Tiny homes have garnered popularity in recent years. It has stormed media outlets and several television shows that feature the benefits of living a simple life. They are particularly preferred by young adults who are just starting to live an independent life due to the cost-cutting advantages it provides.
People who are determined to promote environmentally friendly living also live in tiny homes since they are energy-efficient, use recycled materials, and promote a better connection with nature, especially those that love to travel or go camping.
Tiny homes are also feasible options for governmental housing projects that provide residences to communities who have lost their homes to hurricanes and other natural disasters. In fact, there are current projects around California, Orlando, and Florida that are considered as tiny house communities.
The only problem with building a tiny house is determining whether the locality allows its presence and the conditions associated with living a simple life. Do the zoning ordinances compel you to a minimum square feet area? Where are you allowed to stay?
Before determining how many tiny homes can fit in one acre, we must first determine the zoning regulations for these types of abodes. This is because the government lays down several conditions in creating tiny homes which also affects how tiny house communities are established.
Zoning Regulations And Building Codes For Tiny Homes
Tiny houses come in various sizes and shapes. They also occupy a minimum of 100 up to 1,000 square feet.
Despite the variety, one of the challenges of building a tiny home is complying with zoning regulations.
First, you must know if tiny homes are allowed in the area where you wish to stay. You may know this by checking out the American Tiny House Association, where the government categorizes each state that welcomes tiny homes.
If you’ve got that covered, then it’s time to check out the zoning regulations and building codes.
Zoning regulations lay down minimum square footage for newly constructed homes. Reducing the square footage is not favored by zoning ordinances.
This is why it is imperative that before opting for a tiny home, you should consult with your local government on whether they will allow your plans to go through.
According to the Tiny House Association’s national coordinator Alexis Stephens, knowing the zoning regulations and codes make aspiring tiny homeowners feel intimidated in consulting with the city government. However, there have been developments in recent years.
Several United States cities and towns have started to adapt to the idea of allowing their residents to build tiny homes.
In fact, government organizers and officials have started to modify their local ordinances to pave way for tiny home communities.
Despite the specific regulations, America is a country that is more receptive towards tiny houses. In fact, public parks allow tiny houses on wheels to stay for longer periods as long as they are registered with the state. The requirements include a valid license plate and that they have the RVIA seal.
Modifications to some zoning ordinances have also been favorable towards Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).
These are tiny homes that are situated within existing residential lots so long as they comply with requirements such as having a permanent foundation and that the occupants are connected with the residential house owners.
If you live in tiny houses on wheels and constantly travel around the country, you would not be too concerned with zoning or building code concerns especially if you have the RVIA seal. The challenge would be finding a vacant lot where you can park it.
The problem with tiny houses on wheels is that the government does not recognize these types of abodes as permanent residences. They may stay at public parks but only for a limited amount of time. You may also stay at a relative or friend’s backyard or pay a fee to stay at a camping site.
This type of alternative living also has corresponding limitations such as ensuring that the foundation of the tiny home is permanent and that minimum square footage requirements are met including the allowable duration of stay.
Compared to RVs, permanent tiny homes are more difficult to build, and the local ordinances prohibit the homeowner from buying land and buildings where they would be situated.
Now that you know how tiny homes are governed by local laws, we must now distinguish between building codes and zoning regulations to determine the limitations of creating a tiny home community. This way, we can estimate how many units can fit in one acre.
Local building codes are created by the International Residential Code (IRC). This is a law that lays down the principles followed by one and two-family dwellings.
This dictates what comes into the tiny homes: the number of rooms, square footage, and ceiling height.
Zoning regulations, on the other hand, vary per locality. They also lay down the sizing requirements of tiny homes depending upon the location of the land where you wish to stay temporarily or permanently. You can know the guidelines by contacting the city or state’s planning department. Most states limit the square footage of tiny homes only up to a thousand square feet.
What Are Tiny Home Communities? How Much Land Is Needed?
Otherwise known as tiny house villages, tiny home communities are concentrated areas where you find several tiny houses.
According to state chapter leader and a director of the American Tiny House Association Amy Turnbull, the tiny house movement has been growing and more people accept this type of alternative living.
Along with its popularity is the allowance of tiny homes to be considered as a community. This is common with homeless projects by the government, especially those that consist of families who have lost their homes during natural disasters.
Microhouse dwellers, the term used to define tiny homeowners, live side-by-side in many US towns. In fact, there are already established eco-villages and vacation retreats that fit the description. A few examples are Habitats Tiny Homes in California, Tiny House Community in Texas and Florida, and the Tony Hsieh Tiny House Community.
Another example is a tiny house community in Walsenburg, Colorado. It occupies three acres. A developer is currently creating a park that caters to 28 tiny houses to fill the land area.
There is also the Lemon Cove Village in California which is an RV park that rents out tiny homes for at least $450 per month.
These living options are feasible in areas where overpopulation and rising real estate prices are the primary issues. It also prevents homelessness among residents who have substantially lower median incomes.
One example is Burlington, Vermont. Their population has a low median household income, a lack of available rental housing, and have high median home prices. This means that its residents have trouble acquiring homes and could lead to homelessness. Thus, the city planning office allowed the establishment of tiny home communities as a remedy to their housing problems.
So, the amount of land that you would need to establish a tiny home community solely depends on the city’s plan. As mentioned, knowing the building codes lets you equate an estimate of the number of units that can fit one acre. In technical terms, one acre amounts to 43,560 square feet.
According to an article published on Tiny House Talk, a tiny home clubhouse is one of the options. It may have a pool, fitness center, sports area, a study room, a movie theater room, and a large kitchen. The rest of the area would be used as tiny home units.
Thus, if these amenities would consume 20,000 square feet, there would be an excess of 23,560 square feet. The remaining area could be used for roads and tiny home units of up to 25 units, depending on the minimum local requirements set forth in building codes and zoning regulations.
For example, urban village districts require a minimum of five acres of land to be occupied by tiny homes. The developer would then subdivide the land to manage as many units into one area as possible.
He or she would then be required to first submit a master plan to the locality which is still subject to its approval.
If you’re going to establish an Urban Residential District, a master plan is not required. You would only be required to occupy at least 1,800 square feet per unit that can be easily manageable for each tiny home family. The density is also limited to only 35 units per acre.
If the tiny home community project is for the purpose of providing affordable housing to the homeless or disaster-stricken families who have lost their homes, the government may permit up to 70 units per acre. Urban Place Districts also allow multi-family developments so long as each unit is a detached single-family home.
In Asheville, their building codes permit the construction of 260 square feet tiny homes that must occupy at least 1,800 square feet of land in Urban Residential Districts.
The number of units allowed is at a maximum of 24 ACUs for detached single-family housing. Some tiny home communities are allowed up to 35 units per acre as well.
The housing distribution of a plan like this is also subject to requirements. These include having garden spaces, a yard, and other accessory buildings that the community wants to be included in their area. These amenities include a common park, swimming pools, or sports complexes. These are subject to the majority provided the unit limitations are met.
Conversely, Vermont does not utilize the IRC as its residential building code guideline. Instead, they established their own district laws regarding housing.
In fact, there is not a minimum square footage requirement or room dimension limitations for each single-family unit. This makes it the friendliest state for tiny houses.
Its medium-density district also does not impose a minimum lot size. They rely on rear or side setbacks which are at five to 20 feet, respectively and a frontage requirement of 30 feet. Therefore, the maximum allowable tiny home units of this density amount to at most 40 tiny homes in one acre.
The technicalities of a town like this allow ACUs to only occupy at least 1,100 up to 2,200 square feet of lot area. Each unit would have a yard too.
They must also be subordinate to the main residential house structure, must have one apartment-style bedroom, and have a kitchen and a bathroom. It can only accommodate no more than two adults though.
The flexibility may be a good sign, but the homeowners are required to occupy the primary dwelling in order for the tiny homes to be permitted within that area. They would need a local permit to do this.
The Bottom Line
The most tiny-home friendly state of Vermont allows the establishment of tiny homes as ACUs to occupy a minimum of 1,100 square feet of lot area that is complete with a kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. Also, it can accommodate up to 40 tiny homes.
In order for you to know the number of allowable tiny home units that fit on an acre, you must first familiarize yourself with zoning regulations and building codes of the locality you plan on staying in. When you know the details, you would also be informed of the minimum lot area requirement for each tiny home and, accordingly, estimate the limits of your tiny home community.