Should Tiny Houses Be Afraid: HUD Proposal FR-5877-P-01

There have been a number of conversations as of late regarding the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) new proposal entitled “FR–5877–P–01 Manufactured Home Procedural and Enforcement Regulations; Revision of Exemption for Recreational Vehicles” and its potential impact on tiny houses on wheels (THOWs). For those who have not yet seen the proposal, you can read the summary below.

“This rulemaking proposes to revise the exemption for recreational vehicles that are not self-propelled from HUD’s Manufactured Housing Procedural and Enforcement Regulations. This proposed rule is based on a recommendation adopted by the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC) which would define a recreational vehicle as one built on a vehicular structure, not certified as a manufactured home, designed only for recreational use and not as a primary residence or for permanent occupancy, and built and certified in accordance with either the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1192-15 or American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A119.5-09 consensus standards for recreational vehicles. HUD is adopting the MHCC’s recommendation but modifying it to require certification with the updated ANSI standard, A119.5-15, and by including a requirement that units claiming the ANSI A119.5-15 exemption prominently display a notice stating that the unit is designed only for recreational use, and not as a primary residence or permanent dwelling.”

Many of the people who have spoken up about the proposal on Facebook and to us personally through our website have been concerned about HUD’s actions and how they will ultimately impact the concept of THOWs. The reality is that there is nothing to worry about, in my opinion. Why? Because we are discussing the wrong topic: recreational vehicles (RVs). No matter what HUD decides, or the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) for that matter, we as tiny housers should not be concerned because our goal is to live in our tiny houses permanently, not to certify them as RVs. After all, that’s specifically what HUD’s recent proposal aims to clarify.

WHAT DOES FR–5877–P–01 PROPOSE?

Vintage Detective Looking Through A MagnifierThe new proposal would dictate that a tiny house, if built to ANSI or NFPA standards, is an RV and thus not suitable for permanent occupancy. The reality is that it is already illegal to live permanently in an RV in most places anyway. That is something that local zoning ordinances specifically dictate. So the problem here is the idea of certifying your tiny house as an RV rather than seeking permanent residential status through the building codes division.

Consider that in almost every community in the United States where zoning laws are enforced, RVs are considered temporary shelter and are only suitable for up to thirty consecutive days of occupancy. That doesn’t fit the model of tiny houses as permanent residences at all. For HUD to include all RVs that are “not self-propelled,” thus including THOWs is an acceptable practice on their part. In fact, I am not opposed in any way to HUD overseeing the construction of RVs if that is important to their industry. This is because my intention is, and always has been, to secure a path to legalization for tiny houses through the International Residential Code (IRC).

HOW TO LEGALIZE TINY HOUSES AS RESIDENCES

The IRC governs the vast majority of one- and two-family dwellings within the United States. It is a stand-alone residential code that specifically manages minimum requirements for all aspects of residential home construction including building, plumbing, mechanical, fuel gas, energy efficiency, and electrical work. It is this code that almost all jurisdictions rely on for their residential construction code compliance standards. At the end of an IRC compliant build, the structure is deemed safe for permanent occupancy and a certificate of occupancy is thus issued to the home owner. This is exactly the type of approval we as tiny housers need to live in our homes, full time and legally.

There are currently some IRC standards that average THOWs do not meet. The most obvious are head height requirements, stair design requirements, energy efficiency requirements, and the fact that THOWs are built on trailers. The vast majority of the IRC can actually be met with relative ease. In fact, with a little bit of creative design, the issues with the insulation and head height requirements can be managed as well. That leaves us with two major obstacles: stair design requirements and the trailer. With current IRC standards, there is no easy way to legally install stairs in a THOW because the maximum height requirements per road regulations limit a roof line to 13’ 6”. This means that the required head height above the nosing of a stair cannot be met all the way to the loft floor unless the roof is designed to expand/lift once the trailer is parked. Although possible, this is a tricky design and not something for the average home builder to take on. Unless changes to the code can be made, THOWs may be required to stick with single story designs for habitable rooms, thus utilizing the loft spaces for “storage only.”

The biggest sticking point to meeting IRC standards is the trailer. The IRC does not recognize trailers as a viable foundation for a permanent dwelling. As such, the tiny house would have to be built one of two ways. First, it could be built on a permanent foundation. This is by far the easiest way to build a tiny house; however, it does not allow for easy moving of the home should you decide to relocate. That said, it is possible to build a tiny house on a foundation that could be moved with relative ease with some clever design details. For example, if the home were built on a girder base, in other words large timbers that span the bottom of the house (think “skids”), then that system could be bolted to a foundation on site and equally unbolted and transported to a new site on top of a trailer. This would make the home simply a “load on a trailer” while in transit and a permanent house once attached to the foundation. This is done all the time with full size houses, so the same concept can be applied to tiny homes as well.

The second approach is to build the home on a trailer and then remove the wheels once it is set on site. This would require one of two foundations options for code compliance. The first would be a standard foundation (one that meets code requirements directly) onto which the tiny house could be set and bolted in place. Once set, the tires would be removed and the home would be considered permanent. A second option would be to design an engineered system of tie-down anchors that would satisfy the “intent of the code.” This might be easier to implement than a full blown foundation; however, it would still require the removal of the wheels once set in place. A simple way to envision this is a concrete parking slab with engineered hold down locations to which the THOW would be anchored once in position.

RVIA vs HUD vs IRC

The main point I want you to understand is that the best approach for legalizing tiny houses is not through HUD, it is not through the RVIA, it is through the IRC. It is not in our best interest to refer to our homes as “tiny house RVs” because that implies temporary housing, not a permanent residence. Rather, we should proudly call ourselves “tiny houses” and work within an existing residential code (i.e. the IRC) to gain code approvals and legal, PERMANENT residential status. The IRC has recently adjusted section “R304.1 Minimum area” standards in direct response to the tiny house movement by changing the requirement for a minimum dwelling space from 120sf to 70sf (not including bathroom facilities). To me, this is a sign that they are willing to work with us and I believe that we should be willing to work with them too. We will likely have to compromise on some things and we won’t get 100% of what we ask for. That’s life. There is always balance and common ground to be found. Let’s find it sooner rather than later and get the tiny house movement on a path to legalization.

As a way to show that tiny houses can meet current IRC standards, we have redesigned hOMe and will be releasing an IRC code compliant version of our THOW in the coming weeks. There are some changes to the interior space; however, the overall design is very similar and yet TOTALLY code compliant. If you have property that does not have minimum square footage requirements in the zoning ordinances or covenants, then you would be able to build this new version of hOMe and receive an official certificate of occupancy from the building department. No more concerns about being caught and told to move your home. No more stressing about your neighbors turning you into the authorities.

HOW TO MOVE FORWARD WITH THE IRC

Now for the bad news. I recently discovered that the deadline for code change proposals for the 2018 IRC was January 11, 2016. As such, there is no way to get code revision proposals in front of the International Code Council (the ICC: the board that oversees the IRC code proposals/changes) until the next cycle, which is three years out. Yes, THREE YEARS. That means that new proposals will not be accepted until January 2019 for the 2021 IRC. That is a long time out, but it also gives us time to develop a strong proposal with adequate detailing and factual data backing up our proposal. This is something I intend to work towards and I would love your help. If you would like to participate in the IRC tiny house code compliance movement, please let me know. As we get deeper into the process, specific roles will become more apparent, but for now, general help is appreciated.

I have friends who have worked to make changes in the code over the last several years and as a result of their efforts, the IRC recently added a provision to the 2015 code that governs straw bale construction. This change was the result of many years of hard work by dedicated individuals who wanted to create the change we, as an industry, needed to be successful. The road to the code change included many studies from fire safety, to engineered wall systems, to insulation values, and more. Each of those studies provided vital data that the group pointed to in their proposals. The upcoming three year window would afford us the time we need to organize and complete similar studies, relevant to tiny houses. So what changes to you think we need to propose to the ICC? How do you see tiny houses fitting into the IRC so that we can live legally in our dream dwellings? We have our own list started, but want your input as well. After all, we are a community and we want to be representative of that community as we move forward. Please feel free to share your ideas below int he comments section.

In the meantime, I believe we need to come together as a movement and work together towards a common goal of code compliance. As I mentioned, it is possible to build within the current code structure and meet the requirements; however, there are changes to be made that will improve the design diversity of tiny houses. What we need to stay focused on, as a community and as a movement, is that what we do today will have impacts on the future of our movement. We cannot attempt to circumvent the governing agencies because they can and will find ways to shut us down if we try. We need to work with them to create tiny houses that fulfill our needs as individuals and provide the required safety standards that the governing bodies are looking for in our housing industry. This does not have to be a fight. It can be a collaboration.

137 Responses to Should Tiny Houses Be Afraid: HUD Proposal FR-5877-P-01

  1. Phillip March 21, 2016 at 10:19 am #

    In the meantime, code variance is the best option for legally occupying tiny houses. Of course that requires a working relationship with your local code enforcement agencies, which is hit or miss…

    • anne stansell April 4, 2016 at 10:27 am #

      The zoning codes that tell you how big a house you have to build, is the reason people put the tiny house on a trailer to begin with. It was only by being considered an RV that people could justify the smaller size. Then of course in many places, codes restrict how long it can even sit in one place. Now, HUD wants to make restrictions, such as “factory built only.” Excuse me for saying so Andrew but professional builders, are not fans of smaller. Smaller means less money in your pocket, less money to the county etc. Contracters, and goverment regulators are not on the side of the tiny home, theres no money in it. Meanwhile, if peopel choose to build something they can actually afford without going into 20-30 year debt, banks and mortgage companies lose some money. People are tired of working their whole life, to pay for a house, to put it bluntly, the more regulations we agree to, the less control over our own life and finances we have.

      • Andrew
        Andrew April 4, 2016 at 7:22 pm #

        Hi Anne. I hear what you are saying, but I don’t agree with you on some points. Specifically that “contractors and government regulators are not on the side of the tiny home…” There are many, many contractors who are very excited about this emerging market and have already begun to jump into the community with full interest. Further, there are examples almost every day of new government approvals for tiny houses. From Spur, to Walsenberg, to Fresno, to Nantucket, and on… We are a very young movement, so to expect everything in a short time is not realistic. We need to be patient. The reality is that tiny homes WILL BE REGULATED without a doubt. How that regulation comes about and how it is implemented are two things we can actually have some input on, but only if we approach things in a polite and civil way. We can aim for revolution and defiance, but that is not likely to work in our situation. We simply are not a big enough movement. Instead, I believe that our revolution is best won with grace and steps that reflect the desire of our community’s people to live quiet, peaceful, simple lives. As we continue to grow this movement one town at a time, things will accelerate and we will see bigger and bigger victories. The reality is that communities/counties/cities are made up of people, just like you and me. Those areas need affordable and quality housing. The banks and the other corporate inputs can yell and scream, but eventually, our need for community will win. Peaceful and positive change always wins. It’s just a question of how long it will take. This is my approach and it feels true to who I am. All I can ask is that we all look inside and be true to what we hold dearest.

        • Michaela McQuilkin April 5, 2016 at 8:08 am #

          I would love to be of assistance in anyway, as I have previous experience in policy proposals. Please, let me know how I can help. My partner and I are currently building our own tiny house and would like to build a tiny house community in our hometown. It would be beneficial to be on a working team with HUD.

          • Andrew
            Andrew April 7, 2016 at 12:37 pm #

            hanks Michaela. Much appreciated. I will let you know as things develop where we need help. 🙂

        • LARRY VICKERS August 21, 2016 at 5:09 am #

          Great insight, Andrew! Thanks for leading a way to legal and safe tiny houses. A small manual must be in the works, no? It is disturbing to see so many rebellious novices taking on the engineering/construction of “safe” trailer residences while eschewing regulations out of anti-authoritarianism. Standards for health and safety are a good thing and structural concerns for a 10,000 lb structure bouncing down the highway at 50 mph are inescapable. Simple physics. Wish I could hold with your optimistic ” Peaceful and positive change always wins.” But look at Tesla, look at mass transit, and see how the powerful influences crush innovation.

        • Angela October 27, 2016 at 1:50 am #

          “The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.” — Martin Luther King, Jr

      • Wesley Price April 15, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

        I rather like the idea of trying to make a Tiny Home Community. Based on what you said, it sounds like setting up a mobile home and/or RV park for Tiny Homes only might be the way to go. Does that sound about right? Or am I missing something?

    • Donna September 22, 2016 at 8:02 am #

      It has nothing to do with HUD. People have no place to live. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mac started the housing melt down. They got bailed out. Whose is bailing out the victims.?
      The government has no housing.. We are the people and we are trying house ourselves. The people make the government as a group, as a group we make the decisions. There is no law which states that people must be regulated because of their income or because they choose to live in a Tiny Home Trailer.

      Where do they want people to live. On the side walks.

  2. Elaine Walker March 21, 2016 at 10:33 am #

    Hi Andrew,

    I would like to participate in this effort. While six years is a long time to wait for the possibility of a change, and there would be no guarantee that any changes we propose would be accepted even then, I think it’s a noble goal and worth trying.

    Regards,
    Elaine
    elaine@tinyhousecommunity.com

    • Amy March 30, 2016 at 8:36 pm #

      Hi Andrew, thank you for all your hard work. I too am a tiny house dweller and would like to help.

      • Andrew
        Andrew March 31, 2016 at 4:57 am #

        Thanks Amy. I’ll keep you posted…

  3. Jodi March 21, 2016 at 10:34 am #

    Andrew,
    Thank you for the time and effort you put in to bringing this information to us all.
    It is appreciated!
    Jodi

  4. Kiva & Jake March 21, 2016 at 11:00 am #

    It’s great to get this kind of information from someone who is involved in the professional/industrial side of the tiny house movement. Like many DIYers, we’re not engaging our Tiny Nest in an official process… YET! Our attitude is to “be the change we want to see”, by building to a very high quality standard and documenting everything carefully. When the time comes, we would love to have our structure reviewed and approved by an authority, but with no experience dealing in these matters, it’s very a daunting thought to embark on such a challenge. Hopefully experienced people like Andrew will get us there. Thanks for everything you’re doing 🙂

    Cheers,
    Kiva & Jake

  5. Quentin March 21, 2016 at 11:07 am #

    How is a loft for sleeping different from a bunk bed? A loft is much more secure. And if it’s escape routes that can easily be designed into the house in many cases.

    It’s hard to fight or are against something that you don’t know the reason for. So why does a foundation have to be permanent? What safety value does it provide that current technology can not provide? I am assuming safety is the reason for the regulation.

    • Tim C. March 21, 2016 at 11:32 am #

      Why does a foundation have to be permanent? Earthquakes and tornadoes.

      • Marian March 22, 2016 at 3:04 pm #

        Why is it OK to live in a RV or trailer for 30 days without a foundation. Earthquakes and tornados can happen during that time too. If where we park our THOWS for long term living and even short had proper tie downs to secure down the THOWS I would think that would be enough.

        • Andrew
          Andrew March 22, 2016 at 5:33 pm #

          Hi Marian. That is not a question for me as it is based in zoning regulations, something that I have no control over. That said, there is nothing saying you cannot live in your RV 365 days of the year. What is said is that you cannot live in that RV in the same place for that long, and that is by local zoning ordinances. In fact, some zonings actually do allow you to live in an RV full time. It all depends on the ordinance. For the areas where full time RV living is not allowed, the reasons why are many, but include: the RV is built as temporary housing, per the name “Recreational Vehicle;” insulation levels are lower than regular houses; structural systems are weaker than regular houses; sanitation systems are temporary as are water supplies; RVs are not anchored to the ground as they are designed to be moved frequently; and so on. It may also be that local communities don’t want people living in RVs in and among their residential neighborhoods. This could be because of the financial impact on the homeowners, the quality of housing in a neighborhood, and/or the desire to provide neighborhoods that house permanent residents and not those traveling or passing through. There are many reasons that I would consider to be “good reasons” and several that I’m sure I would disagree with. Keep in mind that I am talking about traditional RVs as you might picture them; however, as soon as we call a tiny house an RV, which the industry has done to itself, then we place ourselves into the regulations that exist around RVs. The powers-that-be are unlikely to change those regulations in favor of tiny houses because as long as we are in the same nomenclature, any changes they make to benefit tiny houses would, by default, be applied to traditional RVs as well. That’s one major reason why we need to stop calling ourselves Tiny House RVs, in my opinion.

    • Andrew
      Andrew March 21, 2016 at 11:46 am #

      Hi Quentin. I can’t speak for the IRC or any other code provision; however, I can give you my input in regards to your questions. In terms of the sleeping loft, it is all about fire safety. Things like required “egress” are in place so that should the occupant(s) be unconscious during a fire, a firefighter can enter the room and save the occupant. With a sleeping loft, it ids difficult to provide adequate egress windows and the headroom in that loft makes it impossible for a firefighter to stand up. With a bunk bed, the firefighter can stand next to the bed during his/her rescue.

      As far as foundations go, there are a couple things to consider. Being that homes that are not anchored to the ground are very often the victim of high winds (tornados, hurricanes, wind storms, etc.) and other forces (earthquakes), there has to be a provision in place to protect those homes and the occupants. There are a couple ways to meet these requirements: prescribed options within the code and engineered options that meet code requirements/intent. Safety is certainly an issue here, and that is why it is governed.

      • Dan March 22, 2016 at 11:16 pm #

        Bottom line is governed = power, money, and control. Always hiding behind it’s for your safety.

        • Andrew
          Andrew March 23, 2016 at 8:19 am #

          Hi Dan. I hear your concern and I am sure that on some level, there is corruption in all forms of government, from minor irregularities to a strong desire for power. That said, I am actually a fan of building codes as I have seen some pretty scary builds over the years where owner/builders decide to “go it alone” and come up with some dangerous construction methods.

          I have asked people this question before: if you were presented with two houses for sale and they both cost the same but only one of them was built to code and inspected while the other was built with no inspection process or code standards, would you be more likely to buy one or the other? I would choose the one that was inspected and built to code, without a doubt.

          For me, there is value in the codes that does indeed come in the form of consistency and safety. My two cents.

          • Sidney Skolnick April 2, 2016 at 9:39 am #

            I don’t see why these building codes are any different than the supposed legal requirement to wear a seat belt in a car. Without prejudice UCC 1-308 is your right to common law where they cannot legally touch you (or fine you) unless there is an injured party. If my little house is on wheels, who is the injured party? No One! … end of story regardless of what you think.

            The government usually hides behind the line that this is a nation of law to obfuscate their collusion. The law serves all of us and the nature of common law renders government vulnerable to its own BS.

          • Andrew
            Andrew April 6, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

            Hi Sydney. I hear that you are frustrated, but I believe you have missed a significant point in regards to building codes, especially for tiny houses. Consider that “John” builds a tiny house. He doesn’t care about standards or safety concerns and he builds it just the way he wants to. Who is hurt by this? Your suggestion is no body, but you must consider the implications of what happens when John 1) decides to sell his house to someone else and 2) drives it down the highway. The risks to both the new buyer (who would have no idea what the level of safety and quality in the house actually is) and the people on the highways and streets would be much greater without building codes. The potential for injury and death is very real in home construction and with tiny homes, not just to the original occupant.

          • Happy Camper August 7, 2016 at 7:54 pm #

            I so agree. My husband is a Master Electrician. If there were no codes what so ever, then we would have major fire issues. Unless you understand loads for electrical use there is major concern for overload thus resulting in a fire. Same is true for plumbing , HVAC and any other trades that have studied, taken their tests and have their Master Licenses.

  6. Mike Spooner March 21, 2016 at 11:33 am #

    Hi Andrew,
    From my studies so far, it seems like the ANSI code for Park Models and the IRC are mostly in agreement with one another as far as framing and construction requirements. The nice thing about the ANSI code is that it is much more concise than the IRC and more relevant to tiny houses specifically, so it’s easier to follow. Aside from head heights and the trailer, are there other disagreements between A119.5 and the IRC to watch out for?

    • Andrew
      Andrew March 21, 2016 at 11:52 am #

      I have to admit that I am not an expert with the ANSI code because I don’t use it. Keep in mind that the end use is a permanent house and ANSI does not provide for that. You can build to whatever code best suits your needs; however, if you want a house that you can live in full time, then the IRC needs to be your approach at this point. Of course, one could aim top change the ANSI code to provide for full time residences, but that is a more difficult road in my opinion.

  7. susan March 21, 2016 at 3:20 pm #

    This may not be the place for this question.

    However, my plan was to buy/build a tiny home and live in it full-time in an RV/park model type of Park, without any real plans to change locations with it but would probably like to keep it on the trailer if the need ever arose to relocate to a new park.

    Is this legal to do now? (I live in Arizona)

    I phoned a couple of small RV parks and they had no concerns whatsoever, they said if it fits the lot it is welcome and it will be treated the same as an RV or a park model.

    • Andrew
      Andrew March 21, 2016 at 7:39 pm #

      Hi Susan. That depends on individual parks. Each can set their rules and as such can limit stays or provide for full time living.

  8. Virginia Moe March 21, 2016 at 4:06 pm #

    I have been research my ‘tiny’ small house. I have been trying to figure out if it will pass the current IRC. I have come down two choices

    (1) to getting a cabin shell. It will upon request have 7′ 3″ space between floor and ceiling. Every thing will be on one level. The one I am looking at is $9,000 for the shell plus delivery and it is built to rest on it’s skids.

    (2) get a garage kit from the local DIY center. for this with 4 windows and a 3 ft wide front door. This would take time and I would have to build either a slab or a type of foundation. The space from ceiling to bottom 7.5′. This doesn’t include the big door or any of the equipment for it.

    I am left to wonder when the new IRC code takes effect. I have been told the state of South Dakota is working from the 2012 IRC code. After studying 2012 the codes I am not current I would know all the different things like roof angle, correct amount of insulation, correct for different weather conditions and so much more.

    • Andrew
      Andrew March 21, 2016 at 7:41 pm #

      You do not have to worry about when the new code comes out as long as you know which version your jurisdiction is using at the time of purchase and construction. That said, if you want to use the new numbers in R304.1, you can certainly site those as your perspective on the build and make a fair argument for the inclusion in your plans. Hope that makes sense.

  9. Alan March 21, 2016 at 6:49 pm #

    Thank you Andrew for your informative post.

    • Andrew
      Andrew March 21, 2016 at 7:41 pm #

      You’re welcome Alan.

  10. Geoffrey March 21, 2016 at 7:45 pm #

    Are your newest plans meeting most of these codes?

    • Andrew
      Andrew March 21, 2016 at 7:49 pm #

      Hi Geoffrey. The plans we will be releasing soon will be 100% IRC compliant. The plans we sell now are engineered and high quality, but they are not built to meet IRC standards, mostly because of the stairs. You can still build the current hOMe and find ways to live in it (we do), but if you want IRC compliance, then you’ll have to wait until we release the newest version.

  11. Heidi Dotson March 21, 2016 at 10:32 pm #

    Hello Andrew. I have a few comments to make here.

    First, I would like to contribute whatever I can to further the legality of tiny homes. I am obsessed with research and am good at writing. I have an insatiable appetitie for learning. I am an empty nester with a little time on my hands.

    I have been following this movement since I first saw Dee Williams on 60 Minutes in 2010. Since that time, I have devoured everything I can find on tiny homes–every video, image, blog, write-up, fb group, diy construction video that I can find. I have also spent countless hours researching every component of a tiny home, seeking to find most energy-efficient mechanisms, most ergonomic designs, most cost-effective approach to design. Also, I have spent hours drawing up house designs and floor plans. I have piles of sketches. Lastly, I have catalogued every smart and creative design feature that I have witnessed by other tiny home builders. Anyway, I am trying to emphasize what a huge part of my life this movement is… I have been a minimalist and environmentalist and progressive for many years and tiny house is my solution to many aspects of my life.

    I am planning to build my home from a shipping container and I am currently purchasing components and am also building a nest egg to begin making my first major purchases towards my home build.

    From the beginning of this movement, I have never cared for the concept of a loft. I realize that my personal preference is irrelevent. Let me further explain. I am looking towards my senior years and thinking of my tiny home as the last home I will ever reside within independently. Long story short, I already have degenerative arthritis that limits my range of motion–hence my aversion to lofts. Of course, I am aware that a great many tiny home dwellers are aging and in the same boat as me. Obviously, stairs and ladders are the enemy of senior citizens. I feel that it would be a good idea for people to think about their tiny home designs on a more long-term basis and build for their futures–granny shacks.

    While reading your post, three things stood out immediately: head height, legal stairs, and legality of residing in a home that cannot be removed from a trailer. A one story micro shipping container design solves all three problems. No need for stairs–which is great for tiny home dwellers who are looking toward their golden years. Head height is not an issue, as the home is one level. Shipping containers, as you know, are built as a finished structure with an outstanding frame and undercarriage equivilant to a trailer–therefore they can stand alone without a trailer and are exceedingly mobile and easily removeable from a flatbed trailer or chassis, ready to set on a foundation or pylons.

    After years of researching micro homes, one thing has become clear to me. Sometimes the best approach to design is to completely throw out all we know of traditional homes and start from scratch. What I mean is that so many tiny homes have square footage-consuming components that traditional homes have–such as closets, cabinets, shelves, stairs, a second floor (loft), etc. I feel that a tiny home can be created minus many of these traditional features that make the small space feel even smaller–and still meet all the home owner’s needs. Expandable micro apartments come to mind where rooms are convertable and furniture transforms into different furniture–I have seen these on line, in France and in modern U.S. cities–thinking of tiny homes designed similarly.

    I guess I am wondering if you have looked into these shipping container homes. I am not in a position to manufacture tiny shipping container homes–I am just doing mine. Perhaps you are?? I have been working around shipping containers for years. I have spent much time studying every component of a container. They are abundant, cheap, and very versatile–a great medium for home construction and surprisingly, they’re not as heavy as you might think. The weight of a shipping container conversion home rivals same weight as a tiny house on a trailer, truly.

    Just some thoughts. I really appreciate all your hard work striving to normalize and legalize this movement. Also, I have to tell you that when I first saw your design, I was ecstatic to witness one of the first practical tiny homes that broke the original mold (Jay Shafer’s designs). Jay’s tiny home designs are quaint and beautiful; but I never viewed them as very pratical or versatile. Kudos. Love your design ideas. Please let me know if I can help further our cause. I live in central Ohio.

    Best wishes,
    Heidi Dotson

    • Andrew
      Andrew March 22, 2016 at 11:57 am #

      Hi Heidi. Thanks so much for your input and excitement! I know only a little bit about shipping container homes as I have never personally worked on one. I have heard pluses and minuses (as is the case with everything in life) about their functionality, condensation, ease of construction, and so on. As long as they meet the intent of the code, I see them as a viable option to the overall plan for tiny houses in my focus moving forward. Thanks for the kind words about our hOMe too. I will let you know what help we need moving forward as it becomes more clear. Again, thanks for the offer.

    • Heidi July 7, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

      HI Heidi,
      I would love to get your email address to discuss tiny homes. I too and an empty-nester and have recently moved to Colorado from Southern California to follow my tiny house dream. My email is hdtorgersen@gmail.com. Please email me if you are inclined. I have a piece of land ready to purchase in order to create a “tiny home village” of sort… a modern day mobile home park with community garden, pond, etc…
      Hope to hear from you!
      Heidi ( another one ) : )

  12. Sonya Tafejian March 21, 2016 at 10:58 pm #

    Hi Andrew –
    I believe that a Tiny Home On Wheels (THOW) can currently be lived in full-time if it is; 1) RV Certified and; 2) if proper Zoning exists in your County and; 3) if Permits are issued and certain conditions are met.

    Currently, many counties have Zoning that allows a Caregiver, a Disabled or Elderly person to obtain a yearly permit to dwell on a “temporary basis” in a Certified RV (THOW).

    The original permit for this is only around $500 and the permit can be renewed YEARLY as long as the person living in the certified RV is either a Caregiver or Disabled/Elderly and the conditions of the Zoning are met.

    The Zoning requires that there be a main house on the property which also houses either the Caregiver or the Disabled (or Elderly) person. Some counties allow this only between family members and others allow the relationship to be between friends or family.

    In N. Calif there are at least 17 Counties the have this Zoning.

    Given the problems that we have with the cost of housing in N. Calif – this is becoming a viable alternative for many people.

    The new HUD definition has no bearing on this Zoning because it is considered a “temporary use” even though it can be renewed annually and continuously as long as the Zoning conditions are met.

    I teach a monthly class on this Zoning in Sonoma County, CA. I currently live in a Certified, Permitted Tiny House legally in the same county.

    I don’t know much about the IRC Code – but I am supportive of this direction as well. In other words – I don’t see the legality issue as EITHER/OR – I see it as BOTH. We need BOTH because for some being mobile is very important and for others being stationary is fine.

    The question I have about IRC Code is how do you get around the huge cost of Permits for building a small home on raw land?

    In Sonoma County Permit to build a main house (regardless of size) starts at around $60,000.

    Even if a Tiny House is added to a property as a Second Unit – the Permit for that starts at around $24,000 in Sonoma County.

    Please feel free to contact me with any questions on Facebook at: Tiny House Consulting Sonoma County

    Thank you, Sonya

    • Andrew
      Andrew March 22, 2016 at 11:52 am #

      Hi Sonya. Thanks for this input. Great to hear about the options available. I know that folks have used the caregiver approach in the past in other locations through a variance and have been successful. My concern is that it is a yearly renewable (or deniable) permit and, for some, that is too much risk of impermanence. As you said, it is a both/and situation as many folks are fine with the yearly assessment, or otherwise moving. For those who want permanent housing, there would be the IRC path. The building permit aspect is ridiculous, but it is a result of where one lives. At that level, it becomes a personal choice: live in an area with really high permit fees legally or illegally…or move to somewhere less ridiculous in cost. Not all areas have fees that high. I appreciate the offer of connecting. As things develop, I am sure I will be in touch. Thanks.

      • Sonya March 27, 2016 at 2:53 am #

        Thank you for your reply.
        Sonoma County doesn’t require a variance or a hearing to use this zoning, but I know that some other counties do.
        I understand your concern about the yearly permitting. I don’t know much about renewing in other counties – but in Sonoma County – the only reason the permit would be denied in the future is if the conditions of the zoning didn’t continue to be met. Therefore it is more permenant than it sounds.
        I was in the middle of building my Tumbleweed (Cyprus) Tiny House when I discovered that it would be illegal to live in it 1) if it wasn’t certified for Fire, Health and Safety and 2) if I didn’t find zoning that would work for me.
        I scrambled long and hard to accomplish the certification and also to find and interpret the zoning in Sonoma County – but it was well worth the effort on both counts.
        I have lived in Petaluma since 1990 and am very happy to be able to stay here where two of my grown daughters and one grandson live.
        My rent is 30% of waht it was prior to going tiny!
        I’m very certain that zoning for THOWs will expand here – in fact Sonoma County has Tiny House Village pilot project going in by the end of this year.
        Again – I want to stress that I think that Tiny Homes on Wheels and those built on foundations are BOTH valuable parts of this movement – but either way – they need to be built to code.
        Additionally – I think it is crucial that those teaching and leading in this movement take zoning and permitting issues more seriously than they have in the past.
        Building the Tiny House is the easy part – compared to making it legal to live in!
        Tiny House Consulting Sonoma County (on Facebook)

        • Andrew
          Andrew March 27, 2016 at 11:55 am #

          Thanks Sonya. I so completely agree with you that those of us teaching in the movement need to make the codes and zoning issues top priority. That is indeed how I teach my workshops and is fundamental to what I am trying to accomplish within the movement.

    • Marian March 22, 2016 at 4:03 pm #

      Sonya, Why is this only allowed for disableled or care takers? Is it about money? I know you said it is considered temporary but a person could use a care taker for 15 years or all their life. What about retirees that do not want to leave their homes, friends and communities? What about low income people that work and want to live near their work in such an expensive area as yours, college students, young couples and so on, be it on a piece of land or behind a house of a willing owner or ones own house that becomes too big or too hard to keep up? I am sure you come up against this all the time yet I wonder if these issues are being addressed? This is the pressing need I see and I would like to champion. Berkeley is going through a process to allow ADU’S because of the needs of the elderly. I plan to follow it and maybe get involved because a THOW could be a viable alternative, less expensive, and less permanent than an ADU. If you ever need a senior citizen to speak about our needs, issues, and how THOW’s are a great solution let me know. Let’s preserve the open land, the farm land and allow people to have a home with the footprint that meets their need!

  13. Debbie March 22, 2016 at 3:26 am #

    Hi Andrew,

    I would like to offer my assistance with your quest to make tiny house positive changes to the IRC! I have a large and varied skill set, so you can use me as you please! Lol I am currently a full time student and empty nester. This makes me available at least twice a week!

  14. Randall Stark March 22, 2016 at 5:40 am #

    Hi Andrew,
    I greatly appreciate your article, perspective, and passion to pursue design changes to meet requirements of the IRC and remove the spectre of being “illegal”. My wife and I have been following HoME, and Tiny House designs and blogs, for years. Although she would “build it tomorrow”, my concern has always been about code requirements and lofts (2 of the points in your article), since we are over 60.

    Lately, I’ve been working with 2 different builders, on designs that exceed IRC requirements. Although their designs don’t meet many standardized “minimum square ft. requirements” in our area, both have stated “If the IRC requirements are satisfied, the easiest variance to obtain, is the minimum square ft. requirement”.

    I beleive the easisest way to make your recommended changes to the IRC, is by this path (meeting the purposes and intent of the code, and only requesting variance from local authorities on squre footage minimums).

    In our area, there is a severe shortage of affordable housing. Although both of these contractors build small (1,200-1,800 sq’) homes, their clients are typically “retirees” or “vacation-home” owners, paying high dollar/sq.’. They truly desire to build smaller , primary residence homes. I beleive you would get a lot of support, from other contractors as well, if they became aware of the argument. Let me know how we can help.

    • Andrew
      Andrew March 22, 2016 at 11:42 am #

      Thanks Randall. I appreciate your input very much. I agree with you that gaining a variance for the minimum square foot requirement is much easier to do if the home is built to IRC standards. That said, the changes we want to make in the IRC do not relate to square footage, but to things like head heights, etc. The minimum square footage requirement as enforced in local areas is a zoning issue since the IRC allows for habitable dwellings to be as small as 120sf (old version of R304.1) or 70sf (new version of R304.1). I believe there is room to make many THOW designs work within the IRC and I hope to be a voice for that change. Thanks again for your input and offer of help. More to come…

  15. lamac66 March 22, 2016 at 6:39 am #

    Hi Andrew will the IRC cover all local jurisdictions? Or will local jurisdictions be able to override the IRC?

    • Andrew
      Andrew March 22, 2016 at 10:38 am #

      The IRC is used in almost all locations in the US as the residential code; however, local jurisdictions can choose to not adopt specific aspects of the code. That is a process to enact so unless they are very much opposed to a provision, most locations simply adopt the code as is.

  16. Patricia March 22, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

    Andrew: I am most interested in helping – at any level. I do not have the construction background but am willing to do whatever needs to be done. I am doing quite a bit of research on building, plan and design for my own THROW.

    • Andrew
      Andrew March 22, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

      Thanks so much Patricia! I will keep you posted as things develop…

  17. Vickie Hicks March 22, 2016 at 1:46 pm #

    Hello, Andrew,

    Thank you for informing me om what the RVIA, HUD and IRC are planning to do. I think that it is ridiculous that they want to make sure that the Tiny Houses are required to be RV’S and not the Tiny Homes that they are meant to be. It just sickens me that people who think that they in the authority (or better than everyone else) think that they can do this to people who want to downsize to a Tint House. Maybe their the ones that should downsize from their big mansions to a Tiny House and see how they like it. They will change their minds in and awful hurry.

    You have my back and my blessing. Sorry, that I got a little wordy and a lot angry..

    • Andrew
      Andrew March 22, 2016 at 5:22 pm #

      Hi Vickie. Sorry to have angered you in the post. To be clear, the RVIA already certifies RVs and they are currently willing to certify (and are certifying) Tiny Houses as RVs. Nothing has changed there. HUD is now talking about including Tiny Houses (assuming they fit the description given in their proposal) as RVs in their language. Really, there is no major impact here on the overall tiny house community because calling a tiny house an RV is something that the tiny house industry has done to itself. I have never been in favor of this, but it has happened nonetheless. So HUD’s proposal to oversee RVs is not a big deal unless we call ourselves RVs and build to RV standards. If we opt to build to IRC standards, then all is well. The IRC has shown a level of interest in working with the tiny house community and I think there is room for successful team work there. For those individuals who want to live in a certified RV and move their house often, then the RVIA and HUD will be in a position to oversee the safety and quality of those builds. The biggest issue from that angle is that both HUD and the RVIA certify construction facilities, not individual builds (to my understanding), which make the DIYer’s task that much harder in terms of approvals.

      • /bob March 22, 2016 at 6:21 pm #

        I totally agree with you, Andrew. As also your views expressed in the blog post. It’s the same as I try to say to anyone about what a Tiny House is all about. It really is the relatively recent individuals coming into the movement, as well as some enterprising THOW manufacturing companies who see a way to make some money on this, who have introduced the idea of Tiny House as RV. It is an ill advised shortcut to attempt to skirt the legal issue. In my view (also) it is not an RV. The original intent of the modern movement if you count from the late 90’s is that a Tiny House is, first and foremost, A HOUSE. A permanent dwelling. There has already been for many many years the RV living movement. That is very different. I’ve read many posts from those who live full time in an RV and even have figured out the solar panel issue to provide all their energy needs. Most do move from one site to another twice per year or more. A few live permanently at one site… at least for more than 3-5 years at a time. I’ve always felt that if you want to live tiny in an RV then get an RV. I also have no issue if a person wants to build their own RV. But it would still be an RV and not really a Tiny House as long as it is built to RVIA standards, even if it looks a lot the same as one.

        The Tiny House movement has never (until just recent) been about home-built RVs. Jay Shafer has been held up as one of the main pioneers of the modern version of this movement, but if you truly read his story he wasn’t looking for a mobile home nor a home-built RV. He was looking for a house that fit him. The trailer was forced on him due to unreasonable building codes and was the way he could build his house and get around those codes. This all began in Iowa City, IA. I remember watching a news video of his very first house right after he built it on our local TV news. I live just a few hours west of IA City. That was my first exposure to this movement more than 15 years ago. If the building codes had allowed it back then Jay would have built his Tiny House on a foundation of some sort and the trailer base would never have been in the mix. The modern Tiny House movement to me is also coupled with the Tiny Living movement. Some people see those as the same. They are not. It is, however, most difficult if not impossible to live in a Tiny House without implementing Tiny Living. Tiny Living does not need to be done in a Tiny House and, in fact, can and is done in dwellings of all types and sizes. You can live Tiny (Tiny Living) in a 5000 sq ft mansion, a boat, yurt, Tee Pee, Tiny House, and yes, even a RV. Anyone can do Tiny Living in the place where they are right now without any expense. In fact Tiny Living will save you money starting the moment you decide to start doing it. A Tiny House will cost money (to plan, to build, to move if needed, etc), but will also save you money over the long run since are forced to live the Tiny Life in one.

        I have no issue with the news presented in this post since it doesn’t concern what I would prefer to do for a Tiny House. My “RV” is a tent. So when I want to visit other places that’s how I live if I am solo. Or in a motel/hotel or in a relatives home if nearby. When I visit away I don’t go for a long time. I like staying home. Being rooted in a community. I prefer a Tiny House on a foundation of some type. I am willing to move to a community where that is allowed. The recent news from Spur is not really too defeating to me since there is still the desire to allow Tiny Houses in town, just with some oversight (truly needed) of the construction for everyones safety.

        I’ve rambled on enough now.

        • Andrew
          Andrew March 23, 2016 at 8:24 am #

          Hi Bob. Thanks for your comments. I especially like that you discuss how people can create a tiny lifestyle right now, in their current home. That is far too often overlooked. As you say, we fully agree on the difference between an RV and a tiny house. Be well…

      • Saskia June 2, 2016 at 10:45 am #

        Hi Andrew,

        Thank you so much for this information and the continuing discussion that is providing useful in my research. I have a few questions for you regarding HUD and tiny houses. I was reading another online article, and it told me that in order to build to HUD standards, your house has to be a minimum of 320 sq.: https://www.dli.mn.gov/ccld/PDF/tiny_houses.pdf. I realize this is a PDF that was specifically created for Minnesota, but I am assuming that HUD maintains national codes???

        It seems to me that tiny houses can technically be up to 400 sq. ft. and so the larger ones would fall into those last 80 sq. ft. In this line of reasoning, it seems to me that as long as one built to the standards of the HUD and had a tiny house that was at least 320 sq. ft. one could get it approved through the HUD.

        However, I am wondering if the house then automatically becomes classified as an RV and one can no longer have permanent occupancy year-round, or if this shouldn’t be an issue? It seemed to me that HUD manufactures mobile homes as well, which are year-round dwellings, and which is therefore confusing me a bit.

        Lastly, I am wondering if there is a place to find more information re: your new hOMe plans and what changes you made in order for them to comply with IRC standards? I very much love everything about the initial design I saw, but would be interested in seeing if the new changes are subtle enough to resemble the first design.

        In general, I am just hoping to get as much information as possible before I start the build, so that there are fewer obstacles to jump over (hopefully!) later.

        Thanks,

        Saskia

        • Andrew
          Andrew June 25, 2016 at 8:02 pm #

          Hi Saskia. The major piece that is at play is the fact that HUD only approves manufacturing facilities, not individual houses. As such, individual builders cannot gain HUD code approvals on their tiny houses. Everything else HUD related is thus a moot point. We will be releasing more information on the IRC compliant tiny house once we are complete with the plans. We still have some details to work out.

          • Lina October 27, 2016 at 9:08 pm #

            Why can’t the mobile home companies just build an 8.5 feet wide mobile home so that the mobile home could be pulled by any 4×4 without additional permits. Then thow would have a hud tag and could park in residential areas anywhere mobiles are allowed and rv parks also.. There are cheap mobile homes they are just not small enough to be pulled without permits.

          • Andrew
            Andrew October 30, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

            Hi Lina. Manufactured housing industry leaders are not interested in building tiny homes. They have said so much in their communication and in their findings. HUD too is not interested. We are creating a new industry and that is exciting; however, it means we have some work to do. Thus the code proposal we are moving through the ICC right now. Stay tuned for more!

  18. Marian March 22, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

    Andrew, I to appreciate all you are doing. My main concern is being allowed the freedom to use my future THOW as a permanent permitted residence where ever I choose to park it. I certainly see the need for a way to secure it to some form of tie down feature but removing it from the trailer or anything too extensive is not realistic for me and many others. I do not want what you or anyone else is doing to accidentally or knowingly negotiate away my rights for my dream of Tiny Living. What I see as a big part of the problem is that it is not recognized that RV’ers do in fact live in their RV’s, mobile or Trailer, for more than 30 days. They may stay in one place or move around. I am not sure why this is OK, probably not monitored but this is happening and their is a need.l! One reason I would like mobile living is I live in Silicon Valley, the good jobs I find tend to be temporary, they are all over the place and hard to commute to. Being able to move my home, every 3, 6 , 9 months, rather than moving my stuff to a different appartment seems like a better solution. That is what a lot of people with RV’s do. But THOWS are so much better! 6 years is a long time and people need solutions for now or this movement could die out.

    • Andrew
      Andrew March 23, 2016 at 8:29 am #

      Hello again Marian. I hear you. As you say, there are those people who move their RVs all the time and live int hem full time. No problem. That is allowed in certain areas as is living in an RV for longer periods of time, if the zoning allows for it. If it does not allow for it, then that is a zoning issue and not something that my work to get IRC approvals will impact in any way. They are two different things: IRC (building code) and zoning (WHERE you can place a TH, RV or any other structure). I’m sure everyone in the movement would like to be “allowed the freedom to use my future THOW as a permanent permitted residence where ever I choose to park it”; however, that is simply not the reality of living in our society. We have zoning regulations for a reason, often good reasons (but not always), and if you want to see those change, then you have to work locally to do so as those are managed by local communities and government agencies. Again, in many places you can live in your RV as you have described, so it’s about finding the right locations to park in your local community.

  19. Lisa March 23, 2016 at 8:19 am #

    I too thank you Andrew for all your work, care, and determination to make this all work for so many people. I am building my tiny house to the best of my knowledge of the building codes, now using a general contractor to do my electrical and plumbing work. I have also been committed to using only materials that are as least toxic as possible, including sheep’s wool insulation, and mostly salvaged materials, without lead paint. I worry about the toxicity levels in so many tiny homes with chip board instead of plywood (more glue and formaldehyde), foam, etc etc. I think it’s just as important to make “rules” about what materials are used to prevent sick building syndrome in such a tiny and sometimes tight space.I am dealing with cancer that has set me back much money, selling my 700 sq ft house that was too expensive for me to live in, and just want to live simply, peacefully and hope to be living in Nature soon. This whole rules and laws stuff makes me feel tired! Not having a partner to go through this with (my son does come once a week to help me) limits what I want to deal with. So for me, I hope to find an area that will allow me to live there without hassle. Hope I am not dreaming!n Sounds like it but will keep my faith. Thank you to all who are working on making these houses legal, and thanks for the idea if getting a variance.One question I do have is I think the building codes for a 1000 plus sq ft house have to be different than a 120-300 sq ft house such as how much insulation in the walls, according to climate the house is in, or the expanse of the space, 8′ vs 15-30′ etc etc. I agree that one level is smart for aging and not needing 8′ head space since still there would be lofts for storage or sitting areas etc. Again thank you.

    • Andrew
      Andrew March 23, 2016 at 8:36 am #

      Thanks Lisa, and best of success with your build. Sounds like you are doing it right! I appreciate the focus on healthy materials as well. That is especially important in a small space, for sure. I still suggest that if people plan to build tiny on a foundation that they consider a small straw bale home. SUPER healthy and SUPER efficient. Wishing you well.

    • Sonya April 1, 2016 at 3:21 pm #

      Lisa,
      If you are disabled (or elderly) – look for the following Zoning in the area where you live. Ask your planning/zoning department if they have any “reasonable accomodation for disabled persons or their caregivers.” It might be listed under “temporary use of a travel trailer” in the Zoning Code.

      Many counties do have this Zoning and it can allow you to live in an RV or Tiny House (certified as an RV) based on a renewable one year permit process (re-permitted yearly).

      Also, RVIA is NOT the only entity that can certify an RV – there are a number of legit RV Certifiers in the USA and some certify “Custom Tiny Homes.”

      You can also build a Tiny House/RV in Oregon or Washington and get State Certification. These two states (and Nebraska) have retained the right to state Certifiy custom RV/Tiny Homes.

      I teach a monthly class about this in Sonoma County, CA.

      Please find me on Facebook at: Tiny House Consulting Sonoma County

      or email me at: tinyhouse_zoning@yahoo.com

      Go Tiny~Live Big! Sonya

  20. Michael March 24, 2016 at 3:40 pm #

    Hi Andrew

    So how will this going to affect those of us who live and travel full time in our RVs ? We consider these as our tiny house and have even made improvements the manufactures don’t even consider.

    • Andrew
      Andrew March 27, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

      Not one bit. 🙂

  21. Kate March 25, 2016 at 1:10 pm #

    My husband and I are seriously considering setting up a tiny house village co-op of sorts for our retirement years, so I’d love to be involved in getting the IRC standards set up so that others can enjoy the lifestyle with us.

    I, too, know people who live in their RVs 24/365…and I can understand that the nomadic lifestyle is not for everyone, but I also feel that unless people are creating crime waves, endangering themselves, or otherwise destroying neighborhoods that they are in, these laws are intrusive.

    It is one thing to find safety and comfort in our homes, but lately, I feel that standards of building are shoddy and not taking people’s health into consideration. To that end, and for those of us who believe in Tiny Houses and Tiny Living and for everyone else, getting involved in making building standards better is the right tack. Thank you for bringing this to light. Please let me know how I can help.

    • Andrew
      Andrew March 27, 2016 at 12:06 pm #

      Thank you Kate. I appreciate your input and offer of help.

  22. Scott March 26, 2016 at 5:30 am #

    Hi Andrew,
    I agree with most of your points and would like to help in any way I can.
    Scott

    • Andrew
      Andrew March 27, 2016 at 12:01 pm #

      Thanks for your offer of help Scott! I will let you know what needs we have as we dive in deeper…

  23. LA March 26, 2016 at 12:27 pm #

    Wow, this site is great! I am looking into joining this movement to Tiny. My goal is to start by sticking within as many of these IRC mandates as possible.

    This will prob begin in FL for me – question: What is the official local agency to check for the local rules specific to the final resting area where one may place the tiny house?

    I am currently looking for local non-deed restricted land for this endeavor.

    I might start with some sort of “expandable” Container construction dwelling to try and meet what you documented above in “height” requirements (stairs/ road travel) and then plan for final placement on special built steel girder lower level (garage of sorts) to deal with any coastal flooding issues here. That lower level could possibly cover the rule on “attaching to a ground structure”. So I will have to research what it really takes (saw container loving on HGTV show =$1200 to move) to load it up once built and then move it if desired. Also, I realise must research what it will really take for construction of this nature in this area (steel ground placement/container loft expansion). May have completely priced myself out. Anyway – any direction is great. And your work, information and time to publish blog and offer workshops is greatly appreciated! Looking forward to next FL workshop!
    Thank you,

    • Andrew
      Andrew March 27, 2016 at 12:04 pm #

      Hi LA! I would start by speaking with local planning departments about what specific zonings would allow for your plan. If you have a specific community in mind, that would help as you would otherwise need to contact planning departments in all of the potential counties and cities which would be a big job. If you plan to build within a city’s limits, then you would contact that city planning department. If you plan to build outside of the city limits, then you would contact the county planning department. Cheers.

  24. Jerre George March 31, 2016 at 1:14 pm #

    I am glad you have talked in earnest about zoning matters and the need to determine how your city or county would allow a tiny home to be situated within their boundaries. One of the reasons zoning codes exist is to protect the properties within their boundaries and to assure that growth is orderly and compatible. As a city/county government employee (retired), I always thought one of the most important things a zoning code could do is to protect one’s home from incompatible uses locating too near it for both safety, aesthetic, and property value purposes. For most homeowners, the most important thing they own is their home. And their most valuable asset. The value of your home in terms of both price and sell-ability can be negatively impacted by what is occurring in your neighborhood. An apartment complex being constructed next door to your home can affect it’s value just as if a pawn shop was being built there. And a tiny house being built next to your 2,500 square foot home can also have a negative affect on its value. You can’t always depend on restrictive covenants for your subdivision to protect you because most expire, and if your neighborhood was developed over 25 years ago, there is a good possibility any restrictive covenants as to what can be built next door to you have expired. I am not a “housing snob” by any stretch of the imagination, only someone who has dealt daily with (for example) people who want to put a yurt in the middle of a single family detached neighborhood and with people who are terrified that their property values will plummet if an apartment complex is built on the next block. Personally, I love the tiny houses I see being built and bought on TV and definitely see that they have a place in the housing market. Proponents of tiny houses and local governments need to work together to ensure that everyone’s rights and properties are protected.

    • Andrew
      Andrew April 6, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

      Hi Jerre. I so appreciate your message. You speak clearly to so much of what is being missed in the larger conversation I see, not just in this thread, but in the tiny house community as a whole. We have to work TOGETHER with local governments and agencies to be the change we want to see in the world. (Hope you don’t mind me mixing your words with Gandhi’s!) I hope that your measured and clear approach will resonate with our readers. Having just returned from speaking at the Tiny House Conference in Asheville, NC, I can say that this conversation is a very important one to pretty much everyone in the movement. Further, we have the potential for great change and I trust we will take positive action to bring that change to fruition.

  25. Raymond Folsom April 2, 2016 at 2:53 am #

    Very enlightening article and even more so on the discussions that followed.

    If these regulations (concern for safety) were not tied money and control but rather choice and without payment, then and only then, one would be more apt, than not, to assume there was real concern for safety. There is NO WAY to go to the detail required that would cover the complicated system we have at work here, business, money, preference, physics, and values.

    Why not let people live how they want? For those people who like and need regulated and can or want to pay for the “babysitting services” that is okay too.

    There are varying reasons why there is a “movement” to live in an RV and/or tiny home and one of those reasons would be freedom; being free from the continual involvement of costly government involvement thru standardization in how one lives. This insatiable need to control every aspect of another person’s life thru regulations looks righteous but this tiny home movement is shifting the financial power from government and business to freedom that is deliberate, and an intentional choice.

    Of course any trailer manufacturing business would be interested is regulating…its their bread and butter. Clearly, with the rise of “sheds” being built and sold has put a hurt’n on the sales of manufactured homes.

    • Andrew
      Andrew April 6, 2016 at 1:37 pm #

      Hi Raymond. I know a lot of people agree with you that we “should be allowed to do what we want with our builds;” however, it just isn’t that simple. Health and safety codes are in place for a reason. Without them, people will (and do) build dangerous structures because they build them on the cheap. I have seen it done over and over in my 20 years in the industry. The issues become even more important when you consider what would happen if a poorly constructed tiny home were to fall apart while driving down the highway at 50mph. What about the people in the car behind them? What if they were killed or injured? That is not a risk that any housing authority is willing to take, nor should they. I want to know that I am safe (or as safe as possible) when on the road, and having piece-meal houses around me would not help me find that level of safety.

      I am not a manufacturer of tiny homes, nor am I a builder of tiny homes (other than my own). I teach people how to build their own houses. My job is literally to inspire people to create their dreams. Additional regulation would not “help” me, but I believe it is the right thing to do for the industry and community as a whole. The better quality our builds are, the longer this trend of tiny living will be around. If we start seeing tiny houses blowing up and killing people on the road or off, I can assure you that the government agencies who are currently willing to work with us towards approvals will be less inclined to do so.

      Finally, there is no way to ask for inspections and oversight without compensation. The compensation (fees) need to be fair and balanced for the tiny house community, but we cannot expect to get it for free. People have to do the inspections, which takes time, training for the inspectors, fuel to get them to the job site, etc. That costs money. It is the reality of the world we live in.

  26. Carey Rolfe April 2, 2016 at 6:21 am #

    Hello, as Tiny Home design-builders (Underway Tiny EcoHomes) in Canada, we are following these developments very closely. We are engaged in similar challenges/efforts on this side of the border, as well.

    This coming Tuesday (April 5th, 2016), our company together with another Nova Scotian Tiny Home builder, Howling Dog Construction and the organizer of the Tiny Houses in Nova Scotia Movement have been invited to sit on a panel to discuss and explore potential code compliance issues and challenges in Tiny Home design and construction. This is occurring at the NS Building Officials Association Annual Conference where they propose, review and discuss national and provincial building code changes.

    There has been much discussion among local builders about the risks and potential consequences of getting involved in this discussion publicly. However, the consensus has been that it is critical to engage local governments and officials to help inform them on the viability and suitability of well designed and constructed Tiny Homes as permanent residences. These offer affordable alternate lifestyle options that appeal to large and rapidly growing segments of our population. As you have suggested above, the key to the success of this movement is stakeholders coming together and helping to inform the process with experience and necessary consideration of affordability, safety and practicality.

    We are pleased to see the Tiny Home movement solidifying and coming together to help shape the future of Tiny Home Living. Building Codes and official standards should not be considered the enemy but rather the benchmarks that help to ensure our safety and success. Organization, engagement, education and exploration combined with momentum will ensure that Tiny Home Living becomes and remains a viable, legal option. Thank you Andrew and Tiny House Build for your continued efforts and support of the Tiny Home Community. Cheers!!

    • Philip April 2, 2016 at 6:35 am #

      If you guys are in NS, you should look up vintage trailer genius Craig Dorsey from vintage-vacations formerly of Anaheim, now based in Annapolis Royal. He’s a great guy and brilliant with movable structures.

  27. Philip April 2, 2016 at 6:31 am #

    I’m in the vintage trailer hobby, and I recently started a renewal of some original 1940’s aircraft coach designs, look up Curtis Wright, Aeroflite, and Westcraft for some clues to what they look like. I’m selling all of them in Europe at this time, because I have galvanized chassis being built in UK and an existing support system for the finishing work on them as they progress. Eventually, I’ll have to deal with this mess you’ve written about.

    While embarking on this, and watching some of the TH shows on TV, I can say that I would never build the way that most are doing. Shooting a non threaded fastener (aka NAIL) into a 2X4 and OSB/waferboard structure and then putting it on the road is not what I call sound construction. I own over 40 of the 1940’s and 1950’s trailers- Spartan, Airstream, etc, and the basic structures are sound, even 60-70 years after being built. A new axle and a replacement wood floor and re-do some of the interior, and you’re in business, and I’ve taken these traveling all over USA and Europe with minimal issues over many, many miles (and kilometers).

    If you’ve ever been inside of a well built travel trailer when its moving at even say, 30MPH, you’d think all hell was breaking loose. I can’t imagine one these TH’s from the TV shows lasting more than 5-10 years, especially with OSB, in a traveling situation, and/or moist climate.

    Building on a car trailer is also a bit of a joke. I have 45′ and 38′ flat bed car trailers- both bumper pull. I’d never even think to build anything on them, and the 45’er is an Imperial- look it up- extremely well built. They have a lot of twist and movement, that you never notice, but build a wood house on it, and watch what happens.

    Build these either to be more and better mobilized to be able to move every thirty days, for a day, and then back to home base- as needed, or building them on a skid is a good idea, but you’ll need a low loader- like a Landoll Haul All to move them, and they’re pricey.

    Eventually, I’m looking into building an aircraft aluminum framed and skinned TH, which will last like the 1940’s trailers have. Who knows if it will be legal in what area, so I’m looking at building the structure, selling it empty and calling it a versatile shed/outbuilding, and letting the end user finish it off.

    I also own a 54′ houseboat, I wonder what crap they’ll start over that one…

  28. /bob April 2, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

    This was in the news recently:
    http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2016/03/28/why-people-choose-trailer-living-over-traditional-house/?intcmp=hpff

    This is about RV living. These are examples of “Tiny Living” in a RV rather than in a Tiny House. It is mobile. Yet these people are living full time in their RV units. This is one type of alternative living that has been around for a great many years. There are similarities to Tiny House living, but it is different. I’ve read of at least one living full time in their RV with solar power that supplies plenty of energy to power an impressive wood working shop, yet is no bigger than what many others have for solar. He figured out how to make it work right. There are many people who recently (in the last 5 years maybe) who see Tiny Houses and think RV living. Different, yet similar. I think it’s due to the exposure of the lifestyle that draws them in and they haven’t done enough homework yet to see the difference. RV living is more likely impacted by this HUD proposal than Tiny Houses since (as mentioned before) Tiny Houses are originally designed around the permanent location idea than an RV. I reiterate that the Tiny House movement needs to continue to pursue changes to IRC (International Residential Code) and IBC (International Buiding Code) guidelines and to encourage communities to embrace those updates to the codes. The IRC/IBC that is published by the ICC are presented as guidelines that communities can choose to either incorporate into their own ordinance or not. And communities are free to indicate deviations to the IRC/IBC in their implementation. It’s the communities local ordinances that we are really interested in changing to either allow Tiny Houses to be lived in full time as primary residence on a property or allow for a variance to allow the same thing. Progress is being made. 🙂

    • Andrew
      Andrew April 6, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

      Hi Bob. Agreed. Thanks for your positive input and voice. I think you have it just right and I’m glad that you can see the progress being made!

  29. Andrew Heben April 2, 2016 at 3:41 pm #

    Hey there Andrew, thanks for sharing this and clarifying a lot of the misinformation being spread out there at the moment. I was inspired to follow up with this piece yesterday, and thought I’d share it with you: http://www.tentcityurbanism.com/2016/04/hud-and-tiny-houses.html

    • Andrew
      Andrew April 6, 2016 at 1:34 pm #

      Hi Andrew. Thanks for the link and thanks for your follow up and connection. It is hard to bring light into a conversation that is continually misrepresented and enflamed as scarier than it really is. People are concerned, and I don’t blame them; however, I want people to fully understand the proposal and how limited the impact would actually be. For me, the key is to gain code compliance in a way that does not tie our tiny houses to RVs, the RVIA, or HUD in any way. Let’s make them what they are: residential houses.

  30. Christine Giuda April 3, 2016 at 4:27 am #

    So how does this affect those that leave the cold for warmer climes in their self propelled RVs. They spend more than 30 days in those vehicles and many have purchased their spot in a park. When they are not there the space can be rented to others. I see lots of sticky wickets in this. I don’t plan to spend winters in NH anymore and we won’t be moving somewhere every 30 days in order to say we aren’t living in it for more than 30 days. I’d really like to see this enforced.
    Tiny homes serve and even bigger purpose as well to house homeless vets and others who have lost their homes. If that happened to us, do you really think I want to live in a shelter? Do I want Section 8 housing? We worked for a very long time to earn what we have and who is the government to say we cannot reap the benefits especially when it costs the government nothing. Agenda 21 and the New World Order. People better wake up and fight back.

    • Andrew
      Andrew April 6, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

      Hi Christine. I hear your concern. HUD’s proposal will have zero affect on people who travel in their RVs, especially self propelled RVs as they are specifically not included in this proposal. Further, HUD does not govern how long you can live in your RV or tiny home. They are simply labeling the structure an RV and then local jurisdictions determine where they can be lived in and for how long. Some RV parks are perfect legal to live in. Others are not. That is not controlled by the federal government. I firmly believe that we will see real change continue to grow in the US to support tiny house living. I believe that the absolute and undeniable need for affordable housing will bring life to tiny house communities all around the country; created as their own zoning ordinance to satisfy the need with a plausible and safe option.

  31. Cathie April 3, 2016 at 6:31 am #

    The Tiny House Movement seems to cover so many “types” of structures to live in with the idea of living only with what you really need to live with, for as much as you can afford. But are Tiny Homes really RV’s or should they be classified as “Mobile Homes” or Manufactured Homes? Tiny homes are built like houses and not RV’s.

    Many of the DIY Tiny Homes builds sound too good to be true and probably need regulations, especially if they are traveling on our highways. But I wish they would leave the RV industry out of it. If you are happy traveling and living in a 14′ Travel Trailer and that is all you need or can afford who’s business is it to tell you that you can’t!!

    • Andrew
      Andrew April 6, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

      Hi Cathie. Thanks for your message. I am in full agreement that tiny houses should not be referred to as RVs. Unfortunately, the tiny house industry has brought that on themselves. For example, Tumbleweed has been calling their houses “tiny house RVs” for some time now. An RV certification does not get us the end game that we want: a residence. You are absolutely correct that the fact that tiny house owners drive their homes on the highways that we need oversight on construction safety. That is also true for people who plan to never drive theirs anywhere. The health and safety of a home’s occupants is extremely important and I can say from first-hand experience that people who do not have to build to code, often do not and those homes are often VERY dangerous to live in. I have seen way too many people do just that over my 20 years in the construction industry.

      In terms of people wanting to live in their travel trailers by moving around the country, that won’t change at all. People that move from place to place are traveling and that is exactly what RVs are for. People who live in their RVs in one spot already have laws stating that such action is illegal in most areas, but legal in some. That won’t change by HUD’s proposal. Those laws are made at the state and local levels.

      Andrew

  32. Echo April 3, 2016 at 7:24 am #

    why does this not surprise me in the least?? when people started putting articles out in print and online, bragging and talking about full time camping, workamping and now ‘mobile tiny houses’, about how wonderful it was because of not having to pay taxes? lower cost? easier and cheaper to maintain and heat? i figured it would only be a matter of time before they started to work on a way to tax the mobile, tiny way of life. or make it illegal. or pass so many laws and ordinances to make it on par with living in a regular home.

    i posted to different pages and wrote to quite a few of the authors who were writing the articles and in a polite way, basically told them to “shut up” because they were going to ruin it.

    in so many communities and states there are law that prohibit building dwellings under a specified number of square feet. and it’s only going to get worse. it’s alright if “they” build them or if people live in apartments that are as small as a ‘tiny house’, but don’t you dare take upon yourselves to make your housing/living smaller!

    sometimes it’s much better to keep your mouths shut about a good thing.

    • Andrew
      Andrew April 6, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

      Hi Echo. I hear your frustration, but I don’t think it is as bad as you think it is. The reality is, and always has been, that tiny homes will be taxed and addressed like any other primary residence. In fact, I think that is absolutely a good thing. If they recognize our tiny homes as “primary residences”, then we can legally live in them. Th majority of square footage requirements that you mention are in place by either plat requirements, home owners associations, or city planning departments. The national residential code (IRC) allows for houses well under 200sf as dwelling units, so it can be done. The key is going to be convincing local jurisdictions that tiny houses are good for their community. I believe this is something that can be done, and in fact, is being done. Keeping quiet about tiny houses will not help those in need of affordable housing. Bringing these homes to the forefront as a way to show our communities what is possible is a much better approach. The reality is that the US is in a housing crisis. Things must change and presenting tiny houses as an option for positive change is, in my opinion, a great way forward.

      Andrew

  33. Michael eschenbach April 3, 2016 at 8:39 am #

    Andrew. I’m a marine engineer by original profession and general contractor / residential designer for 35 years. I agree with your premis by believe we will also need to address zoning and land use issues so once they are legal, we will have a place to put them.
    Glad to discuss with you if you are interested.

    • Andrew
      Andrew April 6, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

      Hi Michael. I completely agree with you that zoning and land use issues must be addressed. They are a different issue, as you note, and so I did not particularly discuss them in depth here. There are changes happening in that realm as we speak in locations around the US. The need to change the ordinances that impede tiny house approvals must be addressed at the local level since each jurisdiction writes and enforces their own land use laws. There is a growing effort to do just that. It’s exciting to watch unfold!

      Andrew

  34. Sarah W. April 3, 2016 at 9:14 pm #

    You can help prevent this proposal from becoming law by sending comments to regulations.gov by April 11!!

  35. Trailer Made Custom Trailers April 3, 2016 at 9:20 pm #

    Andrew, please contact Natalie or I at your earliest convenience. We have been working successfully with several cities in the country to get variances to IRC code for pulling C.O.s,and we know what amendments to IRC municipal level offices are amenable to. You know that we are absolutely interested in submitting proposals to the IRC to oversee the tiny house industry!

    Cheers
    Damon DesChamp
    Natalie Doolittle
    Trailer Made Custom Trailers

    • Andrew
      Andrew April 4, 2016 at 7:29 pm #

      That’s great Damon! I look forward to connecting with you. I’m off to Brazil for a TH presentation soon so may not be in touch for a while.

  36. Bryan April 4, 2016 at 8:34 am #

    HUD does not have the authority to turn people out of a dwelling. They have the authority to refuse to subsidize a dwelling, but any authority to deem a dwelling “illegal” is at the discretion of the appropriate zoning/housing authority. This would either be a county or municipal/metropolitan entity, not a federal one. States may impose laws and regulations that apply to local authorities, of course, but it is the local authority that has the full regulation set. HUD does not and cannot regulate what is “legal” to live in. That’s a state/local matter. You just look stupid when you make your kook claims.

    And the IRC has no direct authority, either. It is just a “model code” that a state may adopt in whole, in part, or ignore, entirely at its own discretion.

    • Andrew
      Andrew April 4, 2016 at 7:28 pm #

      Hi Bryan. Not sure who the “kook” is that you are referring to, but I hope we can keep it civil in here. I imagine your intention was not to insult anyone, but just want to remind us all that we want to keep this space positive. In regards to what you wrote, I agree that HUD does not have the authority to deem a tiny house illegal. That is what I am saying in my article and why I don’t want people to freak out about the proposal. It really does not have a large impact on tiny houses in the end, certainly not in regards to where one can put one and whether one can live in one or not. I also agree that the IRC is a model code; however, most jurisdictions do indeed adopt and use it for their building division. It is true that they can choose not to, but most choose to accept or even intensify the IRC standards. I think we are on the same page, but wanted to clarify from my perspective.

  37. Andrew
    Andrew April 4, 2016 at 7:24 pm #

    I’m not sure what this is in response to TJ.

  38. Erika April 5, 2016 at 8:34 am #

    Hi Andrew,

    I am new to the tiny house movement, but I am bound and determined to build one with the help of family and hopefully a local professional. I am a single mother of 2 and have very little money to work with. In fact, my discovery of the movement has given me my first glimpses of hope for the future and owning my own home. Finances being my primary reason for my desire to build a tiny house, I want to DIY it as much as possible, especially the design process. I am planning to build a THOW because the portability of my home is essential as I don’t know where I’m going to be living. And because I don’t know where I am going to be living, I want to make sure I build this house so it is up to federal standards to minimize any trouble I might have wherever I go. Thank you very much for pointing out some options we have in order to be compliant. I will definitely think about your ideas to remove the wheels from the trailer and have an anchor system or to have the house be removable from the trailer to attach to a foundation. Also, because I have 2 kids who because of their genders and ages need their own spaces, I don’t have the luxury of building this home without livable loft spaces. There has to be a way to design loft spaces that would satisfy as you say the “intent of the code”. Could some smart design, keeping the reason for the code in mind, solve this issue?

    Though I plan on moving to another state eventually, I am also thinking of using my build to raise awareness in my home state of North Dakota, which is my build location, about the movement and its financial benefits. I am sure North Dakota is behind the times when it comes to tiny homes like it is with so many other things. So I am definitely willing to help in any way I can!

    Thanks,
    Erika

    • Andrew
      Andrew April 7, 2016 at 12:33 pm #

      Hi Erika. Thanks for your message. I’m glad to hear you plan to build to code as much as possible. If you use lofts, there is only one way that I know to make them legal in the IRC’s eyes and that is to have the roof expand up once parked. The head height requirement is black and white, so you either meet it or you don’t. Unfortunately, there is no wiggle room that would help a THOW loft be considered livable space without a taller ceiling. One thing you might consider is building a wider house so that you can use more space downstairs. You can fairly easily go to 10′ wide and just get simple wide load permits to move the house. If you hire it out, it makes things easier in the move and the home will be insured. Of course, that costs money, but it’s not as bad as you might think. Wishing you success.

  39. MJR April 5, 2016 at 11:14 am #

    Andrew,

    Thanks for the thoughtful and informative piece. Of course these things raise almost as many questions as they answer. So, if you don’t mind.

    Which version of the IRC will it be compliant with?
    What zone will the house be certified for?
    Will there be different plans for different zones?
    What if you move your house from one zone to another?

    Additionally, there are some fundamental changes to the way things need to be specified when you go from 2000 sqft to 200 sqft.

    The Passive House USA specifies energy use by sqft. Which benefits Mac Mansions but seems silly when you reduce your footprint by 90%. Even if a TH uses 2x the energy per sqft it’s will still be 5X more efficient. A compromise might be per person. Back in the 70s the thinking was that since solar energy is free, there is no need to minimize it’s use with things like insulation. Today that is refereed to as Mass & Glass. While I’m not saying that we should return to that bygone era, we might be able to learn something from it, particularly with THs since they are so much smaller, it might not make sense to have such high insulation standards, particularly if you are using renewable energy.

    Sizing issues also occur with mechanical ventilation, only in the opposite direction. Air Changes per Hour (ACH is very different at 200 sqft. If memory servers the commercial standard is 15 cfm/person. Which works out easily for a 2000 sqft house. At 200 sqft not so much. This really becomes important because of how tight the homes are becoming and how most of the products used to accomplish that are out gassing VOCs & SVOCs. We really need to stop and think about these things.

    Safety and fire are another issue which need more consideration. Less flammable and toxic materials could go a long way to improve safety.

    It seems that the best way to address these issues is to clearly state the goal of the regulations and then explain how alternatives may work. If you miss every energy efficiency standard in the code and are still net-zero what does it matter?

    Just My $.02 Worth

    MJR

    • Andrew
      Andrew April 7, 2016 at 12:28 pm #

      You raise some good points about the energy code and the impacts of a tiny house upon the standard requirements. I think those sorts of details will start to flush out in time as we are still a young and developing movement. In terms of the IRC code that hOMe will be compliant with, it will likely fit in all of the versions out there as we are over the 120 sf minimum that used to be in place. The other details impacting our hOMe from within the code have not changed in many years. That said, building codes do not have anything to do with zoning. As such, even if the hOMe is code compliant, that doesn’t mean that local zoning ordinances will allow one to build a version. That is something that everyone will have to investigate for themselves as the ordinances are locally based. If you move your code compliant house, you will still need to confirm that there is a zone to receive you once you get there.

  40. Beth Grant DeRoos April 6, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    First let me note some RV’s that are sold as rated for year round use, are different than the standard RV people buy for week end get aways or week long vacations.

    In our area of the California Sierras tiny houses on wheels are licensed like a mobile home set up in a mobile home park, not as an RV. They have to meet height, weight requirements for towing on state and federal highways here in California.

    Here in Calaveras County California after last years Butte fire, which made the national news, the county changed the laws so the hundreds and hundreds of fire victims who had lost their homes, could live in RV’s and travel trailers for a couple years. It will take that long to remove asbestos and other toxins from their properties so they can rebuild.

    Concerns me when some chicken little mode person who doesn’t even live in a tiny house on wheels, who hates the government, then starts a rumor on the Internet that takes off like wild fire, and like a round robin game morphs into something unrecognizable.

    • Andrew
      Andrew April 6, 2016 at 1:43 pm #

      Well said Beth. I’m doing what I can to stem the tides on this one, but it keeps popping up in other areas, typically from people outside of the tiny house movement and who seem to have an axe to grind with the government. I’m hopeful that those who are interested in this topic are open to hearing the voice of reason, from someone who has read the full proposal and debunked it. Fingers crossed.

    • TJ Houston April 10, 2016 at 9:07 pm #

      Thanks for the clarification Mojo. Glad I’m only building a purpose built trailer. I hate drama and wouldn’t want to get caught up in the RV industry/tiny home organizational chinese finger trap. Sounds like some people are trying to make the simple life very complicated.
      TJ

  41. TJ Houston April 10, 2016 at 9:17 pm #

    Sorry, I forgot to punctuate my last statement. $$$$$$$$$. There, that’s better.
    TJ

  42. Zak April 13, 2016 at 7:50 pm #

    we have redesigned hOMe and will be releasing an IRC code compliant version of our THOW in the coming weeks.

    When is the release date for the IRC code compliant version of hOMe? Thanks,

    • /bob April 14, 2016 at 6:05 am #

      Depending on the changes to the hOMe plans to make it IRC code compliant to the 2015 version of the IRC there are still many governments that do not implement that version of the code for their ordinance. If hOMe meets the 70 sq ft requirement for largest living space or room per the 2015 version if your area only implements an earlier version it will still not be code compliant. My own city implements the 2009 IRC with limitations which requires at least one room be a minimum of 120 sq ft. So the 2015 changes to the IRC don’t apply in my city, county, or state until they update their ordinances to implement a newer version. You should be able to view your city or county ordinance for what version of the IRC is valid in your area. It is not automatic that your local code is up to date just because a new version of the IRC is published.

      This link is for the ICC library listing of the IRC versions 2000 through 2012 which are free to view:
      http://publicecodes.cyberregs.com/icod/irc/index.htm

      This is the link to the ICC home page: http://www.iccsafe.org/

      And the link to the 2015 IRC which is available to purchase:
      http://www.iccsafe.org/codes-tech-support/codes/2015-i-codes/irc/

      And this is a PDF document from the ICC web site showing which states have adopted what version of the codes, if adopted statewide with or without limitations, and also if local governments (counties or cities) have also specifically and separately adopted the code:
      http://www.iccsafe.org/wp-content/uploads/stateadoptions.pdf

      • Andrew
        Andrew April 15, 2016 at 11:42 am #

        You are correct about the implementation of code versions by local jurisdictions Bob. That said, the code compliant version of hOMe that we are working on would meet any current version of the code as it does not rely on the 70sf change for compliance. Thanks for the links and continue clarity and support.

    • Andrew
      Andrew April 15, 2016 at 11:43 am #

      We are getting close Zak. We don’t have a specific date just yet, but as soon as the plans are complete, we will release them. We are still making minor tweaks here and there…

  43. Leilani Backus April 22, 2016 at 9:05 pm #

    Andrew, thanks so much for your work and great energy! You guys are oober cool in my world. I emailed Macy to please connect myself with you. I’m working with Canyon County, Idaho on their legal THOW process, and need your help. We really might have an opportunity to get it legit here. I would love the create the road that many others could journey down in future years. I’ll be starting my build also, allowing their guidance and approval along the way.

    • Andrew
      Andrew May 1, 2016 at 10:21 am #

      Hi Leilani. I finally found the message you referred to in your email. Sorry it took so long to get back to you here (and glad you emailed as well). Looking forward to seeing the progress you make and hope we can inspire others to reach for their tiny house dreams too!

  44. Kristina April 22, 2016 at 11:32 pm #

    Hi Andrew!
    Thank you SO much for all the work you do, -very inspiring!
    My husband and I live in a THOW inspired from your hOMe plans, but slightly modified. You’re instruction dvds are invaluable!
    We’re in northern CA in the Sierras and the county just knocked on our door.. So I’m reading all I can to figure out what our next step will be. We can probably get a temporary AG permit for the summer (we’re on our friends property zoned AG1) but then…
    I’m very interested in how you are working with legalizing your hOMe since our goal is to buy property and have our house as the sole house if possible… But we might have to do some changes to our house to get it IRC compliant is my guess.
    I’m knew to codes and zoning but if I can be of any help in your endeavor, I’d be very happy to!

    • Andrew
      Andrew May 1, 2016 at 10:26 am #

      Hi Kristina. Thanks for writing and sorry that the county knocked on your door…sort of. I’m only sort of sorry because, in the end, I think you will feel much better knowing that your house is above board and legal! That has been the feeling for us, I can assure you. We are making changes to our plans as well as a way to make them IRC compliant. The biggest issues being the stairs, the sleeping loft, and a need for a foundation. I believe we can make it all work and we are waiting to hear back from the county (hopefully this week) with an approval of the plans we submitted. That will make hOMe IRC compliant and we can then release what we have to everyone else interested in that route. I am really excited and passionate about the idea of IRC compliant tiny houses because for those of us who want a primary residence from our tiny houses, it is the only way to achieve that. Wishing you success in your situation and please stay tuned as things develop. I may need help from as many folks as I can find to help as things move forward…Thanks again for your offer of help.

      • /bob May 1, 2016 at 11:55 am #

        Tom Meyers is the Building Code Regulator in Colorado I’ve read online in the past. He has been working to make changes to the IRC/IBC that favor Tiny Houses and the movement. I’ve mentioned in some posts (don’t remember if in this blog or some other blog) about the requirements on stairs to a loft not regulated in most Tiny Houses since the loft space is not considered “habitable space” so a ladder is allowed for access. I believe that also would indicate that the original stairs in hOMe are fine as is since they are not regulated either since the sleeping loft is not considered officially habitable space per the IRC. Here is his blog entry on that as well as the link to his blog:
        http://sustainablebuildingcodes.blogspot.com/2010/11/tiny-house-building-code-compliance.html
        Tom favors small or tiny houses. He hasn’t posted for a few years on this site however so I don’t know where he is now or what he is up to lately.

        • Andrew
          Andrew May 1, 2016 at 12:53 pm #

          Hi Bob. Thanks for the link. One crazy fact is that if there are stairs in a building, no matter where they go, they have to meet stair regulations. As such, stairs to a non habitable loft or storage space still have to meet stair code. So, a removable ladder is fine, but slightly over rise/run limit stairs are not. I have asked several ICC board members about this and it is in fact true. It’s because when people see stairs, they assume a certain cadence on them. the same is true with a ladder. If you show stairs but build them steeper than the norm, people tend to fall off. That’s the “reason”…not saying I agree with it. I think that makes sense if one of the risers is dramatically different from the others, but not if the entire stair case is the same, just steeper. After all, there are grandfathered staircases that are crazy steep all over the East Coast.

          • Laura May 22, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

            “Stairs….still have to meet code”. Andrew, not to be disagreeable, but if the space is non-habitable, my understanding is a loft ladder is acceptable, just like an attic ladder is. It’s only when we start trying to use the space as non -storage, non-attic habitable living space, that the stairs must comply with ye ole ancient 3 foot width, 11 inch run, landing stuff, etc. (A huge amount of space in a tiny home).

            Not that this matters to the whole General THOW code disscussion because head height would have to be addressed before we can even think about using THOW lofts for living if we want to be code compliant, but…. just saying… If we truly are ONLY using lofts for attic storage, IRC doesn’t care how we get up there, right? Just like any attic in a “big” house.

            P.s. just a simple thought experiment shows us how impossible current head heights are in this discussion. A 2-story THOW would have to be a minimum of about 16’8″ high (totally untenable from several viewpoints). However, if you are interested in a foundation built tiny house, this becomes a more delightful AND realistic concept.

          • Andrew
            Andrew May 28, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

            I agree Laura. My point in this is that people are using “non habitable spaces” as habitable spaces and code enforcers know it. There is nothing they can do to enforce safety issues on non habitable spaces, but that doesn’t create safe living spaces. So, I hope to work with the ICC to make some significant changes to the code to address those “grey areas.” That will take time, but I feel it’s important. Once that is addressed, the stairs will come back into play. As it stands now, it is “safe” to access a loft by a flimsy ladder, but not a set of stairs that doesn’t meet IRC standards. That’s crazy to me. I’d prefer to see people walking up stairs, even if they are steep, that have a hand rail and safer rise/run than an attic ladder. To me, that is safer.

        • Laura May 22, 2016 at 2:56 pm #

          I corresponded extremely briefly with Mr Meyers last year and apparently he is a tiny house supporter. I was about to post this link when I realized Bob had already done so. With Andrews credentials, I would think it’d be great if Andrew and He could collaborate.

          Andrew, have you contacted Mr Meyers directly? He responded quickly last year when I posted a blog question on the site Bob noted above.

          If I understood his blog, he was one of the primary supporters and writers of the new code on the 70 sq. Ft rule but I don’t recall him being in favor of head height reduction. Isn’t there a fire code reason for the height, or am I misunderstanding?

          I am intrigued also by your idea of a “fully IRC compliant” tiny home. While it is extremely easy to design a foundation based one of these, it is VERY hard to design a THOW unless it’s single-story. Are you proposing a site-built design or a THOW? It sounds as though you mean THOW. Ok, but doesn’t that make it almost unrealistic if I want to limit my trailer length to 20-24 feet? My bedroom would be so tiny I could scarcely move.

          One option, for those, like myself, willing to consider it, is the “park home” model which is “oversize” for an RV , BUT if we tiny house enthusiasts are simply wanting a movable affordable home, not an RV per se, a wide version of a THOW, up to 12′ in total width (instead of 8’6″) and, I believe, up to 15′ (?) In height. THIS idea complies with the general discussion here since most of us are only trying to comply with RV rules in order to drive the thing down the road, NOT because we truly want an RV. But most of us just want an affordable, environmentally-conscious alternative to HUGE mansions pushed on us by societies conventions. I, for one, am not as interested in using it as an RV. I’ll buy a small RV on craigslist if that’s what I want. My THOW will be for me to live in, not to camp out in.

          Thanks though, great discussions on zoning.

          I am in total agreement that we need to be compliant. Not to fulfill some arbitrary rules (Mr Meyers blogged that the old 120 rule was basically arbitrary and invited comment), but to provide good, solid safety and quality code so people are living without useless dangers, especially from fire.

          Andrew answered several peoples comments about “what IS code in my area”. I’d like to add that it is not easy to find out here in Austin, texas. But I simply made a recent google search for Seattle ADU rules and Seattle’s are extremely clear (I may live there one day and wanted to know). So you may have to really DIG and ask a bunch of questions in your area to find out if they use current 2016 IRC code or have their own set of codes.

          • Andrew
            Andrew May 28, 2016 at 12:16 pm #

            I have not connected with Mr. Meyers directly. I think Gabriella may have though. We will be sharing our plans soon for the IRC compliant THOW. Stay tuned! 🙂

  45. Scott April 26, 2016 at 9:38 am #

    I’m very interested in your IRC code compliant version THOW. Please keep me posted.
    Thanks

  46. Keith Stubblefield May 2, 2016 at 11:41 am #

    To me, the basic reason to have a mobile tiny house is that you can own the tiny house. If you build a tiny house as a permanent structure then the local political unit or units will want to tax you on the value, or some portion thereof, of the tiny house.

    If you think you own your permanent tiny house and the piece of land your tiny house is sitting on you are wrong.

    If you disagree with either of the statements above, just stop paying your taxes. Sooner or later the tax man will come and sell YOUR land with YOUR tiny house on it and it will be gone.

    IMHO, the best method of helping the tiny house community is to become part of the organization, in your local area, that adopts, creates or changes the rules you must live by or build by in your tiny house. Then you have a larger voice and can, perhaps, influence the application of the laws to tiny house construction.

    It has been said that the regulations are for safety. With regard to tiny houses, I personally do not believe that for a minute. The regulations are to preserve the value, both the present value and the future value of the property or dwelling so it will continue to be a source of tax revenue in the future. It is also assumed that you are not knowledgeable enough to determine a structure is safe and that you are equally lacking in the knowledge to hire someone to make that determination for you.

    Being part of a movement that tries to be innovative and change the current mind set, which is usually very comfortable for those in power, is a process that takes determination and perseverance. Everything that each one of us does to move the ball forward helps all of us.

    FWIW, if the web site I checked is correct, there is not one county in the United States of America where there is no property tax. That includes New Hampshire where the motto is “Lie Free or Die”

    • Andrew
      Andrew May 2, 2016 at 12:01 pm #

      Thanks for your comment Keith. There are two topics you are discussing, building codes and zoning ordinances. They are not the same thing. Building codes are in place for health and safety reasons and having been in the industry for 20+ years, I can tell you that people who build without oversight from a building department are MUCH MORE likely to cut corners and build unsafe structures. I have seen it time and again, literally for my entire career. Add to the already existing dangers of building a house the fact that these homes will be pulled down public roads and I believe there is even more need to make sure they are built properly. The potential for disaster is high when your house is pulled down a highway.

      In terms of zoning, there is certainly a tax base that is charged on every home. That is how our system is set up, like it or not. To assume that owning a tiny house as a primary residence should be allowed without paying into the system that supports that property seems a little sneaky to me. After all, if this is my primary residence, then why should I not pay for the services that I benefit from? For example, snow plows, fire departments, police, 911, road maintenance, etc. If I chose to build my house, live in it, not pay into the system, and use the benefits of that system, then I am not doing my part and am only taking. That is not a healthy, nor sustainable, approach to community in my mind.

      I agree that we need to get involved at the local level to inspire change; however, I do not agree that we are somehow entitled to live free of charge in a society that offers us services.

      • Laura May 22, 2016 at 3:33 pm #

        I agree with Andrew. As I blogged recently, I am seeing multiple THOW builders who are obviously unconcerned with safety and quality. That’s the whole point of any industry being regulated.

        My best and favorite example? .WHY flash and pan a window properly (and to code) when a builder can just cut corners and “caulk” it shut. Sorry, this is my all-time favorite discussion as I sincerely watch many unscrupulous builders (and one did it to me despite my instructions to the contrary) flash things WRONG and tell the owner “hey, I caulked it good, it’ll never leak ma’am” hmph!!! wrong! Anyway, I digress.

        Basically, I see builders who do it right and builders who could care less. But at least “big” house regulations require builders to follow safety and quality rules even if they individually choose to disregard these.

        If you want a more basic THOW examples, many of the THOW’ s I’ve seen online for sale by dealers have MAJOR offgassing (interior paints, shellacks, and the like) and mold/water issues (lack of proper road flashing) that need to be regulated. Many will probably be rotting within 5 years. These things, if built right should last at least 20-50 years, not 2-5. Most DIY ers seem to be attending to these issues by listening to people like Andrew and Gabriella and trying to apply the proper building principles they advise. But as an industry that’s just beginning, I caution us to take care.

  47. Viki June 3, 2016 at 9:24 am #

    Hi, all,

    Thanks for a great discussion on the nitty-gritty of permitting tiny houses for permanent occupancy. I especially appreciate the news that Andrew is working on IRC-Compliance designs. What a great service! Please count me in on as willing to contribute towards the goal of code compliance.

    There are a couple of details I can add, coming at it from a slightly different perspective. I’m a member of an ecovillage in Washington State. Founded on the eve of the great housing meltdown, we have always been concerned on how to make becoming an ecovillage member affordable to low-income folks. This last year, we set aside one of our lots for tiny houses. Since then, we have gotten a nod from the city officials to place the three tiny houses on the one lot provided they follow local building codes. (A second option is to permit as a “factory built structure” by the state.) With 3 houses on a lot (with access to over 6 acres in common land and numerable amenities like a shop-art center, community gardens, and storage closets), we can make it work economically for the ecovillage (monies from the lots’ sale or rental are used to fund the ecovillage’s development) and keep tiny house space rental affordable for low-income folks. Our bigger intent is to support tiny house ownership as a pathway to economic sustainability.

    What we have been working on recently is designing the infrastructure for the tiny house lots.

    Our solution to the foundation issue is securing the house’s trailer or skid to a pier foundation provided by the EcoVillage with anchor bolts. See diamonpier.com for an example. The elegance of this solution is that the piers can be placed manually and relocated to configure to new tiny house arrangements on the lot. We figure it is less costly than slabs and is more environmentally-friendly. Plus our city’s head building inspector is approving.

    We are concerned that houses built to state’s energy code requirements (Floor – 30; Walls – 21; Ceiling – 49) are going to be short on headroom in the loft areas. We’re not really willing to shirk these standards as we are an ecovillage. Most of our houses come close to passive house standards. The other code limitation is that habitable space ceiling heights must be 7 feet with no exception for girders or beams. Any thoughts on how to work with these head room limits would be appreciated.

    I think the work around on sleeping lofts and stairs is to get the houses permitted before installing a stair case but meanwhile ladders to lofts are already used here at the village (while not in the tiny category our allowed house size is small at 1200 sf).

    I have to glean the comments for additional thoughts but thanks again for a great discussion.

  48. Dave Smith June 4, 2016 at 1:48 pm #

    I say to heck with the government. We are supposed to be the government. If I want to live in a tiny house, I will do so at my own discretion. I don’t care what any regulatory agency says. If they try to enforce a law on me, that I disagree with, when I am not harming someone else, I will resist them with my very life is necessary. I will no longer tolerate any intrusions on my freedom by this overreaching government. If we all just ignored them, or resisted strongly, then they would quit trying to tell us all how to live, and what to do. Regulation should come from my pocketbook. I will only pay for what I deem to be of value.

  49. Julie Jaquette June 5, 2016 at 8:54 pm #

    I have a question, and forgive me if it has been answered in previous posts, I read many of them them but not all.

    How does the “Park Model” home built industry compare and fit into the picture and of future for Tiny Houses? Couldn’t one surmise that the regulations and standards in this industry be what is in store for the future of the Tiny House movement? Could this look the same?

    • Andrew
      Andrew June 25, 2016 at 7:57 pm #

      Hi Julie. No worries. There is a lot of information to look through on the site! Park Models have a specific size range that is defined for them and their code provisions (ANSI code) leave you with a recreational dwelling. It is nota permanent house situation. I, for one, want to avoid going that route for that specific reason.

  50. Lee Sprecker July 23, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

    I recently found a person who is developing a tiny house community. I do not know what regulations apply to his endeavor. It was an RV park so I suppose that zoning allows the small units but possibly only for 30 days, not semi permanent occupation as he is proposing by selling/leasing lots. I do feel that there is a place for small homes and even immovable ones. If a code could be developed to provide a ‘standard’ size of the metal frame then parks could be built for these semi-movable units. The units could be moved in, bolted down and the wheels removed. Now the unit is on a ‘permanent’ foundation but it can be moved but with some difficulty which makes it unlikely these units would be moved very often. Builders would also have a ‘standard’ size to follow which will reduce costs created by a multitude of sizes. People will equate such parks with trailer parks. These tend to attract a class of people who do not have pride in their living quarters. If the tiny house community required the lots to be owned by the occupant then I think that the same pride of ownership that applys to a house would apply to a tiny home on an occupant owned lot within a park that has strict rules about upkeep of properties and conduct within the community. If those communities fall into disrepair and poor conduct then they will soon be closed down. One must admit that many people looking for a cheep place to live do so because they have a problem making enough money for a better place. That drugs and crime seem to be much higher in trailer parks is a fact of life. People do not want a trailer park anywhere near their home because of that. Trailers in trailer parks seem to be seldom owner occupied and they do not own the lot that the trailer is parked on so they do not feel any pride about how it is cared for. If tiny homes are to be allowed in city’s and rural areas these problems must be overcome.
    Unfortunately if you drive around cities you will find that those neighborhoods with the older, smaller houses are also those where the properties are less well kept. This might be due to the fact the most of those small houses are rental properties and the lack of owner pride shows in how the property is maintained. If tiny homes are to be accepted I feel that they will only be accepted in designated communities with strict rules that will insure that the property is cared for and that the residents will respect their neighbors inside the community and outside too. They must not become another rental slum.

  51. Josie August 7, 2016 at 7:23 pm #

    Wow! That was a well spent 2 + hours reading all the comments and replies.
    Thank you Andrew for all the info and to your commenters for all the great questions that I hadn’t thought about YET!
    I’m relatively new to this tiny house movement. We will soon be empty nesters and are looking in that direction. Hope I can help in some way.

  52. Andrew
    Andrew August 8, 2016 at 8:00 am #

    As a follow up, I have written a proposal for the International Residential Code (IRC) which I have submitted to the international code council (ICC) for approval. Their will be hearings in October where the proposal will be voted on. If it passes, it will become an official appendix in the 2018 IRC and will provide a pathway for Movable Tiny Houses to receive a certificate of occupancy as primary residences in the United States. This is a national code, so this is a HUGE deal. Stay tuned for more details…

    • Angela October 27, 2016 at 2:10 am #

      There are sleeping lofts and bunk beds all over the place. Just look at a college dorm. Perhaps the rub is not to build a loft into the house itself. If you add it as a piece of furniture later, it then might seem more similar. Basically, I imagine having the tiny home certified for occupancy and later engineering a furniture-like loft or bunk that provides no support to the building and is removable. I have no idea how easily it would have to be removed or whatever. I’m certain you ingenious designers can figure a way to leave space for the required supports, etc. I think the same sort of philosophy could apply to the ways to climb into the loft. Lofts and bunks most commonly use ladders. Having stairs as furniture could also work. We bolt and strap furniture to the walls here for earthquake preparedness. I see no reason stairs couldn’t be bolted into place after the fact as well. They can’t tell you not to climb on your own furniture.

      Andrew, would that be something to be addressed in the proposed building standards?

      • Andrew
        Andrew October 27, 2016 at 8:26 am #

        Furniture is not addressed in the code; however, if we get the vote we are looking for, we won’t need to be as creative to solve this issue. It is specifically addressed in the code. In the meantime, furniture, like bunk beds, can be a solution.

  53. Susie Morin August 20, 2016 at 8:42 pm #

    How can we sign up for updates ?

    • Andrew
      Andrew August 27, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

      Hi Susie. I will be posting updates to our website and to our Facebook page as they come in. Right now, things are in a hurry up and wait mode as I fine tune things with the ICC. I do know that I should have update sin about a week or so along with a few “calls to action” to help with the process. Thanks for asking!

  54. Old Man September 8, 2016 at 3:54 pm #

    Why? That is my sole question.

    Is it just me or is there something strategically sickening about the degree of iron-fisted conformity which is overbearing, domineering and tyrannical. Thrown down upon our heads the millisecond any of us begins to have even the slightest stirrings of original thought?

    Regulations are thinly disguised systems of control. If we all do the same thing and be good compliant little humans, we are so much easier to classify and kept in check. One size does not fit all. This has clearly been allowed to go too far. How much control is too much? How much power will we continue to give away?

    There are many, many countries around the world that do not enforce not even a quarter of the “health & safety” regulations of this country. Yes, granted, those countries can be regarded as “third world” and even “primitive” by our standards, but I have to say this because it’s true: regardless of a housing situation, people thrive. There are babies and young children surviving quite well in single room occupancies, I know because I was one. And I am speaking of a room that was neatly constructed from corrugated tin, all very cosy inside though.

    I feel quite strongly that we are being regulated out of life. To be human is to be unique. To celebrate our individualism, not in defiance, but as a right to live freely and to choose wisely our many options, to the best of our abilities.

    Freedom is a joke. No, we do not own our homes when we purchase land or a dwelling. It is rented to us. We cannot do as we please even though the monetary price we paid for the privilege of “owning” said property was from hard graft, earned from the sweat of our brow. How many times haven’t we crawled our way into work when we were feeling sick as dogs only because we were too scared to lose our jobs? And for what? To make a salary that cannot be used with any of the sovereignty with which it was earned! If I want to reside full-time in an RV or Tiny House on land which I purchased, why is it deemed unreasonable for me to do so?

    It is ridiculous! This nation has been baby-proofed to absurd levels. All the sharp corners are padded. Areas where we might fall and potentially hurt ourselves are blocked off. When did we stop being responsible for ourselves? So what if I fall and crack my head? That’s my business and it’s my business also if I choose the right to forgo medical help. We are no longer treated as adults. We are simply cash-cows to be milked and herded.

    No! Enough! We are not sheep. We are not cattle. Agreed, without all these mandatory legislations there very well might be casualties, even deaths, but this is the process of being alive, is it not? No one wants to meet with an untimely end or even an end that could be avoided, but I still say, let us have the right to choose. Choice and options are very important, without them there is no real sense of Freedom. And before we bring children, elderly and the disabled into the conversation, I’d like to say that the government should certainly not have the last veto on where and how we place our children to live.

    Loving, caring, sensible parents, free of ignorance, will always strive to do their best for the little ones and others in their charge. Yes, sometimes that goes wrong and it’s traumatic. But it can go wrong even in the wealthiest of households and in the largest of castles and in the best equipped hospitals.

    We give too much importance to the word “legal’ because no one wants to be singled out as the crazy vigilante. However, it is a dangerous Word and a dangerous World we live in when fully grown adults have to bow, scrape, tow the line and tug our forelock at governing bodies who make secret rules in back rooms.

    I was never asked to vote when some greedy paranoid authoritarian decided on what dimensions exactly a house has to comply with in order for it to be “legal”. Were any of you asked or your parents, grandparents, great grandparents ever asked for their opinion? Were votes collected and counted? No, I don’t think so. But here we are wringing our hands together and begging, yes literally begging, some of us on our knees, begging to be allowed the privilege to seek sanctuary within walls lovingly and carefully built with our own hands and not be fined, evicted or jailed and labelled a criminal.

    I do not need rules in place to keep me safe. I am perfectly capable of doing so myself and if I fail, then at least I fail on my own terms. I will either learn or I won’t. This is how it was for a long time before the busy-bodies cracked down and realized there was profit to be had in regulations and permits and zones and so forth.

    Stop treating (human) life as so precious, sacred and fragile. Yes, in some ways it is. It can be a wonderfully magical experience. Being alive is also dangerous business. For some unfortunate souls it is even treacherous and filled with torture. If we give up the right to learn through personal error and consequence, how to safeguard ourselves and our families, then we ought not complain and cry like babies when we have our “unsafe” toys taken away.

    We were born, not through choice but here we are just like all the other species we share this lump of rock with. I posit there is nothing sacred or special about it. We live, do our hopeful best to leave something of merit behind and then we die. End of story.

    I personally do not need or require help to do “Life”. But, that said, if ever I do find myself in need of aid, I will humbly ask my fellow human because he/she too is suffering, as I have suffered.

    Rules can be fantastic things. Some are even necessary. There are however a great majority that only serve to make existence that much harder. In 2016 I stand ashamed because along with the rest of humanity, I allow homelessness, hunger, malnutrition and poverty to become standard modes of existence.

    Let us tread carefully and consciously, lest we feel the sting of totalitarianism.

    • Andrew
      Andrew September 8, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

      Some powerful words here and I know you speak for many. The key is to implement change where it needs to be implemented. If building codes are a last straw for you, then I highly encourage you to take that fight to the code councils that oversee our construction. Further, you are not required to build to any code. There are lots of areas around the country that are free of building codes and oversight. Others are not. Even within the areas where codes are required, you are welcome to fight the system with your vote, your dollar, and your resistance. That said, speaking these truths on sites like this do not impact the change you are looking for. I totally respect you opinion and you are welcome to voice it; however, I recommend you take the fight to places where your opinion can be heard as a voice of change, not just protest. 🙂

  55. joanna November 2, 2016 at 9:49 am #

    ok so i am seriously thinking of having one built. do i get the rv cert or not? would that prevent me from switching so i can be legal to live in it?

    joanna

    • Andrew
      Andrew November 8, 2016 at 11:14 am #

      If you meet RV certification, that does not mean you would meet IRC certification later on. The standards are different. I would try to get it RV certified, but have it built to IRC standards which are more strict. That way, if you document everything, you would have a better chance of converting it at a later date. Of course, meeting IRC standards is impossible for a THOWs as the code stands now, so you’d have to use the unofficial provisions in the appendix I wrote and hope it gets adopted.

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