With local home prices out of reach, and no apartments available within a normal commuting distance, many of the teachers in Vail, Arizona were forced to live in Tucson, and drive 25 miles one way, to get to work. So the school district set out to create a community of tiny houses, on five acres of district-owned land, located near the town center. The homes will be available both to rent or to own, and the mortgage on a customized tiny home with a 30-year fixed rate loan, will be about $700 a month.
Because you have to be an employee of the district to live in the tiny home community, if you decide to leave the district—or if you are asked to leave—you also would have to leave your home. Although Carruth says that teachers will have the option to take their tiny homes with them if they move on, moving these structures, particularly if installed on a foundation, can be a costly endeavor. Tiny homes typically don’t retain value like traditional homes do, in large part because they aren’t attached to land ownership.
You may have heard that a tiny house is under 500 square feet–or 1000 square feet. Real Estate agents routinely refer to any house under 2000 square feet as tiny. And for some, anything over 200 square feet isn’t what they consider tiny, and definitely not a proper tiny house.
So what is the official definition of a tiny house? How many square feet can it be, and still qualify as tiny? For many years there was no official definition of a tiny house–so everyone was free to make up their own definition! But recently things have changed.
As of August 2017, when the International Code Council (ICC) approved Appendix Q we got model code with an official definition of a tiny house. The 2018 International Residential Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings (IRC) defines a tiny house as…
TINY HOUSE. A dwelling that is 400 square feet (37m2) or less in floor area excluding lofts.
That’s the entire definition. There’s nothing more to it! The thing that defines a tiny house officially, is that it’s under 400 square feet.
Of course Appendix Q only applies to tiny houses on a foundation, and not moveable tiny homes–so what about tiny houses on wheels? How big can a tiny house on wheels be? That depends on where you live, but in any state that defines a tiny house on wheels as an RV, then the maximum size for a tiny house RV is 400 square feet, according to the NFPA 1192 Standard for RVs. If you’ve ever seen a park model RV, they are often around 12′ wide and 33′ long, just under the 400 square feet maximum.
So with the IRC now defining a tiny house on a foundation as under 400 square feet. And with the ANSI Standard for RVs also allowing for a maximum of 400 square feet for tiny house RVs, it seems we now have an answer to the question of how big is a tiny home. Any home that is under 400 square feet in area, excluding lofts, whether it is on a permanent foundation or on wheels, fits the definition of a tiny house!
A group on Facebook is in the planning stages for a tiny house pocket community in the City of Rockledge, Florida, where it will be possible to own your own lot, and build a tiny house on a foundation, or in some cases place a tiny house on wheels. The houses will range from 170 to 700 square feet, and the community will feature “a common greenspace to encourage interaction.”
Pocket neighborhoods are clustered groups of neighboring houses or apartments gathered around a shared open space — a garden courtyard, a pedestrian street, a series of joined backyards, or a reclaimed alley — all of which have a clear sense of territory and shared stewardship. They can be in urban, suburban or rural areas. —pocket-neighborhoods.net
And from the Rockledge Tiny House Community Facebook Group… “The site plan that has been submitted to the City of Rockledge for approval has 12 tiny foundation house lots and 3 THOW lots. Only 25% of the houses can be THOWS per the ordinance.”
On June 19, 2018, the City Council in San Jose, California, approved changes to ADU regulations that make it easer to build an ADU within the city. ADUs, or accessory dwelling units, are defined by the city as “small living units, including a kitchen and bathroom, on a property that has a single-family home.”
The city claims the the new policy will lead to multiple benefits, including increasing the amount of affordable housing in the community, providing homeowners with an income opportunity, encouraging public transportation, and providing a way for extended families or families with members who are disabled, to live closer together.
Some of the changes to the existing regulations include changing the minimum lot size necessary from 5,445 sf to 3000 sf, allowing an ADU in a second story, and allowing two bedrooms rather than just studio or one bedroom units.
Earlier this month the International Code Council (ICC) approved new building code specifically addressing tiny houses on a foundation.
Appendix Q is now part of the 2018 International Residential Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings (IRC), which is the model code upon which states and communities base their own building codes. In other words, the IRC is not effective, until it is adopted by a local jurisdiction–which can take months or years to happen–and the local jurisdiction can make changes to the code, before adoption. So there is no guarantee that Appendix Q will be adopted as is in all 50 states, but the fact that it’s now part of the IRC code makes it a lot more likely that tiny houses will soon be addressed in the building codes across the United States.
Appendix Q relaxes various requirements in the body of the code as they apply to houses that are 400 square feet in area or less. Attention is specifically paid to features such as compact stairs, including stair handrails and headroom, ladders, reduced ceiling heights in lofts and guard and emergency escape and rescue opening requirements at lofts. —codes.iccsafe.org
The IRC is also used as model code in Abu Dhabi, the Caribbean Community, Colombia, Georgia, Honduras, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia–so tiny houses may be addressed soon in those countries as well.
On February 4th, 2016 the state of California released a document meant to “clarify the legality of use, design and construction approval of any residential structure that may be commonly referred to as a tiny home.”
The Information Bulletin doesn’t change any existing law, but instead simply clarifies the existing law, making it easier for those interested in a tiny house in the state of California to know what is legal to occupy.
The document describes when a tiny home fits into one of four definitions–which are all legal to occupy. The basic classifications are recreational vehicles (including park trailers), manufactured homes, factory-built housing, or a site-constructed California Building Standards Code dwelling.
A tiny home sold, rented, leased or occupied within California may be legal if used on an approved location, complies with all applicable laws, and is either:
• Built on a chassis with axles; contains 400 square feet or less of gross floor area (excluding loft area space); is considered an RV, CC or PT; is not under HCD’s jurisdiction for the design and construction of the unit; and its construction and occupancy is enforced by local enforcement agencies with appropriate jurisdiction; or
• Not constructed on a chassis with axles; is placed on a foundation or otherwise permanently affixed to real property; and complies with CBSC or FBH standards; and may be enforced by local enforcement agencies having appropriate jurisdiction.
This 500 square foot tiny house on a foundation is located in the backyard of another house in Tampa Bay, Florida, and is meant as an in-law suite.
Home Care Suites is the builder, and they offer help figuring out the rules for accessory units for property located in the areas they serve, and also offer to help their clients meet all zoning requirements, including matching the siding and roofing to the main house.
In June of 2015 the Rockledge City Council moved forward with new zoning regulations that will allow for the creation of tiny house developments.
Pocket neighborhoods encompass a cluster of tiny houses gathered around a shared open space. Neighbors know each other and are willing to look out for each other. A pocket neighborhood is also well-suited to empty nesters and senior citizens, who crave for a sense of community without the upkeep of a regular-sized house.—floridatoday.com
The city’s plan calls for tiny houses of at least 250 square feet, with an additional 100 square feet for each additional resident.
Rene Hardee, who led the campaign for the new zoning regulations, is now looking for developers interested in creating a tiny house pocket neighborhood, with her family among the first residents.