Keeping Up with the Tiny House Trend

by | Mar 19, 2017

Keeping Up with the Tiny House Trend

How this emerging housing movement is shaking things up for municipalities across the nation.

There’s no denying it; tiny houses are on the rise. A brief glance through your TV guide confirms the huge popularity of the tiny housing movement. Even all-knowing Google shows an upward trend related to searches for “tiny houses” (peaking in April of 2016), while searches for other buzzwords of the 21st century—“sustainability” and “hipster” to name a couple—have started to wane.

Tiny homes are definitely growing in popularity, but many municipalities aren’t prepared to deal with these 100-400-square-foot dwellings from a building code perspective. In fact, most of today’s existing building codes don’t address this emerging form of housing at all. And because regulations haven’t caught up to the tiny house movement, municipalities across the country are having trouble administering and enforcing regulations around these trendy home types.

According to Alexis Stephens, national coordinator for the Tiny House Association, “There are only a handful of cities across the country that directly address tiny houses.” Expounding on this topic, Stephens says that “there’s a lot of interest [in tiny living], but people are confused by the zoning codes and regulations, and feel intimidated to go to the city government.”

This lack of building code clarity for tiny houses is intimidating and stressful not only for residents who want to pursue tiny living, but also for municipal staff tasked with reviewing permit requests for these miniature dwellings. With no clear guidelines on the municipal end and a lot of back-and-forth for permit-seeking residents, illegal units keep popping up as tiny house builders and owners give up on the confusing permit process.

So, what’s the bottom line for municipalities when it comes to keeping up with (or better yet, staying ahead of) the tiny house trend? To avoid burning resources and causing headaches (among your municipal staff, builders, and residents alike), preparation is the key.

Communities likes yours must plan to deal with the tiny living phenomenon and the growing number of permit requests rolling in from tiny house enthusiasts. Your community can take proactive steps to stay ahead of the tiny house trend—evaluating, preparing, and adopting thorough ordinances that not only address tiny homes, but also pose positive long-term impacts for your community as a whole.

As you dive into this series on the nitty gritty behind tiny house building codes, take the time to first get familiar with this popular housing trend, exploring the potential benefits for both residents and your municipality. Who knows, you might be surprised…


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