Meet David, a University of Colorado college student, future astronomy teacher, and tiny dweller. He built a charming and super functional tiny house on wheels, as a way to embrace simple, sustainable living. Another big motivation for his tiny house was to create his own affordable student housing. CU only offers student housing for freshman and foreign exchange students. Housing in Boulder, CO, is extremely expensive and in short supply. Many CU students end up living in overcrowded houses.
For six months, David was peacefully parked in a north Boulder backyard next to a couple living in an RV. Together they created a beautiful mini-neighborhood with a community garden. The immediate neighbors and their kids loved coming over to pick vegetables. None of them voiced concerns about the tiny structures. Just before midterms this Fall, David’s hosts were received a code violation and eviction notice. The tiny dwellers on the property were asked to vacate their structures within 30 days. David’s tiny house sat in storage for about a month, while he and his neighbors worked with the City of Boulder to create a temporary allowance for non-conforming structures. The hope is this will lead to a new tiny home zoning ordinance within the next couple of years.
David shares more about his DIY build and his eviction experience:
What was your motivation to build a tiny house?
The major motivation to build my tiny house was initially just to see how I would tackle the challenge! There are a ton of mini puzzles, and you have to learn a lot of different little things in building and living tiny, and that’s what really drew me to the idea. The other major underlying reasons were affordability and an effort to reflect a minimalist lifestyle.
Where were you parked?
I am parked in Boulder Colorado. I no longer have any immediate neighbors, but the neighborhood I live in has a lot of really cool people in it. This is a small quiet area of Boulder that has a lot of elementary schools and is close to the mountains and plenty of open space.
What were the circumstances surrounding your eviction?
The city of Boulder doesn’t have any appropriate legal code regarding tiny houses or other nontraditional housing methods. The tiny is essentially non-conforming, and living in a structure was not allowed.
After your eviction, how did you work with the city to get a temporary allowance to continue to live your tiny home? What helped you in discussions with the city?
At first, there was not too much that I could do when I got the notice to evict. The major play that I made was reaching out to you two who happened to be in the area. A major player in working with the city is a neighbor who lives down the street. He reached out to me because he had tenants in a similar situation, he was very proactive and went to town meetings to discuss our interests. Another big part of communicating was my landlord, he too communicated via letters with city council trying to be open about the problem. I reached out to the city council members as a whole and told my story part of which was showing them the video of my house. Immediately the majority of city council were on our side and agreed that there was an issue with non-conforming structures and that it needed to be addressed. At a meeting they asked the city attorney if they could write a letter allowing those who were kicked out a temporary exemption to codes and ordinances, allowing us to continue living in our structures.
Is the city interested in working towards a zoning ordinance to address tiny housing?
The city is actively working on writing new ordinances to address tiny houses and other non-conforming structures. I believe that when the new ordinances are put into place my situation will be reassessed and I must conform to the new ordinance to continue to stay.
Any advice for future tiny house dwellers?
I would just say to be very diligent in making sure you can be legal if that’s what you want to do. There are many ways around tough situations like I’m in, just be willing to adjust your plan.
You can help advocate for the legal acceptance of tiny houses by joining the American Tiny House Association, and by starting a conversation with your local city planners and elected officials!
-Alexis Stephens, Tiny House Blog contributor