Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tiny Houses Making Inroads into Some Cities

Tiny Houses, many under 200 sq ft, could be a major part of the new home market within 20 years.

Chris Heininge Construction

The number of cities bending their tight zoning rules is increasing as they realize that once was called objectionable by residents could be the answer to a housing shortage in certain areas.


Even Washington, DC is catching the Tiny House fever by presenting changes to zoning that would allow them to either be an accessory unit on an existing home site or better yet, establishing areas for clusters of Tiny Homes near public transportation and shopping.

Other cities are rethinking just comprises a single family residential neighborhood.

Often measuring in at less than 200 square feet, these tiny homes can seem cramped, but are often designed to be incredibly efficient. Construction costs are typically in the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands, so they make for cheap housing, especially in expensive markets.

City ordinances and zoning codes don’t often allow such tiny homes to be built legally, but these rules are starting to change. One of the ways they may be allowed into more residential neighborhoods is having them meet all the building codes regulated for more traditional larger homes.

Most Tiny Houses are currently being built on wheeled frames and hauled place to place and built to RV standards which were never meant to used as permanent housing.

Typical Shade Tree Builders

A modular home factory could build these homes more efficiently than a shade tree builder which is what is happening today.

So what is the difference between a HUD home (double wide; trailer; mobile home) and an IRC built modular home? HUD homes are strictly zoned and many towns and cities find that giving them the absolute worst parcels on the zoning maps is usually enough to discourage developers from putting in mobile home communities.

A modular Tiny House between 200 and 700 sq ft would be more acceptable to both residents and zoning commissions. 

However, local code inspectors, who don’t seem to like anything not built on site because they have never taken the time to learn about modular, will always be a thorn in the industry's side.

In Atlanta, City Council member Kwanza Hall is trying to kick-start the tiny house movement in the South.

He’s proposing a rewrite of a section of the city code that prohibits the construction of single-family homes that are smaller than 750 square feet, arguing that smaller homes would make homeownership a more viable option for a wider spectrum of the city’s residents.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray recently proposed what may be the most sweeping change to the single-family home in the U.S. through a proposal to replace single-family zoning with a “lower density residential zone” that could include backyard granny flats, duplexes, and triplexes.

“An adequate, affordable supply of housing is the lifeblood of vibrant, urban centers,” city officials wrote in a draft letter introducing the proposal, which highlighted income, ethnic and race-based inequities in the city.

The single family home is by no means disappearing—620,000 single-family homes were built in 2014, compared with 264,000 units of multi-family housing. But as cities grow and change, the single-family home will continue to evolve.


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