Tutorial: Tiny Houses & Zoning Bylaws

Tutorial: Zoning Bylaws & Tiny Houses


Tiny houses are making waves across the country.  Many towns and cities are reassessing their age-old zoning laws and creating legal infrastructure for tiny houses.  Hopefully, the future will hold much clearer guidelines for tiny homes.  However, most towns have not assessed the topic yet.


The following is a beginner’s guide to zoning laws associated with tiny houses and is for people who wish to find a legal place to park a tiny home (be it on wheels or on a permanent foundation).   Becoming informed about the town’s zoning laws will give you a stronger opportunity to discuss the topic with town officials and ask knowledgeable questions.  Zoning bylaws can be very lengthy, touching upon topics from factories to swimming pools.   That is why this resource will teach you how to navigate the codes by using keyword searches, making the process more efficient.


The details provided in this guide are intended to help people who do not have extensive experience with navigating computer search tools.  If you have persistent trouble navigating your computer for these tools, seek the help of a friend who might have more experience with technology.

—–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–  —–

The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation. – Albert Einstein

Massachusetts Regulatory Review = Tiny House Opportunity

We at the Lab received this message from a group working to #LegalizeTiny in the Cape/Islands area of Massachusetts:

On March 31, 2015 Governor Baker issued Executive Order #562 commissioning a complete and comprehensive review of every existing Executive Branch regulation in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR).

This is an important opportunity for those of us interested in making tiny houses a safe and legal housing option to report on our experience with State regulations such as the Mass Buulding code and Sanitary Codes.

The review process gives tiny house advocates the opportunity to point out where you have found that State regulations go beyond the requirements of health and safety (and common sense) and become a barrier to the tiny house initiative.

Send comments to: http://www.mass.gov/anf/regreview.html

Tiny house groups of the Cape and Islands can attend a general topic “listening session” on the Cape (at which you could provide feedback on the Mass Building Code 780 CMR 51.00):

Thursday, November 19, 2015, 1PM-3PM
Sturgis Library
3090 Main Street
Barnstable, MA 02630

The Island Coalition for Tiny Houses will have people attending the Barnstable listening session: we hope to meet you there!

Contact us at: icth@hushmail.com


Legal headaches

We at the Lab recently came upon a recent story in a Michigan newspaper with a disheartening title: “Tiny house turns into big headache for Michigan man.”

We were expecting it to be about how tiny house living was not what it’s usually cracked up to be.  Haters gonna hate, we shrugged.  But then, as we kept reading, it turned out that the big headache had little to do with the tiny house experience.  Rather, it had to do with outdated regulations:

For Bellows it had to do finding a legal way to keep his tiny house on his own piece of land. He found a 3.8-acre piece of land in Lapeer County, but Bellows said in order to be there legally the home had to be at least 960-square feet.

So in January 2012 — after almost five months of living in his tiny house on his own piece of land — he was forced to move out.

Now, as the tiny house movement is on the brink of going mainstream, the project of legalizing tiny — updating housing regulations to allow for voluntary tiny house living — is more important than ever!  Read the full story here.

Spur Freedom

Despite the growing excitement around the movement, the regulations surrounding tiny house living — such as minimum square footage requirements for living accommodations — are hard to navigate in most locations.  Fortunately, Spur, Texas is making it easy for us by declaring itself the first “Tiny House Friendly Town” with an ordinance that fully legalizes tiny houses.

They even have a website dedicated to their mission: SpurFreedom.org.

Here’s how one blogger described the origin of the idea:

The ordinance request went something like this: Randy Adams, a well respected entrepreneur and mechanical genius in town, (can fix anything and founder of an innovative roofing application machine/system) got the idea and talked to individual council members and the mayor. He described the idea of declaring Spur a tiny house friendly town and everyone was immediately intrigued. The key is small town, young people moving away, infrastructure for 3,000 but supporting only 900 or so, everyone concerned about maintaining their town, (of which they are immensely proud) and wanting a strategy to do so that also includes bringing the right kind of people. Well, the profile of 20 to 40 something, tech savvy, self sufficiency minded, energetic, polite people fits right in there, so, no big problem there.

All you have to do to get legal in Spur is drop the wheels — they even have a Tiny House Welcoming Team to help you do it:

In order for a tiny house trailer to find legal residence within the city limits of Spur, Texas – as approved by city council – the THT owner will have 30 days to contact the unofficial ‘Tiny House Welcoming Team’ to get in contact with a contractor or local business who can set the tiny house on a more permanent foundation.

The move has already attracted at least one family, who blogged about their tiny house move to Spur. Follow along with this tiny house legalization experiment at the Spur Freedom blog.