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Where In Massachusetts Are Tiny Houses Legal?

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.

Please add to the list:

If you have spoken with your municipality’s government (zoning board, building inspector, or someone else) about tiny houses we would love to add your info to the list.  There’s even a column for rumors, if you’ve heard a town might or might not 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.

They’ll be able to tell you right away whether tiny houses are legal.  If they’re not currently in the zoning, they’ll be able to advise you whether it’s worth pursuing a change in the zoning bylaws.  

If you have info on a specific municipality, please email info@bbtinyhouses.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.

 

Great Barrington, MA Will Vote On Backyard Tiny Houses May 6

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.

Background Info:

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.

Here’s our previous update on Great Barrington’s consideration of allowing tiny houses on wheels.

Here’s an article on Great Barrington’s Town Meeting from the Berkshire Edge. 

  • Who buys tiny houses?
Most of B&B Tiny Houses’ non-commercial customers have their tiny house in the backyard of a family member or friend, in a campground, or on rural land with permissible zoning.  Some people live in their tiny houses full time, while others use them as guest houses, vacation houses, housing for personal care givers, or as wheelchair-accessible additions so someone can live at home while recovering from a spinal cord injury or in-home hospice care.
  • Why do people want tiny houses?
Although tiny houses are on wheels, very few people travel with them like RVers.  Most people who want tiny houses are drawn to the very low cost of living and the low carbon footprint.  Others want tiny houses on wheels because they might move once every couple of years, like traveling nurses or those with academic professions.  Many who live in tiny houses find themselves spending less time at home and more time in their communities and the outdoors.
  • Why don’t more people have tiny houses?
The biggest barrier to those wanting to own a tiny house is the difficulty of finding a legal spot to live in their house.  Since tiny houses are a relatively new phenomenon, most municipalities don’t already have laws allowing tiny houses on wheels as residences.

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: 

Acronym Key:

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.

Planning Board Meeting Recap: Backyard Cottages in Williamstown, MA?

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

Recap: Meeting on Backyard Tiny Houses in Great Barrington, MA

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.

-K. Jackson

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.

How to Make Money by Renting Out Your Tiny Home

With New England’s quintessential towns and breathtaking scenery, it’s no surprise that many of our tiny home owners use the area as a second home for weekend retreats. Because these homes often sit vacant, owners will often rent out their tiny homes in order to share the tiny home lifestyle with newcomers and make additional income. The best part of renting your tiny house to others is that it’s easier than you would think!new england fall foliage tiny homes outdoors

How to Earn Extra Income with Your Tiny Home

If you’re thinking about turning your tiny home into an investment, then you’re surely asking yourself a lot of questions. How do I pick the best location? How do I find customers and manage my property? How do I ensure I make a profit? Don’t fret, we’ve got you covered.

Picking the Best Location

When determining where to place your tiny home, think about your future customers and what their needs are. Are the customers you’re trying to reach looking for a place to stay while they hike New England’s serene mountains or are they seeking the comfort of being close to some of New England’s most memorable towns? The best way to figure this out is through research and talking with members of the community that you’re interested in. The local inhabitants will know the most about the types of tourists that their town receives. In addition, growing your network and connections with the local community is a great way to help spread the word about your tiny home.

In order to find land after you already have an area in mind, you can use websites like Zillow or Landwatch to see available listings, but it may be worth it to contact a real estate agent. Like the local inhabitants, real estate agents will be able to give you the inside scoop of particular areas and tell you which areas they think will make the most lucrative investment.

But is it legal?

Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer to this question as it depends on the town’s zoning bylaws. The good news is that it is relatively easy to find out if you can have a tiny home in a certain area by checking the town’s online building code or by simply giving the town hall a call. Click here to learn more about finding out where it’s legal to have tiny homes. tiny home kitchen new england

Finding Customers for your Tiny Home

Get Connected and Engage

Just as it is important to get connected with the local community when finding a property, it’s as equally important when attracting customers. Word of mouth is a great way to attract customers. Another great way to become connected is by establishing partnerships with local businesses. For example, you may establish a partnership with a local outdoors shop where you agree to leave coupons for the shop on the bulletin board in your tiny home for guests to see in exchange for a standup ad poster in their store. Also, use social media to develop interest in your tiny homes. Encourage guests to share pictures of their experience in your tiny home. Allow others to see the magnificent time past customers have had in your tiny home!

Use Third Party Platforms

Websites like Airbnb, VRBO, FlipKey, and Homeaway are another great way to find potential customers. Try It Tiny is a tiny house-specific website for renters, landowners, and tiny house owners looking to rent out their houses.  What’s great about these platforms is that you don’t need to do anything besides build your online profile; the customers will come directly to you!

tiny homes bedroom b&b micromanufacturing

Maximizing Your Profit

It’s apparent that the quality and location of your tiny home are some of the driving factors that determine the price you are able to charge customers, but there are even more factors affecting the price and therefore interest of customers in your property. Below are some of the other most important factors.

Amenities and Competition

Amenities such as the size of the kitchen, wifi connectivity, or an outdoor sports court help determine the price that you are able to charge. In addition, it is important to analyze your competition to see what they offer and at what price. It is also just as important to make sure that you offer something that your competition does not–what makes your tiny home extra special? Is it the views from the property, the outdoor grilling area, or the luxurious fixtures?

Make Hospitality a Priority

Sites like Airbnb allow customers to give reviews to their hosts. These ratings are out of five stars and visible to all prospective customers. Low ratings will certainly deter prospective clients; likewise, high ratings with personalized experiences allow you to build trust with future customers. High ratings with personalized experiences are made through experiences that humanize the lodging experience. What will your customer remember about their experience? Was it your useful advice of things to do in the area, the complimentary welcome basket with a handwritten note, or your high level of responsiveness to your guests questions? Click here to learn more about how to be the best AirBnB host. 

tiny home investment additional income New England

Becoming an Entrepreneur

Now that you know more about the mechanics behind turning your tiny home into an investment, you’re one step closer to becoming an entrepreneur! Reporting to yourself and being able to make the decisions that impact your investment can be a very exciting opportunity. So, what are you waiting for?

 

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