Legalizing ‘granny flats’ in Encinitas, California

On September 24, 2014, Jared Whitlock of the Encintas Advocate wrote about how the city of Encinitas in San Diego County, is looking to legalize any granny flats that were built or converted before the city’s incorporation in 1986.

Granny flats — so named by Australian builders constructing smaller backyard dwellings for homeowners’ elderly relatives — are considered a source of affordable housing. So, if a large number were to be legalized, the city would have to plan for fewer units.

The units have to meet building and fire codes, and include a kitchen sink and bathroom, to be eligible for the amnesty program. And the owner must agree for the unit to be “set aside in perpetuity for low-income residents.”

“It is recognized that many illegal units which were constructed prior to the incorporation of the city provide affordable housing that may not otherwise be available,” the city’s policy states.

For more information, go to:

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300 sq. ft. Tiny House in Yellow Springs, Ohio

This tiny house, located in a small town in Ohio, is 16 x 20′ and 300 square feet, and sits on a permanent foundation.

After two years living in their tiny house, the owners recently tore down an old garage on the front of their lot, and are starting to build a three bedroom traditional-sized house in it’s place.

The owner talks about zoning starting at the 6:40 minute mark in this video by Kirsten Dirksen. The city was in the process of changing their code–going from a 500 sq. ft., to a higher minimum–and this house started a conversation about minimum size limits, and accessory units.

In February of 2013, the Yellow Springs Village Planning Commission agreed to a new size minimum of 900 square feet for Residence A and B, and no minimum size for Residence C. (See the zoning plan map at or for the locations of the residential districts.)

The planners’ challenge is to create a zoning code that balances two different local needs, according to Chair Matt Reed: the need to protect property values of existing neighborhoods and to promote more flexible and creative housing to increase infill in the village.

The owner spoke at the meeting about his tiny house, saying he and his wife are quite comfortable in their small space.

“I don’t think my neighbors mind their extra yard space,” he said. “I don’t think it’s valid that small houses lower property values.” – Alex Melamed

To read the article in the Yellow Springs News by Diane Chiddister, go to:

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Spur, Texas is the Nation’s First Tiny House Friendly Town

In July of 2014, Spur Texas declared itself the first tiny house friendly town, and invited the tiny house community to settle in Spur. The motivation was a declining population in Spur, and a desire to reverse that trend and bring in “do’ers from all walks of life who value self-sufficient sustainability and practical progress” via appealing to tiny house owners.

Spur is a classic West Texas town which has undergone a dramatic population drain to the big cities over the last few decades.  Once a town of several thousand, Spur has all the infrastructure you would expect of a city, with paved roads, city electric/water/sewage, and even fiber optic internet.  But with only about 1,000 people, the city has hundreds of vacant lots and abandoned buildings and several vacant commercial buildings.

Prices for acreage average around $1,500 per acre. Lots in town, owned by the County, average around $500 each.  Each lot is about 1/6th of an acre with the dimension ranging from 60′ x 120′ to 50′ x 160′.

And the regulations? They’re pretty loose in Spur Texas!

If you have or want a THOW, you can order it, build it, and park it in Spur, with access to utilities – if you want them – without having to hide from building inspectors.  If pursuing this route, we do require a THOW to be secured to a foundation while in city limits.  This is a safety concern as there are occasionally high winds which could otherwise knock your house over, or worse, into someone else’s home and property.  If you buy land just outside of city limits, you’re welcome to do as you please.

For more info see

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500 sq. ft. Laneway House in Vancouver, BC, Canada

Wikipedia describes a laneway house as…

“a form of housing that is gaining popularity on the west coast of Canada, especially in the Metro Vancouver area. These homes are typically built into pre-existing lots, usually in the backyard and opening onto the back lane.”

Laneway houses were introduced to increase density in existing neighborhoods, and average about 550 square feet. Regulations typically require they be built behind an existing house, on the back-half of the lot. The hope is to retain the feel of a single-family neighborhood, while not compromising the privacy of the nearby neighbors, and to add much needed housing to the area.

One of the best laneway houses on the web was built by Smallworks in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and is 1.5 stories, and 500 square feet. Known as the West Coast Modern, it’s a beautiful tiny house, perfectly sized for a couple, and has a fairly large balcony next to the bed. The house also includes a one-car garage on the bottom half.

View Smallwork’s West Coast Modern laneway house!

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Tumbleweed “Bodega” on a foundation in Royalston, MA

Just 252 square feet, this tiny house in Royalston, Massachusetts is fully permitted and legal, and was built using modified Tumbleweed “Bodega” plans. It’s on a permanent foundation and was completed in October 2013.

According to owner/builder Chris Haynes, the code in his area requires one room that is at least 150 square feet, and while the living room area was listed as only 120 square feet in the plans, when combined with the kitchen, Chris was able to achieve the 150 square feet minimum. He also had to add a back door to the plan, and he discusses the allowed width of that door. Chris praises the building inspectors in Royalston.

Derek “Deek” Diedricksen, of HGTV/DIY interviews owner/builder Chris Haynes, and the conversation on meeting the code starts at the 1:10 minute mark in the video.

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Welcome to!

Cheryl SpeltsMy name is Cheryl Spelts and I’m an artist and photographer, a law student, and a longtime lover of tiny houses.

A little over a decade ago I owned a park model RV, situated under a 100-year-old oak tree, next to a seasonal stream, in Southern California. It was a gorgeous location, and my expenses were low, but I kept wishing the park model was aesthetically more pleasing. I began to dream about tearing down the walls, and rebuilding them to look like a tiny Victorian house. Then I saw a photo of Jay Shafer’s first tiny house on a trailer, and I knew what I wanted to do was possible!

Since then I’ve created hundreds of floorpans, and elevations, and I’ve considered everything from siding materials, to roofing, to insulation, to framing, to making my own doors and windows. It’s been great fun, and I hope to start actually building my dream tiny house in the next couple of years!

As a law student I’ve been particularly interested in the challenge of finding places to legally place and live in a tiny house on wheels. I’m also fascinated by zoning and the minimum size limits that keep many people from building on a foundation as small as they’d like. And while the topic is way too big for one law student to figure out how to live tiny legally, on a national, or international scale, it is possible for one law student to collect and publish the stories of people who have actually found a way to live tiny legally, in their area.

So what is LegallyTiny about? It’s a collection of stories of the people who have navigated the codes, regulations, and zoning in their area, and are now living tiny, legally–both on wheels and on traditional foundations. There may also be a few stories with not-such-happy endings, if we can learn from the experience. There will be links to communities where you can legally live in a tiny house, and RV parks that accept tiny houses on wheels. And finally there will be links to builders that are RVIA certified, or the equivalent, which makes their tiny homes on wheels easier to place in RV parks, and in some states on private land.

Bottom line? If there’s a story on the web about living tiny, legally, I’d love to feature it here! So if you find a story of someone living tiny legally, please share it with me, so that I can share it on this site.

Knowledge is power, so let’s build a resource to help all tiny house lovers figure out the codes and regulations and zoning in their own area, and make it easier for all of us to live legally in a tiny house!


“Home is the nicest word there is.” –Laura Ingalls Wilder

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