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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.

Under Construction: The Green River Small Home by B&B Quality Construction

The Green River Small Home

  • Built by B&B Quality Construction, a division of B&B Micro Manufacturing, Inc.

  • Built on-site on a foundation (not on wheels)

  • Small footprint at 16′ x 20′ plus a porch

  • Kitchen, bathroom and living room downstairs

  • Stairs up to sleeping loft

B&B Quality Construction builds homes and other buildings on-site with traditional construction techniques.  They are available for projects within reasonable distance of North Adams, Massachusetts.

The Green River Small Home is currently under construction.  Click to enlarge the construction photos below.

Green River Small Home Floor Plan Tiny House B&B Quality Construction

 

EDIT: Construction is now finished!  Click here to see the finished photos and a video tour of the Green River Small House. 

Interested in a small, permanently-affixed house like this near North Adams, MA?  Contact us!

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

Please Support Tiny House Zoning in Great Barrington, MA this Thursday, March 7

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).

 

Please attend:

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.

Are Composting Toilets Allowed in Massachusetts?

Composting toilets and greywater systems can be a great solution for how to deal with waste water.  But are you allowed to use them on your own land in MA?

Spoiler alert: Like pretty much every code, there’s not a single easy answer that applies everywhere.

According to mass.gov, for residential homes: “Title 5 (310 CMR 15.000) allows composting toilets for Remedial Use and also certifies them for General Use in new residential construction where a system in full compliance with Title 5 could otherwise be installed. The local approving authority (typically the Board of Health) must also approve installation of a composting toilet through a Disposal System Construction Permit and Certificate of Compliance. Check with your local Board of Health for its approval procedures.”

Read all the details here:

Source: https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/08/qm/comptoi.pdf

Note that this doesn’t apply to tiny houses on wheels– only homes that are permanently affixed.

In summary, Title 5 allows for conforming composting toilets and a greywater system in new residential construction where there could otherwise be a septic system.  However, this doesn’t mean it’s allowed in every town.  The local Board of Health will also have to approve it. 

Here’s how to get in touch with your local Board of Health in Massachusetts.

But wait: a composting toilet isn’t the only option for your tiny house!

B&B offers five different toilets for tiny houses on wheels: the best solution for you depends on where you’re parking your tiny house, whether it’ll move, what utilities are available and how often you’ll use your tiny house.  Check out this blog post on the 5 Types Of Tiny House Toilets.

 

 

 

Appendix Q “Tiny House Appendix” Advances in Massachusetts, August 2018

Tiny House Appendix Advances in MA!

From the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) August 14, 2018 Regular Meeting Division of Professional Licensure (DPL):

Proposal Number 5-2-2018 – Consider adopting Appendix Q of the International Residential Code pertaining to Tiny Houses.

“On a MOTION by Rich Crowley seconded by Kevin Gallagher it was voted in the majority to advance Appendix Q forward as an amendment to the ninth edition of the code, independent of the tenth edition effort.

On discussion, Rob Anderson indicated that Board members should refrain from making changes to the ninth edition if the effort is to advance to a tenth edition based on the 2018 I-Codes. Jen Hoyt and Kerry Dietz agreed that it becomes awkward and confusing and, by their estimation, there still may be some issues to be resolved with other agencies relating to tiny houses and it makes more sense to review further as part of the tenth edition revision.

Following discussion, the motion was approved via a majority of Board members with Rob Anderson, Jen Hoyt, and Kerry Dietz voting in opposition.”

Next Steps:

According to Rich Crowley, board member of the MA BBRS, the next steps are for a public hearing in November and then a final vote.

“We’ve voted it in now it’s on to public hearing and final vote. After Tuesday’s vote I don’t anticipate any objection… In fact at one of our previous meetings there was one member, the architect, that voiced some opposition to micro units and this time she offered some positive feedback. The Proposal will return with a document that will more than likely get a unanimous approval as well. That should make it to the hearing and  to promulgation along with tiny houses.
…Once the hearing is over the following month we decide on all the items came in front of us at the hearing and vote up or down or move them somewhere but some form of action is taken at that following meeting. tiny houses are more than likely move forward. At that point it’s just two steps away from [promulgation].
Next it goes to Administration and finance. Once they sign off then it goes to the governor’s desk for signature. It takes maybe a day or two after that for the Secretary of State too publish it as a part of our first amendment to the 9th Edition of the mass building code. The date that gets published is the date of becomes Law so to speak.
I think we can get it all done by the first of the year pretty close. I have talked to lieutenant governor who’s very excited and wants to see it move forward. In fact when one of  governor Baker’s main themes is for affordable housing and that’s what this does. Give people a chance to get on that first rung of the ladder.”

Background Info:

What is The Tiny House Appendix?

Appendix Q addresses building code standards for small houses on foundations that have already been adopted into the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC), including standards for lofts, stairs, egresses, and ceiling heights.  To be clear, the adoption of the Tiny House Appendix won’t completely legalize tiny houses in Massachusetts– that’s up to each city– but if it is adopted, it will provide a set of building standards for under 400 sq ft homes where they are legalized, and where they aren’t yet legalized, help legitimize tiny homes in the eyes of local building departments.  Appendix Q does not address tiny houses on wheels, as they are currently considered vehicles.

Read the Tiny House Appendix here.

Appendix Q in Massachusetts

Andrew and Gabriella Morrison have been instrumental in writing and getting the Tiny House Appendix adopted into the national 2018 IRC: now it’s up to each state, and then each city/town in each state, to adopt it into their specific building code.  Andrew presented at a Massachusetts BBRS meeting, introducing Appendix Q last fall.

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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