Top Places for Tiny Homes in the US
Diminished carbon footprint, cheap to nonexistent utility bills, a cozy, utilitarian residence tailormade to suit your needs as a homeowner—there’s a lot to love about tiny houses.
But you sure couldn’t tell by the overly restrictive zoning practices of most local governments.
In spite of increased demand for affordable housing, and a growing awareness of unsustainable building practices’ impact on the natural world, these institutions seem hellbent on preventing tiny homeownership (usually by mandating minimum size requirements, or requiring that homes be built on a foundation, rather than sitting on wheels, as some tiny homes do).
Thankfully, zoning laws across this country aren’t universal.
By relaxing zoning restrictions and making their communities more hospitable to this new generation of eco-conscious, economically savvy homebuilders, these cities and small towns have inspired an influx of vibrant, young, engaged new citizens.
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Though it is still quite an expensive place to live, the city of Portland, Oregon is—somewhat unsurprisingly—one of the most progressive in the country when it comes to zoning for unconventional residences like tiny homes.
If you’re ready to decamp for the torrentially rainy wilds of the Northwestern US, for the express purpose of settling down and building (or buying) your tiny home, it might interest you to know a few of these key facts about the tiny home scene in Portland.
- In 2017, City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly asked the Bureau of Development Services, the government entity responsible for creating local zoning codes to “deprioritize enforcement against tiny homes… on private property effective immediately”
- Tiny homes on wheels haven’t been legalized, exactly—just “decriminalized”
- Accessory dwelling units (ADUs)—that is, secondary residences that exist on the owner’s property with their permission—are permissible in Portland, as Nolo.com points out; these must sit on a foundation, be forty feet from the front property line, and adhere to other requirements
The town of Spur made headlines a few years ago when it declared itself the most tiny home-friendly municipality in all of the United States.
As long as the tiny homes in question are built on foundations, they may be of any size the builders so choose, and they may be constructed on traditional city lots.
With cheap land, and fiber-optic connectivity in the area that offers high-speed internet access for remote workers, Spur is undoubtedly the most conducive area in the United States for those seeking to develop alternative housing solutions on their own terms.
Don’t get too ahead of yourself, though. This may be the Wild West, but there are still a few basic requirements for tiny houses.
Tiny homebuilders must comply with local regulations in order for their property to be approved, per the city council’s 2014 proclamation regarding tiny homes. Some of these regulations include:
- The tiny home must be built on a cement foundation of at least six inches in height, and that foundation must be reinforced by steel so that it can support load-bearing walls (tiny homes on wheels must be connected to a foundation in some way)
- City utilities—that is, water and sewer services—must be accessible through the tiny home; no composting toilets are allowed
- There must be a driveway installed by or near the tiny home
- There must be an address assigned to the tiny home
The mandates coming from the city council of Walsenburg, Colorado regarding tiny house construction are much the same as those of Spur, Texas. The tiny home
- Must be permanently attached to a sturdy cement foundation
- Must be connected to city utilities such as the water and sewer systems
- Cannot be any smaller than 130 square feet
But for those seeking to build highly compact residences, be forewarned: local Homeowners Associations in the area may have a minimum square footage requirement for their residential lots that could fly in the face of your architectural aspirations.
Can I build a tiny home where I live?
Want to find out if your city or town is hospitable to tiny homeownership?
The American Tiny House Association recommends that you do the following to check:
- Hop on Google (or your search engine of choice) and type in the name of your county and your state, as well as the phrase “building codes”
- Bear in mind that there may be special requirements or restrictions to housing types that are unique to your area—pay a visit or make a telephone call to the office of your local building inspector for more information on this front