal” enforcement, there is a “loophole” called a “variance” law..which gives every “citizen” and land owner a “forum” to plead they’re case…I am for Tiny Houses , I build them, I build big homes also, everyone’s interests “must” be protected,that includes the McMansions and the Tumbleweeds….issues to be dealt with are, Fire safety and egress, health dept water and septic,setbacks from neighbors, access by emergency vehicles…..and protecting the “economic” interests of those who are already paying taxes and have established assessment values on their property, this is why there are “camper” regulations and minimum sizes established for “neighborhoods” I do not “fully” agree with these but they do exist, to protect not hinder, As many have stated a “finely crafted” tiny home “may” be a welcome addition to many “progressive” neighborhoods…and not welcomed and shunned in others… and there are at least two sides to this discussion…and the last thing we should seek is “more ” Federal involvement…. thanks Bill..

Bill Rockhill - March 30, 2012 Reply

On this same subject ,it should be understood how “municipalities” view any tiny house or medium sized house and even large houses, they “start” with “minimum” useage…costs…even if you have a one bedroom house that is 1000 sf or a tiny house that equals a “one bedroom” you are required by “health dept ” law to have a minimum septic size of approx. 1000 gallons and a leach field length of 140 lf this is adjusted by “perk” tests, what I am getting at is, your “tax” will be based on the minimum “norm” so even though your tiny house is only 120 sf you will be taxed at a “minimum” house size of 1200 or 1000…this is actually “fair” to the whole community….and the idea of it being “on wheels” and not “paying” any tax is just plain ludicrous , if you want to “move into a neighbor hood” and have all the services, and the ability to send your kid/kids to school then you should feel “responsible” to pay your fair share….sorry to ramble..Bill..

Bill Rockhill - March 30, 2012 Reply

The “Key” is ,”To find a sympathetic Town,Municipality, County” that will work with you… one building at a time…then you will “set a presidence”…..if you really want to live somewhere, you have but to ask. put down a binder on a piece of property, then go through the process. If you are looking to change “all the existing site review laws” across the country, you are being very very unrealistic….and if you “insist” on the building being on a trailer , with no foundation, and want “tax consideration” as a “non permanent” structure, you are really reaching….you can not expect entire “permanent” home communities to “accept” you into their fold, with non conforming structures and minimal or no taxes because of the “on wheels thing” , when you are bringing “nothing” to the table, but a “cute” finely crafted “tiny house” and zero stake in the community, this is against all “tribal law”….you want all the “amenities of community,but add nothing”…Again thanks Bill..PS I transfered these posts ( thats why there are too many back to back) sorry.. as this same subject was going on on the FB version of Tiny House Blog….

    Josh - March 30, 2012 Reply

    then you will “set a presidence”

    A presidence, huh?


    My God man, your posts remind of the episode of Friends where Joey has no idea what the hand-quote gesture means and uses it incorrectly. I can’t possibly see how everything you put in quotation marks is supposed to be ironic. It’s kind of like how some people capitalize certain portions of their writing to signify an escalation in their voice – anger or excitement, and other people type entire posts in all caps, and it’s annoying and difficult to read.

      Bill Rockhill - March 30, 2012 Reply

      Josh my good man, “GET A LIFE”

        Josh - April 1, 2012 Reply

        Josh my good man, “GET A LIFE”

        I have a pretty fulfilling and respectable life – plus, I can effectively communicate in writing at a level better than that of a middle-schooler. Now, you can attempt to insult me by implying that I must not have “a life,” (ironic coming from someone who posted six comments in less than thirty-five minutes, but, you were trying to communicate your ideas, but doing so very poorly. It might behoove you to, instead of taking an ineffective jab at me, consider that maybe you need to work on your writing skills if you want anyone to read and digest what you are saying. It’s pretty easy to dismiss things that look like they were written by a 12 year-old without making the effort to try to decipher what they’re actually trying to convey.

        Try reading your comments out loud and making the air quote gesture while putting an emphasis on everything you put in quotation marks. It shouldn’t take long to realize how ridiculous it sounds.

          Bill Rockhill - April 2, 2012 Reply

          “Josh” you are so, so, right you definetly “talk” and “write” much better , then me, the difference is I am a “doer” not a talker, I add things to these blogs to “help” people , not talk to hear the sound of my own perfect little voice, when you grow up you and make that decision, to….”help” or to “hurt” you will be a man…..you sound like a “whelp”…as far as me posting 3 or 4 comments in a row “if ” you read back you would see that they were transferred from the other post on FB for the Tiny House Blog and I apologized for the clutter and multiples, just tried to get the info out there, you obviously have not done your “homework” yet “Mr. Tiny House Enthusiast”….. and these “blogs” are a forum for information not a fencing match for pseudo intellectuals , you know its funny I posted three or four posts and you made no comment on the “content” just on how it was “written” , HMM I wonder why that is?

          Josh - April 2, 2012 Reply

          …you will be a man…..you sound like a “whelp”…

          I was in need of a good chuckle, and that certainly did the trick. Thanks.

          its funny I posted three or four posts and you made no comment on the “content” just on how it was “written” , HMM I wonder why that is?

          I thought that it was obvious – it was so poorly written that I didn’t even bother to finish reading it. I suggested you try to read it out loud and over emphasize the words in quotes as you would if you were speaking and using the hand quotes gesture. That’s what I hear in my head as I try to read your comment. I find it difficult and usually a waste of time to read things that are very poorly written. That was my whole point about being effective in your writing if you want people to read your ideas and give you any credibility. If I were, for example, reading cover letters from potential job applicants and came across one full of grammatical and mechanical errors, I wouldn’t bother reading the whole thing – it would get crumpled up and thrown in the trash after a couple of sentences.

Paula LH - March 30, 2012 Reply

While I would approve of local municipalities reducing the minimum size of houses, I heartily disapprove of it being done at the federal level. Come ON, folks!

Jon - March 30, 2012 Reply

I just signed, I hope to stop renting some day and build my own tiny home and don’t want to be forced to build it on a trailer. I want things you can’t get in a trailer like real plumbing and a street address. Thanks for the blog and the heads up on the petition.

    tiny watcher - April 2, 2012 Reply

    you are on this blog. You have read the comments from people here who have the experience on the citizen side and the elected official side and still you signed the silly petition.

    You need to learn a little more. Volunteer to be on the P&Z committee of your local municipality. you will learn what you need to learn to KEEP THE FEDS OUT OF YOUR BUSINESS.

      Bill Rockhill - April 2, 2012 Reply

      Tiny Watcher
      Well said, less government the better…and you should take the opportunity to go to a “Planning Board” monthly regular meeting, go to your Town Board and School Board meetings , learn the people and their mettle….from being in the audience you will learn who you can “approach” with different issues, that is their “job” to serve you and run the town, “FAIRLY”….knowledge is power …cliche I know , but knowing your little town or community is easy if you take the time, and on a even more positive note….join or help the fire dept, help out at a senior citizens facility, help some community organization “FOR FREE” it will, I promise you come back to you 10 fold ( this not being your only motive)…..you will make contacts with the people “in the drivers seat”……Thanks Bill…..

Randy - March 31, 2012 Reply

Regarding the Cavco “floating home” that Kent added the URL for, I visited their site because their cabins are cool, but came across this statement: “These Cabins are built to ANSI code. Therefore they cannot be placed on private property and only in designated parks.” Who ever heard of building a cabin that cannot be parked on private land?

    Engineer Guy - April 2, 2012 Reply

    As one digs into this sub-Topic, you’ll find that Cavco markets Park Models, and to associated Markets. The necessary Specs for them to meet are ANSI; more from the RV/Mobile Home ‘Universe’. In contrast, fixed House Specs would be have to UBC-compliant, and also meet non-Mobile Electrical, Plumbing and other Codes.

    Indeed, some Homemade RV Trailer Fans have run into issues, and been turned away from short-term RV Parks, if their Mobile Abode doesn’t have proof of ANSI compliance. The ‘fear’ is that Wiring or Gas Plumbing might be sub-standard and cause a Fire, etc..

    If their Products can’t be set somewhere and hooked up ‘legally’ makes perfect sense, even if it seems frustrating or nonsensical.

Bart - April 1, 2012 Reply

Kind of funny how we all have ancestors who grew up on little house on the prairie. Grew our own food, raised our own meat, built out own little 300 square foot homes with the upstairs for 3 children. AMERICA it is about time we abolish the minimum zoning requirements for 1000 square ft homes. I lived for a number of years in a camper 8×24 and was warm, content,and managed to save a bit of money. We have been paying 200k mortgauges for too long. I now live in a 650 sq foot mobile home that is too big for my wife and I we never even walk to the other end of the home. We were much more content in our little 8×24 castle. If my zoning would permit I would definitly be back in a tiny home again

    Bill Rockhill - April 2, 2012 Reply

    I empathize with you brudda, there is too much red tape these days, it seems you have to spend so much of our lives trying to “cut” the tape rather then living it….On the subject of being able to live in a smaller place where you are already established, maybe you could make a couple simple sketches ( minimum financial out lay, maybe grab a couple photos from the net and make a “variance” application, in your local town/village….if you present your case well,and show it will be a “burden” on you to stay the size you are… you might be surprised.. the town boards and ZBA zoning boards of appeals have the “Local” power to “overturn” many many laws as they see fit….jus a suggestion…I wish you well,in your little castle…Bill..

Richard - April 3, 2012 Reply

One thing not mentioned, or I over looked in the posts. No mention is made of the International Building Codes. They dictate the minimum size of habitable areas for health and safety issues. i.e. size of window openings to allow escape in an emergency, height of ceilings, etc.
This is done with safety in mind. Unfortunately many tiny homes do not meet these requirements. Perhaps if the ICC were petitioned to modify their codes, them jurisdictions would go along with them.
These jurisdictions are required to maintain these standards in order to meet regulations pertaining to insurance regulations.
Unfortunately, it is not about the home owner/builder, but if and when the house is sold, the new owner, may choose to “sue” if something goes wrong.
I believe these are great ideas and would love to develop an area that allowed them.
Having been in the code business for close to 20 years and dealing with some of these issues, they need to be addressed.
Variances could be one why, but the better would be to change the regulations.

Richard - April 3, 2012 Reply

AS to my last post. I seem to be saying what some others are. However, the International Code Council is not a government agency. It is a guideline used by jurisdictions. Go to them and get them changed. Anyone can do this.

Bill Rockhill - April 3, 2012 Reply

Whelp…keep working on your “resume” sonny, I am sure a “wealth”of experience will grow on those pages……

alice h - April 3, 2012 Reply

I once built a log house in “downtown” Whitehorse,Yukon. Plans were submitted and approved, logs cut and assembled when suddenly there was an issue that my house was too small to meet a minimum 18′ width. No idea how they overlooked it, everything was clearly marked on the plans. After a stop work order and days of discussion the inspector decided that since the top log was (just barely!) 18′ from outer tip to outer tip it would be OK even though technically it was supposed to be an inside dimension. Everybody kept calm and polite throughout the whole ordeal and all parties were interested in finding a solution. Whatever you do, don’t lose your temper and insult the officials, no matter what your views on the need for regulation.

    Richard - April 5, 2012 Reply

    Exactly, work with the system.

    Many times there are ways around something if you ask the right questions

Mitchell Rasor - April 6, 2012 Reply

I can’t follow all of this, but we propose ordinance changes to communities regularly as part of our professional services – including min. dwelling size – and we never deal with the Feds or even the State for that matter. Just a local code issue – with sign off from the CEO and Fire Chief required.

BigGoofyGuy - April 8, 2012 Reply

with the economy, being able to have and/or build a small house would help a lot people fulfill the American Dream; IMO, does not have to be big to be home. 🙂

Diana - November 11, 2012 Reply

Note: New York City is building small apartments to fulfill 1 & 2 family size dwellings to accomodate the growing tiny homes wishes. Now that a very small apartment is approved I see tiny homes size dwellings being approved in a couple years. I just wish a tiny home developer would create a tiny home community here in Western New York. Our land is cheap here.

Patricia - December 26, 2013 Reply

I would LOVE to sign the petition, and spent a bit of time on the site recommended trying to do just that but unfortunately cannot locate the petition. Any hints as to how to find it? It’s not located under the umbrella of “zoning laws” , “housing” or anything else I looked at. Some assistance would be greatly appreciated!

j.e.glaze - July 9, 2014 Reply

What is the provenance behind the zoning laws? I mean, where is the history of this, in writing, that proves that, yes, these laws were formed for the purpose of gathering more taxes?

i merely want to have evidence when I discuss this with others.

Kevin Rondeau - January 10, 2016 Reply

Sun stands correct: The liberties expressed by our federal founding fathers include the federal right to be free from local and state restrictions that are absurd; such as laws that interfer with private home ownership by dictating how a paersons home is to be built for the purpose of financially benefitting the few at the expense of the many. The Fourteenth Amendment gaurantees the individual the right exercise his or her liberty to use their own private land as they see fit without interference from state or local governments. Anyone that argues this not an important federal issue is in the pockets of the banking industry and should be considered for public execution for treason.

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