Seven Tiny House Options

Posted July 1st, 2009 by Tammy "RowdyKittens" and filed in Issue 8: Bureaucracy/Regs.

Making our tiny house dream come true has been challenging. We’ve faced a variety of obstacles and most of those have to do with city codes.

In Sacramento, our tiny house would be classified as a camping trailer. So we’ve struggled with the challenges presented by bureaucratic regulations and have talked about a variety of options to get around these rules.

1. Backyard possibilities.

Illegally park in someone’s backyard within the city limits. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind trying this option. If we found a homeowner willing to work with us and the neighbors were nice, I don’t think this would cause a problem. Many tiny home dwellers suggest building a cute home (people like beautiful things) and exploit municipal code technicalities such as defining your tiny home living as “recreating”.

Tiny Cottage

2. Moving outside of the city.

If we parked on private land outside of the city limits (either in Davis or Sacramento) then we wouldn’t need a permit. All we need is written permission from the owner of the land to “recreate/camp”.

Logan grew up on a cattle ranch, near Mt. Shasta and we’ve talked about moving to the ranch. There wouldn’t be a problem with city codes and we would be near family.

The ranch

3. Co-housing community

Finding a co-housing community that would let us park on their land or moving to a tiny house village would be a fantastic option. Hillary is working on an amazing project called the Tiny House Village Network and I think this has a lot of potential. Using our collective power to change perceptions and creating an intentional community is the way to go.

4. Purchasing land.

Purchasing a small piece of land for our tiny home is something we might consider doing in the future. But buying a habitable piece of land right now is not financially possible. The upfront costs are huge and we don’t want to be tied to a specific city at this time in our lives. Part of the draw to a tiny home on wheels is the ease of transport. Moving isn’t hard when you have a home on wheels.

BLM Land16

5. Lease a space in an RV/trailer park.

Most Sacramento RV parks are expensive and not very attractive. The RV park’s we’ve explored have no space for gardening, are too far outside of the city and resemble WalMart parking lots. It’s not the kind of environment we want to live in. I’m sure there are many beautiful RV parks in the U.S., but I haven’t found many in my neck of the woods.

6. Moving?

We’ve considered moving to Portland because the city has embraced a variety of sustainability project’s. I think it’s possible to find a piece of land or someone’s backyard to park our tiny house. I’ve taken a few trips to Oregon recently and talked to a variety of folks who said local officials are receptive to alternative dwellings.

I don’t know if we will move but the Portland peeps have also given me a lot of creative ideas we can implement in Sacramento, like using the “recreating” strategy and lobbying public officials.

Driving to Portland6

7. Lobbying public officials/bureaucrats.

Getting around city regulations seems to be a common problem for folks who live or want to live in a tiny home. The key to changing this problem might be lobbying and educating local politicians and city planners about the benefits of living small. The lobbying process is long and cumbersome but I think it would be a good starting place, regardless of your location.


I’m curious to hear from you. What strategies have you used to get around bureaucratic regulations? Do you have any options to add to the list?

4 Responses to “Seven Tiny House Options”

  1. AlexNo Gravatar says:

    thanks for the comments. I was wondering the same thing (parking). I live in SoCal, but I grew up near SF. I have an Aunt in Portland. I’d like to move up that way (SF or Portland). My aunt doesn’t have a yard. I looked at space in Oregon City. I like the concept of a “tiny house village.” I suppose, if one got a standard lot (usually about 70′ by 100′) you could fit six or eight tiny houses with space for gardening and general yard. I have a standard “ranch style” house on a lot of 70′ x 100′ and I’ve been thinking a lot about down sizing.

    Somehow, the cost of commercial composting toilets needs to come down. I think the saw dust toilet works fine, with the exception of actually composting the stuff (ie, I’d be more than comfortable to set up a compost bin in my yard, like the Humanure guy, but most city’s are still to rigid about human waste).

    On another note, one could add passive solar oven and water heater to save energy.

  2. sunriseNo Gravatar says:

    I live in an RV park on the coast of NC-surrounding are what you make of them-my RV is 8/24 ft-I have all the convinces-for the last several yrs I have investigated the container house concept-they are totally environmentally friendly-they sit on the docks of every port in the world just taking up space-they are inexpensive to purchase and move-can be attracted to a movable frame like an RV-but in my area much more hurricane resistant-I have found the concept in many other counties and also here but no where have I been able to find plans for the wiring and plumbing aspects-I have done quite a bit of home renovations and enjoy the work-if anyone knows of information in this area please forward email hidden; JavaScript is required with the container one could utilize the living area to there own taste.

  3. [...] Finding land to park a tiny house is challenging and the ranch would be a perfect parking spot. But that will have to wait a few years… [...]

  4. Kathleen D ParkerNo Gravatar says:

    Here in the east, we have state parks that allow camping. Most are really beautiful, the biggest obstacle being their time constraints. Two weeks in, one week out. That would essentially require an alternative career path. But if you can work from your “home” than a situation like a park is viable.