Tiny Houses and Community Needs

11 Oct 2018 11:20 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

There are several very good examples and legislation as well as reviews and discussion articles about “tiny houses.” I’ve listed some below. Most of the discussion revolves around questions though. Because every town is different and choses different policies based on their own needs, it is difficult to tell each town the correct answer. Basically, you need to figure out what you want as a community. It starts with the discussion. You might begin with the following questions:

1. Keep in mind your police powers (health, general welfare, and safety).
2. General policy – What is our goal with regard to housing? Do we need more of it?
3. Inclusionary – Who is our housing for? Do we want to include everyone? Do we want housing choices for everyone?
4. Property values – Courts have stated that property values is a legitimate use of the police powers. Do we want to protect property values? Where?
5. Should they meet the same requirements as all other dwelling units where they are allowed? Or does that now make them so expensive that it is unaffordable?
6. Density – How dense do we want an area? Could smaller homes be a choice in a denser neighborhood? What size lot do they need? Do they need separate lots? Might they be in a park like mobile homes or camp sites?
7. Infrastructure – What type of infrastructure might be necessary? Parking, water/wells, public sewer/septic/other, electricity, solar, etc. If we have bus service, do we need parking? Do we have enough road width to allow on street parking?
8. Zoning/land use –
  • Subdivision – Do we want these as part of a subdivision?
  • Form based type - What do we want our housing to look like? What form would they take? What would it look like?
  • Do we care about the size of the house? What if it is smaller than other types of housing? Do we want to have a minimum size house? What if we had a maximum size house?
  • Might we think about them like Accessory Dwelling Units? Could they be like the converted garages that are found in many places already?
9. Fees – If this is supposed to be housing that is more affordable, then do we want to charge the same fee for services or permits?

Examples: Dignity Village - Portland, OR; Quixote Village - Olympia, WA; Opportunity Village - Eugene, OR; Rockledge, FL - pocket neighborhoods; Thoreau’s small house on Walden Pond, MA

Legislation: NH recently adopted legislation requiring municipalities to allow accessory dwelling units.

Articles/Resources:

Tiny Houses and the Not-So-Tiny Questions They Raise,” APA, Zoning Practice, November 2015, Issue Number 11.

Accessory Dwelling Units: A Flexible Free-Market Housing Solution” R Street, Free markets. Real solutions. R Street Policy Study No. 89, March 2017.

Tiny Houses: Niche or Noteworthy?” APA, February 2016.

American Tiny House Association: www.americantinyhouseassociation.org.

Bemidji (Minnesota), City of, 2015 Greater Bemidji Area Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance, article XI: Subdivisions and Planned Unit Developments, Section 1101: Subdivision of land, Part F Tiny House Subdivision. Available at tinyurl.com/pzlj9uf.

Mccann, Conor, 2015. “The Workhouse Postmortem.” May 27. Available at http://www.theworkhouse.co/postmortem.

Spur (Texas), City of 2014. “A Resolution Establishing the Designation of the City of Spur, as America’s First “Tiny” House Friendly Town,” July 17. Available at spurfreedom.org/hooray-for-our-city-council.

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company; tumbleweedhouses.com

--Carol Eyerman, AICP, Town of Topsham

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