‘Big Problem with Tiny Houses: They’re Illegal’

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June 29, 2016 by   Comments Off on ‘Big Problem with Tiny Houses: They’re Illegal’

Tiny houses may be the darlings of the green-living set — with their own blogs, TV shows, documentaries and cottage industry builders, planners, and consultants.

But, according to a report by,  they’re usually illegal.

Across the Pacific Northwest, to pass legal muster, residential structures must comply with one of three sets of rules: building codes, manufactured home codes, or recreational vehicle certification. They also must comply with zoning codes, which dictate not how they’re built but where they may stand and how they may be used. In most places, tiny houses run afoul of every one of these sets of rules, and often in several ways. The net effect is to make tiny-house dwellers a band of outlaws.

Removing the legal strictures could quickly provide affordable, sustainable housing choices to thousands of people across the Pacific Northwest and beyond, at no cost to public treasuries, in neighborhoods already provided with urban infrastructure and well served by transit, schools, community centers, libraries, and parks. And some cities, such as Portland, are already working towards policy solutions that will bring tiny houses in from the cold.

Tiny houses on foundations: Size matters

In Oregon and Washington local laws specify that permanent homes must be built to one of two standards: the locally or state-adopted building code, typically adapted from the International Residential Code (IRC), or the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s national standards for manufactured homes. Tiny houses have a terribly hard time fitting these regulations, not so much because of the safety and fire protection provisions, as because of things like minimum size and height rules. The IRC, for example, requires that habitable rooms have at least 70 square feet of floor space, and not be less than 7 feet wide and tall. This rules out many tiny home designs.

Though 70 square feet is still a rigid requirement for habitable rooms, it’s actually a step in the right direction. In 2015, the International Code Council reduced this requirement from 120 square feet, making building tiny to code much more feasible. Continuing to adapt existing building codes to tiny abodes, or creating a new certification process specific to tiny homes, would be a big step toward unbanning a housing form that’s as old as the sheepherder’s wagon.

For the full story click here.

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