What is the difference between a Tiny and a Small House? Learn everything you’ll need to know here!
What is Zoning? Learn everything you will need to know!
Great news for Tiny Houses in the Northeast!
- Appendix Q, also known as the Tiny House Appendix, has been adopted in New York State and will become law in early 2020.
- New Hampshire and Connecticut are both considering adopting the Appendix into their state building codes.
- Maine and Massachusetts have already adopted Appendix Q into their building codes, as well as at least five other states not in the northeast.
How can you support the adoption of the Tiny House Appendix in New Hampshire and Connecticut?
If you live in New Hampshire, please email the chair of the Tiny House Study Committee, State Rep Dave Testerman at firstname.lastname@example.org to express your support for the adoption of Appendix Q for tiny houses on foundations.
The public comment period for Connecticut residents is not open yet. When it opens up, this post will be updated with the contact info.
The following information on Appendix Q is adapted from our previous blog post, written when Massachusetts adopted the Tiny House Appendix.
What is Appendix Q: Tiny Houses?
Appendix Q: Tiny Houses provides building safety standards for houses on foundations that are 400 sq. ft. and under. The other building codes in existence for all other size dwellings still apply. Appendix Q is was created to define safety standards for smaller spaces that wouldn’t necessarily fit into a tiny house, such as a full-size staircase.
The Appendix pertains to the following aspects of designing a small or tiny house:
- Ceiling Height
- Loft Minimum Area, Height and Dimensions
- Loft Access:
- Stairway width, headroom, treads and risers, landing platforms, handrails and guards
- Ladder size, capacity, and incline
- Alternating tread devices
- Ship’s ladders
- Loft guards
- Emergency Escape and Rescue Openings
Does The Adoption of Appendix Q Mean I Can Build A Tiny House Wherever I Want In My State?
Not quite! Every zone of every municipality in the state still has its own zoning bylaws. Therefore, you’ll need to contact your municipality to see if they’ll allow your tiny-house-on-a-foundation project. Here’s how.
Here’s what the Tiny House Appendix does mean for residents of states that have adopted Appendix Q: wherever a house that’s 400 sq. ft. or under is allowed, there are now rules in place for how to build it safely and effectively. Before, small and tiny houses on foundations would have had to adhere to certain building codes that work well for large buildings but would have been impractical or impossible to follow in small spaces.
What’s the difference between zoning code and building code?
Building code provides a set of safety standards that new buildings must adhere to by law. These standards ensure the safety of the people using the building. There are separate building codes for residential buildings (like houses and apartment buildings) and all other buildings (like shops, factories, schools, and workplaces). The Tiny House Appendix is set to become part of the state building code in NH and CT, which is based on the International Residential Code (IRC). Most, but not all, states in the USA use the IRC as the basis for their state-wide building codes, and adapt each section as necessary.
Zoning code pertains to what types of buildings municipalities (cities and towns) allow, and where. Often a city or town has several different zones, and each zone has different rules. Zoning bylaws are decided by the zoning board of a city or town, and can be amended to better fit the needs of each city or town. Zoning boards generally have regular meetings that are open to the public, where the public can share their concerns, get clarification on what is allowed to be built, and request a change to the zoning bylaws to improve their municipality.
How can the Tiny House Appendix influence local zoning officials? Appendix Q as part of a state’s building code serves to legitimize tiny and small dwelling spaces in the eyes of local building inspectors and zoning boards. Municipalities that see there are ICC-approved codes to build tiny and small houses may be more inclined to adopt those types of homes into their zoning.
Left: Appendix Q applies to tiny houses on foundations that are 400 sq. ft. or under.
Right: Appendix Q does not apply to tiny houses on wheels.
How Does The Tiny House Appendix Relate To Tiny Houses On Wheels?
Currently, the Tiny House Appendix, or Appendix Q, only regulates houses that are permanently-affixed. It does not relate to tiny houses on wheels. However, there is a movement to create a new version of Appendix Q for tiny houses on wheels as well. Martin Hammer, Andrew Morrison, and Gabriella Morrison were instrumental in introducing Appendix Q to the International Building Code and then again to individual states. See their website for more info on future plans for a tiny house on wheels appendix.
B&B Micro Manufacturing would like to give a shout-out to the Tiny Home Industry Association for its tireless research on tiny house laws across the nation and the American Tiny House Association for its influence on state policy!
For many tiny housers, finding land is the toughest part of the journey. Here’s how to start your tiny house land search.
Before having your tiny house built, you should already have a spot to put it lined up. You don’t want to end up with a tiny house and nowhere to put it!
Because tiny houses are a relatively new phenomenon, most municipalities have never had anyone approach them to ask whether they can live in a tiny house. Therefore, most municipalities don’t have any bylaws saying you can or can’t live specifically in a tiny house. Use this guide to learn what you’ll need to know to get the perfect parking spot for your tiny house.
Learn about the tiny house buying process.
This post covers your entire tiny house buying process, and the first and most important step is finding a place to put it. Whether you’ll be buying or renting land, familiarize yourself with the tiny house buying process and how long it’ll take, before starting to your land search.
Learn how to look up zoning laws and how to ask your zoning board to live in your tiny house.
Here, you’ll learn how to find and read your town or city’s zoning laws to find out whether there are already rules for tiny houses, whether on foundations or on wheels. If your town doesn’t have laws pertaining to tiny houses, you’ll learn how to approach your town to ask. Importantly, you’ll also learn what to look for in the land, including hookups for fresh water, waste water, and power.
- If you’re in Massachusetts like we are, check out this list we’ve started Massachusetts towns that have rules specifically about tiny houses, whether on foundations or on wheels. If you have info on a town that’s not on the list, please contact us to add it! Where In Massachusetts Are Tiny Houses Legal?
- No matter where you’re looking for tiny house land, if you need to convince your local zoning board and/or building inspector why they should allow tiny houses, this post is a great example to follow. How Dominique Kerins of Auburn, MA Convinced Her Town’s Zoning & Building Inspector To Approve Tiny Houses
Rent or buy land for your tiny house.
Now that you know how to look for zoning laws and get permission to live in your tiny house, you’ll need to do some networking to find a spot for it! Facebook and Meetup are both great networking sites for tiny house enthusiasts, and this list links to Facebook and Meetup groups about tiny houses in almost every state. In addition to networking on tiny house specific sites and groups, advertise on local forums on Facebook, Craigslist, and community bulletin boards asking for those willing to rent out or sell land for a tiny house. The sooner you find land the sooner you can get started with the build. Good luck, and let us know how your land search goes!
Where Can You Put A Tiny House in Massachusetts?
With your help, we’re compiling a list of every city and town in Massachusetts and its attitude toward tiny houses on wheels and on foundations. This is part of a larger initiative by the American Tiny House Association to gather tiny house information for every state in the US. (Katie at B&B Tiny Houses is also ATHA’s northeast regional director.)
As you’ll see in the chart, most cities and towns don’t already have a policy on tiny houses, whether on foundations or on wheels, so their stance on tiny houses is currently unknown. Municipalities probably won’t consider whether to allow tiny houses unless someone brings it up with them! As we’ve seen in Nantucket and Auburn, all it takes is one person to ask.
What Does Tiny House Appendix Q Mean For Tiny Houses On Foundations?
Tiny House Appendix Q has been adopted in Massachusetts, effective January 1, 2020. Appendix Q: Tiny Houses provides building safety standards for houses on foundations that are 400 sq. ft. and under. However, the appendix doesn’t mean you can build a tiny house on a foundation wherever you want in Massachusetts: you’ll still have to adhere to your municipality’s zoning code. Here’s more info on the Tiny House Appendix.
Please add to the list:
If you have spoken with your municipality’s government (zoning board, building inspector, or someone else) about tiny houses on wheels or on foundations, we would love to add your info to the list. There’s even a column for rumors, if you’ve heard a town might be amenable to tiny house living but haven’t spoken with them directly yourself.
How to find out if your city or town allows tiny houses:
Zoning codes for many municipalities can be found on your town’s website or on ecode360.com.
If you haven’t spoken with anyone in your city or town government yet but would like to know whether a tiny house on wheels or on a foundation would be legal, send a quick email to your town’s zoning board (you can find their contact info on your town’s website).
Be sure to include the following information:
- What kind of tiny house you’re inquiring about (on a foundation or on wheels?)
- What code the house would be built to (if it’s on a foundation, does it comply with Massachusetts residential building code? If it’s a tiny house on wheels, is it certified by the RVIA or another third-party inspector?)
- A description of where you’d like to put it (in a backyard, on its own lot, or in a community) and the address so your zone can be confirmed. If you don’t have an address in the town but would like to move there, let them know that as well.
Someone on the zoning board be able to tell you right away whether tiny houses are already approved. If tiny houses are not currently mentioned in the zoning bylaws, they’ll be able to advise you whether it’s worth pursuing a change.
If you have info on a specific municipality, please email email@example.com and we’ll get your info added to the list.
Here are some tips to use the spreadsheet effectively:
- The spreadsheet retains its formatting if you’re on a computer rather than on a mobile . If you’re on a mobile you won’t be able to sort columns.
- To sort a column, right-click the letter at the top of the column and select “Sort A-Z”. For example, if you want to see all the towns in Hampden County, right-click “B” at the top of the second column (or click the small triangle next to “B”) and select “Sort A-Z”. Then scroll down to where the Hampden County section starts. If you only want to see towns with information added about tiny houses on foundations, you may select that column, which is “D”, and sort. Scroll to where the info starts.
- To see all the information in a cell, click the cell. The full text will show up in the bar above the sheet.
Dominique Kerins and her husband wanted to put an accessible tiny house in the yard of their regular-sized home in Auburn, MA for her aging grandmother, so she inquired whether that would be possible at her Town Hall.
Fast forward a couple months, and Auburn’s Annual Town Meeting was last night. Tiny Houses were the last item on the warrant to discussed, and it passed!
So how did she do it? Dominique was gracious enough to get a sitter for her kids in order to grant us an interview.
Auburn’s Town Meeting Warrant can be read here. The tiny house articles are #33 and #34; you’ll read more about the distinction between the two articles in the interview. The approval process isn’t over yet: next, it’ll be sent to the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (who visited the B&B Tiny Houses workshop last year) to be signed into law for the town of Auburn.
We are so grateful to Dominique for pitching the idea of tiny houses to her town, and in doing so, paving the way for others to do the same in their own municipalities.
First, what’s the background story? What originally led you to ask your town for permission to put a tiny house in your yard?
- My husband and I were looking to make changes to the Auburn zoning bylaws so that our family could build a Tiny Home on our property for our aging Grandmother, who currently pays 9K/month for senior housing in Medfield. Our intention was to keep down costs for her, and for us, and to prioritize multigenerational living. We opted for a THOW [Tiny House On Wheels] in our side yard, not only because they’re awesome but because they offer many strengths in creating a solution specific to our unique situation. THOWs offer strengths like affordability, accessibility and adaptability. All other alternatives considered or tried (like senior housing, and building on to our current single-family home) are unaffordable, and are not ideal for the long-term!) THOWs on the other hand can be easily re-purposed, sold or simply relocated. It happens to be a BONUS that THOWs promote healthier living and green initiatives.
Did you originally intend to get permission solely for tiny houses meant for caregiving, or was that restriction suggested by the planning board or another entity?
- We certainly wanted to keep as many options open to the public as humanly possible, maintaining that people should be able to do what they see fit on their own parcels of land. Unfortunately, after a lot of planning board meetings and emails, we were forced to accept the negotiated terms if we were to gain any traction with the town. Nevertheless, we came to realize that the narrowed (senior and disabled) audience had most to gain, especially given that Auburn has the HIGHEST population of elders in their 60’s and 70’s across the state. All other audiences (college students, for instance), or persons looking to save money, may have a bit more time than the elders for the bylaws to be altered and tweaked down the road!
What was the process? How long has this process taken so far? What are the next steps for Article 33 to come to fruition?
- We went to the Town Hall, in February of this year, thinking that the Zoning Enforcement (Building Inspector) would have most insight on the feasibility of building tiny in Auburn. He did provide insight, and some healthy skepticism that led us to be more prepared for questions presented by the Planning Board, roughly 1 month later.
- The Building Inspector directed us to speak with the Town Planner, who had more information about the collaborative efforts of the Planning Board and the creators of the town’s Master Plan (which I read prior, and understood to give priority to the seniors in Auburn).
- The Town Planner encouraged us to do 2 things:
- Create a citizen’s petition, requiring signatures from the town’s (voting-age) residents in support of our idea.
- Solicit recommendation and support from the town’s Planning Board and Selectmen in order to compose more detailed language to present to the Town Hall.
- The first item was easy. The second required attending many Planning Board meetings, and a bit of bickering and emailing.
- Realizing that the Town backed their own detailed bylaw (and not our original language), we felt it best to work with them; I made phone calls to voters in our precinct to ask for their support, and mailed a letter to all voters to do the same, instructing them to support Article #33 at Town Hall.
- At Town Hall, we sat as members of the audience, quietly, biting our fingernails, as we watched the Town Planner present the Bylaw proposal. After time (and confusion at the Town Meeting), the Bylaw was approved by a 2/3 vote.
- Next, the bylaw gets sent to Atty. General for approval! In the meantime, I have written Representative Frost (who is an Auburn resident) to ask for his support in expediting the approval process.
I understand you and your husband are builders and plan to build your own tiny house. Did the town of Auburn ask you to build it (or prove that it has been built) to a particular set of standards or code?
- …We have done a lot of building in the past. My husband is a concrete mason and is gifted as a handy man. We have completed a lot of renovation projects, mainly in basements, (in our particular home, the renovated basement wouldn’t suffice for our elderly grandmother, for obvious reasons). The town… asked that we ensure that it is built to the town’s standards as well as those specified by the state and the federal government (and HUD). IRC – the international residential building code, will inform the building standards. Thankfully, my husband is well versed in the language of building codes!
- I should also shout out to the awesome Design & Build school, Yestermorrow, in Vermont, for having providing so much valuable insight on the ins and outs of Tiny Home construction!!!! The class was invaluable to preparing us for the questions presented by the Town.
Before now, have you ever been involved in a political or government process? Did you reach out to others for help or guidance along the way? Are there any other Auburn residents you know of who are interested in having their own tiny houses?
- Besides my exposure to college-level or professional procedural hearings, I had not been involved in politics. Reaching out to neighbors was very helpful, as was the opportunity to read Katie Jackson’s updates [Ed. Note: hey, thanks for the shoutout!] and other bloggers on tiny living. Just knowing that others are going through similar situations has been extremely insightful and comforting.
What advice would you have for others looking to ask for permission to have a tiny house in their own municipality?
- Look at the town’s bylaws. Pay attention to the wording, formalities and procedural recommendations.
- Network – not only at Town Hall (knowing your Selectmen, Town Planner, Zoning enforcement officials, Planning Board and Clerks) but also the Fire Chief, Police, and regular folk too!
- Have details READY (blueprints, preexisting example images, placement plans, building plans etc.) The town asks A LOT OF QUESTIONS!!!
- Consider taking a class (as above mentioned, Yestermorrow was really helpful for DIY building advice!)
- Be prepared for lots of questioning, answering and follow-up, and try your best to stay positive ☺
Finally, do you have images you’d like to share?
- This is our own mock-up, that I’ve created using a program, Home Designer Pro. The wheel wells are “hidden” by a “skirt” in the picture. SketchUp was also helpful in rendering templates with trailers. They have a 30 day free trial, which is nice.
The planning & zoning board of the town of Great Barrington, MA is considering allowing tiny houses on wheels, or movable tiny houses, as Accessory Dwelling Units in the back yards of existing houses.
The tiny house amendment has gone through all the previous stages of approval: registered voters in Great Barrington will vote on whether to allow them at the annual town meeting on May 6.
Katie Jackson of B&B Tiny Houses was asked to do a presentation at a planning board meeting on what tiny houses are, how they work, and how other cities have written them into their zoning code. Katie is also the Northeast Regional Director of the American Tiny House Association, which is hosting the open house on May 5.
- Who buys tiny houses?
- Why do people want tiny houses?
- Why don’t more people have tiny houses?
Backyard tiny houses will add density without having to change the infrastructure of the town; it’s the quickest, easiest solution (and one of many) that will address the housing crisis.
Here’s Great Barrington’s proposed zoning language pertaining to tiny houses:
MTH: Movable Tiny House
THOW: Tiny House on Wheels
ADU: Accessory Dwelling Unit
There will be two tiny house events in Great Barrington:
-Tiny House Open House in the backyard of 65 Anderson Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230. Sunday, May 5, 10am-4pm.
Sunday’s tiny house open house is in advance of Monday’s Great Barrington Annual Meeting, where a proposed zoning amendment allowing Movable Tiny Houses as accessory dwelling units will be voted upon, among other topics. The open house is hosted by Amy Turnbull who is on the leadership team of the American Tiny House Association, with a movable tiny house built by Tony Indino of East Granby, Connecticut (this house is shown in the event flyer). This open house will give a glimpse into what backyard tiny houses might look like in Great Barrington if the Movable Tiny House Amendment passes.
-Great Barrington Annual Meeting & Vote at Monument Mountain High School Auditorium, 600 Stockbridge Rd, Great Barrington, MA 01230. Monday, May 6, 6:00pm.
Please attend the Annual Meeting on Monday in support of allowing movable tiny houses in Great Barrington backyards. The proposed amendment language is posted in the comments. All those who are registered to vote in Great Barrington may vote on the amendments.
Williamstown, MA had its planning board meeting last night, discussing whether to allow backyard cottages and second apartments to homes in certain zones of town. It was a full house, with others who couldn’t get seats standing in the hallway.
In the photo, Amy Jeschawitz, Chair of the Planning Board, sits under the town flag, depicting Williamstown’s beloved 1753 House. The 1753 House was originally called a “Regulation House” by the early European settlers, who, in order to be considered land owners, had to build a house that was at least 15’ x 18’ and 7’ tall. At 270 sq ft, this would certainly be considered a “tiny house” by today’s standards!
The size of the detached ADUs (backyard cottages) in the current proposed bylaw would be limited to between 900 and 1200 square feet, determined by the size of the existing home and its lot.
Also addressed was allowing a second unit to an existing single family home, either within or added on to the existing building. These two bylaws would mean that a single unit property within certain zones could ostensibly turn into a three-unit property.
The planning board voted 3-1 in favor of recommending the proposed bylaws, with the additional restriction of a five year wait between adding a second unit to a property and adding a third.
The bylaws will now be taken to Town Meeting.
Read more on the meeting from iBerkshires: https://www.iberkshires.com/story/59488/Williamstown-Planners-Recommend-Dwelling-Bylaw-Amendments.html
Last week’s public hearing in Great Barrington, MA addressed using tiny houses on wheels as backyard cottages. (If you haven’t already seen it or need a refresher, refer back to this blog post).
After the meeting, I spoke with Jonathan Hankin who is the president of the Planning Board. Here’s his recap:
- The meeting was 3 hours long and had lots of controversial items to cover! The proposed tiny house ADUs weren’t discussed, negatively or positively.
- Public comments remain open until next week’s meeting, which is on Thursday. However, since there hasn’t been any negative feedback, Jonathan seems confident it should pass without issue.
- Next week’s meeting is when all the proposed changes to Great Barrington’s Zoning Bylaws should be put on a warrant. Those changes will officially pass (or not) at the Town Meeting, which takes place the last week in May.
- All the changes that pass in Town Meeting will go to the Attorney General for review. Her report should come back in August or September. All changes that she approves will be retroactively in effect back to next week’s meeting (get your Delorean ready).
As a side note, the Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey, visited the B&B Tiny Houses workshop last year and said, in front of many members of the press, that she feels tiny houses are a good affordable housing option. She has also signed the Nantucket, MA zoning bylaw allowing tiny houses, so we feel good about Atty. Gen. Healey signing Great Barrington’s as well.
Pictured from left: B&B Tiny Houses Owners Chris St. Cyr, Jason Koperniak, Mitch Bressett, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey outside the Arcadia Tiny House. Photo from iBerkshires.com.
The town of Great Barrington, MA is considering adding Movable Tiny Houses, or Tiny Houses on Wheels, to their zoning regulations, allowable as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).
As proposed, movable tiny houses will only be allowed as an ADU which means there has to be a primary dwelling. A 2/3 majority at town meeting will allow them.
The Thursday meeting agenda includes a Citizen’s Speak Time, where those who live in Great Barrington can share their thoughts. Those who don’t live in Great Barrington but would like to show up in support of legal tiny houses may also attend the meeting.
This meeting will address movable tiny houses. Tiny houses that are on a foundation are already permitted as an ADU under the current bylaw and would need to meet the stretch code adopted by GB. The planning board is also seeking to increase the allowable number of ADUs to two.
This is the proposed added language to the Great Barrington Zoning Bylaws:
To Section 11.0 Definitions add:
Movable Tiny Houses (MTH)
A structure intended for the separate, independent living quarters of one household for year-round residence that meets all of the following:
(a) Is licensed and registered with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles;
(b) Meets the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 119.5 requirements, and certified by a qualified third party inspector for ANSI compliance;
(c) Cannot move under its own power;
(d) Has not less than 150 and no more than 430 square feet of habitable living space, excluding lofts;
(e) Is designed and built using conventional residential building materials for windows, roofing and exterior siding.
ACCESSORY DWELLING UNIT: a subordinate dwelling unit on the same lot as a primary single family or two-family residential use, with provisions for independent cooking, living, sanitation and sleeping. (Add) A Movable Tiny House (MTH) connected to electricity, water, and sewer or septic that has its chassis, wheels and hitch concealed shall be considered an accessory dwelling unit.
(This proposed language may have been updated by the time the meeting takes place).
GREAT BARRINGTON PLANNING BOARD MEETING
THURSDAY, MARCH 7, 2019 6:00 PM
Great Barrington Fire Station
37 State Road, Great Barrington, MA
Read the Meeting Agenda here.