Introduction to Issue 8: Bureaucracy, Regulations & Small Living

Posted July 1st, 2009 by Amanda Abel and filed in Issue 8: Bureaucracy/Regs., Uncategorized

The single biggest roadblock to small living is, in my opinion, the excessive regulations that appear in the form of minimum-size requirements. Many of you that are reading this are likely looking for ways to live small yourself, and chances are that this is one of the reasons you haven’t been able to yet. But the limits of bureaucracy are not just visible in minimum size. In the county where Tyson lives, land parcels must remain a certain size with one main house on them in order to keep the area “rural.” In Portland, where Steph has her houseboat, no new houseboat slips can be created.

Finding ways to live small within a system that promotes the rapid spread of suburbia and limits or bans creative solutions is one of the biggest challenges we face, as can currently be seen in the stalled rebuilding efforts in New Orleans post-Katrina. So much red tape has kept Marianne Cusato’s Katrina Cottages from being built, despite the fact that they were hailed as lightyears better than FEMA trailers, since they could be expanded upon to create permanent dwellings. Although there is no one solution that we at SLJ have hit on, hopefully, this issue will get your wheels turning.

2 Responses to “Introduction to Issue 8: Bureaucracy, Regulations & Small Living”

  1. MoNo Gravatar says:

    The issue is complex and the lack of uniformity the rules are applied from county to county and sometimes neighborhood to neighborhood compounds the problem.

    In my experience the major hurdles to building small are taxes and code compliance. Habitable small buildings don’t easily fit existing tax and regulatory laws on the books. Officials are regular folks just doing their jobs and don’t have the flexibility or authority to apply rules unevenly – it is easier to deny than finding a way to meet tax designations, health district requirements, structural codes and zoning laws.

    I do see the little house movement gaining momentum but the critical mass is not yet been achieved. Until the revenuers figure out how to tax little houses I believe the challenges will remain. Once a way to tax them is discovered a method of issuing permits and enforcing codes will follow.

  2. Amanda AbelNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Mo, that’s true, I haven’t been considering how taxing figures into it. You would think, though, that they would just apply taxes based on similar properties in an area, in much the same way as a realtor uses a CMA to determine a sale price based on a house with similar size and amenities. In areas where there are still older (and usually smaller) homes, that could work. Nonetheless, I think that the longer we try to work around codes, the longer it could take to establish uniform approaches.