State of Massachusetts Moves to Adopt Appendix Q

State of Massachusetts Moves to Adopt Appendix Q

You may remember that Gabriella and I traveled to Boston last September and met with the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) to encourage them to adopt Appendix Q into the state regulations and building codes. That meeting went really well and we not only have great support in the state, but also received a unanimous approval to move forward with the process. You can read all about that meeting here if you’re interested to learn more.

Jumping forward a few months, the BBRS board met again on May 12th to discuss the process and to make recommendations for Appendix Q approval. That meeting also went really well and we once again received a green light to keep moving forward. Before we go any farther, I want to give a shout out to those who attended that meeting. I was not able to go and I truly appreciate that there are always those who seem willing and eager to help out when needed. So, thank you everyone.

Public Comment Period: We Need Your Help

We are now in the public comment period in which the BBRS will gather comments in both support and opposition of adopting Appendix Q. This is where YOU can help out the tiny house community, no matter where you live, but especially if you live in Massachusetts. It’s so important to get as many letters in support as possible as this could literally be a tipping point for the state’s approval. The more letters of support, the better.

I know that some of you are huge supporters of Appendix Q and really want to see it adopted in Massachusetts (and other states as well). I imagine that some of you may have no idea what to write that best aids the process and moves us toward success. As such, I have laid out simple talking points that you can use. I encourage you to make them your own and to add your own flavor. The outline is just to let you know “why” there is a need for Appendix Q adoption. On a side note, I know that some of you do not support the idea of a tiny house specific building code. A minority of folks that I communicate with have mentioned their concerns and I respect that; however, the vast majority of people in the tiny house community with which I have had conversations (and that is a LOT of people over the last couple of years) do indeed want LEGAL tiny houses and the only way to achieve that is through code compliance inspections. 

Public Comment Sample Talking Points

  • Health and Safety. First and foremost, this is the main reason that Martin Hammer and I wrote Appendix Q. There is not currently oversight on the construction of these homes in most places, and that has lead to some poor construction quality and risky approaches. The appendix creates a safe parameter for builders to use in the construction of their home and allows building departments the opportunity and jurisdiction to inspect those structures. 
  • Legitimate Construction Option. Many inspectors, as well as “average Americans” don’t see tiny houses as a real housing option. They see them as cheap boxes that will quickly create shanti-towns and lower housing values. This is clearly a case of misunderstanding. Having a nationally recognized building code for tiny houses (Appendix Q) adopted in your state (in this case Massachusetts) puts tiny houses on the map as legitimate housing. If the ICC sees value in them, so too should the local building departments. 
  • Quality Control. Oversight leads to better quality builds. There are many builders out there who are capable of building amazing homes without oversight, but cutting corners to save costs has too often been the “MO” for some builders. They’re able to cut corners because there isn’t anyone there to catch them. I’d rather make the assumption that all builders would build to top quality levels, but that simply isn’t reality. Those builders who are just out to make a quick buck will risk the quality of the home unless someone is there to “catch them.”
  • State and Local Revenue. Building permits are one way to add money to the coffers of a city or county. Right now, all of the fees associated with building permits are left unclaimed with tiny houses because they aren’t recognized in most local codes and are thus built without building department input. Bringing tiny houses into the fold by adopting Appendix Q will increase both state and city revenue, without over burdening the home owner )be sure to work with local code departments to make sure that the fees associated with permits are within reason for tiny houses).

Public Comment Address

BBRS to Consider Adopting Appendix Q

When you write your letter of support, please be sure to mail it to the following. It’s crucial that you send it “attention Rob Anderson”. Please send your letter right away; certainly no later than May 31st as the board will meet again in June (see below) and those letters will be needed in hand before that meeting. You can also email your comment to [email protected].

BBRS Board
1 Ashburton Pl # 1301
Boston, MA 02108
Attention: Rob Anderson

What’s Next for Appendix Q in Massachusetts

I received the following information from the head building inspector in Massachusetts and the man who invited me to Boston to speak in support of Appendix Q last September. He is a great advocate for tiny houses and has continued to praise the appendix from the moment he voted “YES” at the International Code Council (ICC) Public Hearings in October of 2016. For more on that incredible event which paved the way for legal tiny houses in the United States, please click HERE. So, here’s what the process looks like moving forward. 

The next step is that the BBRS board will meet in June to review all of the comments received and, possibly, to vote on any or all of the proposed regulations. It’s not 100% guaranteed that a vote will take place at this meeting. Much will depend on the level of support and opposition the BBRS is fielding regarding the appendix.
From there the proposed regulations go to an in-house meeting through the Building Code Coordinating Council (BCCC). The timeline is unclear because we don’t know what the first step will entail in terms of a vote or no-vote in June. Get those letters of support in so that we can secure the vote next month and move forward with speed. You’ll see that speed will become an issue in the overall process as you read more below. 
From there it goes back to the BBRS administrator who forwards it to the governor’s office of administration and finance. They will review it and will either recommend it to the governor for signature or send it back to the BBRS administrator and board to amend whatever issues they find with the language.
Rich, the lead inspector, doesn’t think that we’ll have any issues with the BCCC; however, the governor’s office of administration and finance has held documents for some time before moving them on in the past and it’s not until they are approved and signed off by the governor that they can become regulation.
We are looking at a process that can take anywhere from a month to 6 months or more! It’s hard to make government move fast, but we CAN actually help speed the process by sending in lots of letters of support as mentioned above. 

Speed is of the Essence

This whole process from 2016 to right now has been amazingly “fast” as far as these things go. In fact, the ICC approval which Martin and I received with the help of our amazing team (see the full story HERE) in one public comment hearing is something that usually takes 2-3 code cycles to receive approval. With each code cycle taking three years, that approval would typically take 6-9years! Yes, you read that right. An approval of a code change like this usually takes 6-9 years and we have already secured that win…in just a few short months!
Let’s get this done folks. I KNOW that we can do this and I KNOW that we can win an adoption of Appendix Q in Massachusetts. We have support from the top down and from the bottom up. Let’s meet in the middle and celebrate the win!

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19 Responses to State of Massachusetts Moves to Adopt Appendix Q

  1. Miguel Stroe May 16, 2018 at 6:52 am #

    Hope things get approved rapidly for ‘tiny houses ‘.
    It has become an appropriate response to the high cost of housing in the U S.

  2. Pat Dunham May 16, 2018 at 7:45 am #

    How can I be involved in helping this take hold in others cities and states all over the country.

    • Andrew May 19, 2018 at 1:03 pm #

      Hi Pat. Great to hear from you and thanks for the offer of help. The best thing to do is to speak with the building officials in your state to see what, if any, steps they have taken towards adopting Appendix Q. From there, you should be directed to the “right” people within the state to make your case and/or encourage adoption. It’s different everywhere, but this is a reasonable step to get the ball rolling. Thanks again!

  3. Penell-Braida May 16, 2018 at 8:13 am #

    I support the approval of Tiny Houses, with the caveat that extra care is given to secure such homes to the Earth to prevent wind and storm obliteration. I live in Florida, not Massachusetts, but if other states begin to support smaller, safer construction, Florida homeowners could benefit. I hope that efforts are being made at the same time to create a storehouse of land sites around the country where such Tiny House COMMUNITIES may thrive. Perhaps Sierra Club and/or Nature Conservancy are allies of these ideas?

    • Andrew May 19, 2018 at 1:04 pm #

      Thanks for your message. I too agree that these homes are of great value to people across the country and world and that they need to be built and installed safely. Thus, the code appendix. There is more to be done to ensure they are placed safely, but we are making great headway.

  4. Julie May 16, 2018 at 8:59 am #

    We should have alternative housing like tiny homes for single people, the homeless, single parents with limited income..

    They deserve an affordable option opposed to out of range rent costs and 3% annual increases… or forcing people into cohabitation with strangers as roommates putting them in danger..

    So few affordable safe, healthy options…
    People need this!

    • Blake May 19, 2018 at 7:54 pm #

      I really have to object to your second paragraph. Having roommates can be exciting or it can be boring. It can be uncomfortable or a lot of fun. How it turns out depends on a lot of details that would take a long paragraph to discuss. However it is rare that it is dangerous. If you rely on the news for your opinions about strangers then you are missing out on a whole lot of life. All of your friends were once strangers to you. Having roommates is a very useful way to meet new people when you are single, especially if you are new to an area. This is not the only way to meet new people but it is safe.

      • Andrew May 19, 2018 at 8:18 pm #

        I appreciate the conversation here about the pros and cons of cohousing; however, that’s off topic for this thread. This post is about the importance of tiny house code adoption in Massachusetts. What it means for individuals will be up to them. Again, thanks for the candid discussion, but let’s refocus on getting the appendix adopted in Massachusetts. Thanks everyone.

  5. Derryl Cocks May 16, 2018 at 9:44 am #

    I really want to support MA state with this. I’ve been living in mine in VA for 3+ years.

    I’m so used to doing this type of comment on-line.

    For me it feels a bit antiquated to have a snail mail address to send comments to.

    It would help us all if a comment web page could be set up with an email box.

    • Katie Jackson May 18, 2018 at 10:42 am #

      You can email your comment to [email protected] before June 1. Thank you!

      • Carolyn Aligada May 24, 2018 at 11:51 am #

        Thank you to Derryl and Katie for asking and providing the email address. Glad I scrolled through the comments to find it. Would be helpful to put this in the Public Comment Address area for those who don’t scroll through comments.

  6. Kimberly Luce May 16, 2018 at 2:36 pm #

    I would love to see Appendix Q adopted in Massachusetts. People who have limited income deserve their own home. Retirees who want to have simplicity in their life by building small should be allowed. The appropriate codes for building less than 600 or 700 square feet are essential for the owners safety. Codes are also needed to ensure builders have a standard to build by and inspections can be conducted to ensure they are met.

    Building on a trailer or a foundation should be welcomed by Massachusetts. Let’s show them all we are not scared to move forward with this adoption.

  7. Katie Jackson May 18, 2018 at 10:43 am #

    Thanks for this great write-up, Andrew!

    • Andrew May 19, 2018 at 7:48 am #

      You’re very welcome Katie.

  8. Rhonda L Cole May 21, 2018 at 3:04 pm #

    I believe we all need to support tiny house building being legal. Americans cannot afford the American Dream of buying a new home or having one built these days. Often, when people do finally afford to purchase, they are swindled out of their homes after paying for years, or they lose it due to sudden illness or u employment. This is not fair. We are Americans. We are supposed to be free and supposed to be able to work and provide for our families. Let’s all agree to allow people to build homes within their means while making sure they are safe. It would possibly help solve homeless issues as well, allowing funding to build tiny home communities. Approving tiny houses is a fabulous way to rebuild the American dream and give everyone their option of providing for their families while feeling good about working, and seeing what they are working for.

  9. Walt T. May 25, 2018 at 4:19 pm #

    I sent an email to Robert detailing my dealings with living in over-populated Los Angeles, and how I believe tiny homes are both financially and environmentally responsible. Not to mention it gives Millennials the chance to move out and start families of their own. I’ve first hand witnessed that in Los Angeles people who actually own property, have greater respect for other’s property. When tenants rent here, they do not maintain positive habits to prolong the life of the property they’re renting. Just like no one will drive your brand new car the way you would. I believe there is a disconnection of responsibility. I’ve seen it with a handful of tenants I’ve had over the last decade in a home I own here, and I do not tolerate it; but most landlords are not live in with their tenants to ‘parent’ them.

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