Living Small Means Living Debt Free

Housing Communities Battle

FarmhouseInterest in tiny houses is high. There is a tiny house movement. You can even find a growing number of tiny house communities.

Knowing, or learning about how many benefits there are to building and living in a very small house is one of the many reasons why this lifestyle is so popular with people these days.

One of the problems is their size. Some cities and towns haven’t come on-board with them yet.

The issue is their small size.

With the environmental crisis that our world is creating, it’s past time that some of those rules and regulations should be revisited and updated.
Zoning ordinances from many areas limit the minimum lot size and square footage of a house.

Many ordinances have not been updated since they were established; some date back to the 1950s.

Case in point, Jay Austin of Washington, DC, built a tiny house within Boneyard Studios. The problem he encountered is the home is considered illegal as a residence.

Washington DC’s zoning ordinance is 600 pages long with 34 chapters. Within those pages are various definitions including minimum lot size, room sizes, alleyway widths, and accessory dwelling units. Anyone reading all 600 pages would find that tiny houses can only be used as part time residences.

Within these pages are terms that were common place in the 1950s and even earlier. Things like references to telegraph offices and tenement houses as well as antenna regulations. The ordinance was approved in 1958 and has had very little advancement since then. You won’t find anything relating to sustainable development or sustainable living.

There do offer the ability to apply for an exemption to the code, however according to the National Housing Conference, the cost of applying and receiving an exemption could be as much as $50,000.

Washington DC says it is working on updating these ordinances; this work has been going on for almost ten years with no resolution in site.
As a work-around, Austin and his neighbors added wheels to their tiny places. By doing this, the structures become classified as a trailer. At that point, they are regulated by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Even though they are now living within the law, the residents still cannot live in them permanently. They must keep a residence elsewhere and use the tiny structures on a part time basis.

Boneyard Studios is one of a number of like-communities. It began in 2012 with a mission – the founders want to promote the benefits of living tiny.

The lot they used was in a state of disrepair with overgrown grass, broken concrete, pooling water, and garbage. It was the site of criminal activity as well as used for illegal parking.

Today the lot is no longer an eye-sore, and has a community garden, a small fruit orchard, and green space.

At present there are two homes on the lot.

Tiny house enthusiasts in other communities face the same or similar issues. Until communities realize the benefits, the positive impact they can have on society, and eliminate the politics of tiny houses, communities will be fighting an uphill battle.

Soon after writing this article, we discovered that Boneyard had moved from the land they improved. They are looking for another permanent location for their community. We wish them well and to find a place very soon.


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