Zoning regulations dictate “where and when” housing can be established. Urban cities are often stringent because of increasing demand and limited space. This can pose a problem for owners of tiny homes. Here is more information on how zoning regulations are impeding the tiny house movement at this point.

A tiny white cottage with red shutters and red petunias.Required Need For A “Foundation”

The property cannot be established on wheels according to state regulations. Zoning regulations indicate primary housing on any piece of land has to be “set down”. The easiest solution is to remove the wheels and then establish the location of your house. These regulations apply to all land types (private or public).

Size Matters

There are sizing requirements present with zoning as well. The tiny house has to fit a minimum before it is deemed legal in states that allow such properties. What is the general requirement? It is set at around 450–1,500 square feet. Remember, this is for the “primary” residence. If you can show the tiny house as a secondary unit, it can be smaller.

The size is based on a property that requires plumbing, runoff control, emergency vehicle access, and water connections. Since, that is the case with a tiny house, it is important to follow through with the minimum requirements of your state.

What if the size requirements are not being met? There are a few states, which still have a workaround to this problem. The idea is to send a notice to your neighbors and apply with the zoning board in your city. If they approve the house, it can be established. This is “hit and miss” at best and a major hassle when such an investment is being made. Therefore, it is smarter to go for a bigger setup in states with rigid regulations.

Secondary Dwelling

The term used for this is “Accessory Dwelling Unit” (i.e. secondary house) which is smaller than the primary space. This can be troublesome for property owners who are hoping to use the tiny house as their primary unit. Even with the “accessory dwelling unit” tag, the property has to have a foundation as listed above.

Permission is required to deem a tiny house as your “primary unit” and there can be numerous hassles along the way. Unfortunately, many states are only leaving the change to accessory dwelling units. The primary unit needs to have appropriate plumbing along with being “grid-tied” (i.e. connected to nearby properties). Tiny houses are not able to do this, so they are deemed illegal.

An example where secondary dwelling units are not allowed would be New York City, Michigan, and Salem. There are online resources available to find out whether your state allows for secondary dwelling units or not. Reading through those state regulations is pertinent. If you are not heeding to these regulations, building officials will pay a visit if a house is illegally set up.

Rural Towns With No Zoning Laws

Rural towns do not pose a problem for tiny house owners in America. Most of these cities are sparsely populated and have acres of land to offer. To prop up the economy in these areas, zoning regulations are not pushed on local citizens. Tiny houses and storage containers can be used as required.

It is best to read up on the regulations in these towns before beginning. At worst, there are minor requirements, but nothing which poses a challenge.

Forecasting Change

The cities of Boston, New York, and Portland have legislated change in the development of “micro-apartments” (small rooms) because of the increasing prices. In a bid to manage real estate, these changes have been approved and are now a part of built-in regulations.

What about tiny homes and storage containers? Current laws remain in sync with what has been described above. Forecasting suggests laws will be enacted enabling freedom for those who are pursuing this option and wish to avoid zoning hassles.

These are the zoning regulations present at the moment in various states around the nation. There is a variation between what major cities are enabling compared to rural towns with no regulations in place at all. It is important to read up on these zoning regulations before starting the process.