You probably already know…tiny houses are a big deal in more and more communities across the nation. Advocates of these nontraditional dwellings champion the affordability, sustainability, and freedom associated with tiny living. Yet most municipalities do not have building code ordinances in place to regulate tiny homes—resulting in problems and delays as permit applications for these popular housing units continue to pour in.
When municipalities like yours are prepared for this growing movement, they ensure that homeowners and the community as a whole can experience the potential perks of tiny houses while also avoiding internal and external strife.
We know that every community is unique and requires a customized approach. So, in order to prep your municipality for the tiny house phenomenon, we recommend following a general three-step process to reach the right building code solutions for your community.
Step 1: Gather
Good regulations are always the result of public education and involvement. So, form a steering committee and hold public hearings to gather as many ideas and perceptions as possible. Bring together representatives from your building department and community development department, along with business owners, community members, and contractors, to reach widespread consensus on dealing with tiny houses. By involving a multitude of stakeholders and influencers in your decision-making process, your municipality can cultivate collaboration, maintain transparency, and encourage the right kind of development while avoiding blight.
Step 2: Research
Doing your homework is yet another critical step toward developing effective, sustainable regulations. Research how other communities have handled tiny house building codes in the past. What has worked, and what hasn’t worked? As mentioned above, be sure to look at existing RV regulations and moveable units to identify the key differences between these structures and tiny homes. And don’t forget to check into minimum structure size regulations, state licensing requirements, and safety considerations. This initial research can provide a starting point for your community’s decisions—helping you choose how to include tiny house regulations in your ordinances and make changes as you see fit.
Step 3: Review
There’s a lot to consider when deciding on building code regulations for tiny houses in your community. Determining how these dwellings will be defined, how to regulate both moveable and stick-build units, and whether minimum size, accessibility, or other exemptions must be made are just a few issues to keep in mind. Because of these many considerations and the far-reaching impact of building codes within a community, it’s important to thoroughly review any additions to your ordinances before final adoption. The review phase should include feedback from municipal leaders, builders, safety experts, and homeowners to ensure the consistency, clarity, and feasibility of the new regulations.
Since tiny houses require unique considerations from a building code standpoint, internal departments need to get on the same page, discussing scenarios before they occur and coming to agreement about regulatory issues. By gathering widespread consensus, researching options and implications, and reviewing new ordinances from multiple angles, your municipality can implement effective building code regulations to successfully manage the tiny house trend.