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The Potential for Tiny Home Communities in North America

The Potential for Tiny Home Communities in North America

By Tobias RobertsRise Writer
Apr 4, 2018

As younger generations drift away from conventional workplaces and begin to find more work online and outside the 9-5 office setting, traditional housing strategies will most likely shift towards alternatives that offer more mobility and economic independence. Gentrification in urban neighborhoods alongside the increasing costliness of the housing market leaves many young people as renters of expensive apartments without the ability to build equity in a home of their own.

The combination of professional mobility and prohibitive housing costs has led younger generations to adopt more favorable attitudes towards affordable and environmentally friendly housing alternatives. Young people tend to be more aware of the dangers of climate change and more willing to make consumer decisions focused on limiting carbon footprints and respecting natural resources.

For younger people unable to afford rent or qualify for a mortgage, setting up residence in their parent's basement is not the only option left for them. While a family of five might not fit everyone into a 250 square foot house, tiny homes are an increasingly appealing alternative.

The Experience of Mark Su

Mark Su recently built a tiny house on wheels for him and his girlfriend. You can read the complete narrative article about his 317 square-foot home here. However, Mark's experience shows that learning the technical knowledge about building a tiny house on wheels is only half the challenge. 

Once you have built the home, you need to find places to put the house legally. According to Mark, “tiny homes on wheels are a fairly new phenomenon. The bylaws and building codes have not kept up with this new phenomenon. We found most municipalities will outright reject the idea simply because it is not written in the bylaws, and no building code defines it.”

Mark was kind enough to share a few words of wisdom related to the challenges associated with finding ways to live lawfully in the tiny house on wheels you eventually build.

Mark Su's tiny home
Photo courtesy of Mark Su

What are some of the challenges of moving a tiny home from one place to the next?

When we moved our home from the building site to a trailer park, we rented a 1-ton pickup and had a family member with an A license to tow it the short distance. However, if you plan to move it a long distance, I would suggest finding someone professional to tow it. When we moved it 450km from Toronto to Gatineau, we found someone local to move it without issue.

Where do you park your tiny home?

We currently park the tiny house in the backyard of our main home in Gatineau; before that, we were parked legally in the trailer park an hour north of Toronto.

What is the legal status of your home in Canada?

Tiny homes currently fall in a grey zone. In one aspect, they are considered to be an RV. Many small municipalities are trying to change their bylaws to allow tiny homes on wheels to attract new residents. A complete list of these municipalities (in Canada) can be found here: Some trailer parks now also accept tiny homes on wheels.

Is there other zoning or regulation restrictions that affect your tiny home?

Unless you are parked in municipalities that specifically allow tiny homes on wheels or parked in a trailer park that allows these types of homes or own a piece of land with no building restrictions, you will most likely find yourself going against zoning and regulatory restrictions. We were lucky to have found a piece of off-grid property with no building restriction hidden in the beautiful Kootenays in British Columbia. Still, at the moment, our tiny house is parked in the backyard in Quebec.

Have you ever had trouble finding a spot to park your tiny home?

We started building near Toronto without knowing a location to park eventually. However, we got fortunate and found an all-season trailer park a week after we finished building. We spent a year living in the trailer park and loved it with the small community feel. Another tiny house on wheels moved in while we were there. Unfortunately, our job brought us here to Ottawa. We had a challenging time trying to find a place to park here in the city. After a month of searching, we gave up and considered the idea of buying a house with a backyard to put in it. We eventually bought a place in Quebec with a large enough backyard to park and occasionally rent the tiny house.

tiny house small spaces
Photo courtesy Small Spaces (Tiny House Community in Florida)

The Need for Tiny House Communities

Mark's experience is undoubtedly similar to that of thousands of people who have bought or built beautiful, sustainable, environmentally friendly, and affordable tiny homes and then struggled to find where to live in those homes legally.

When asked about other friends of his interest in tiny homes, Mark believes that “the main attraction of the tiny house movement is the financial freedom, especially at a time where the housing market is completely out of reach of young people. However, due to the zoning and regulation restrictions, Mark finds it unfortunate that “tiny homes are not meant for urban settings, so most of our (urban) friends have never considered it.”

For the tiny house movement to transform into a genuine housing alternative for the masses, people need to have the assurance that they will legally park and live in their tiny homes on wheels no matter where they move. According to Mark, “unless more municipalities start accepting tiny homes on wheels and these homes get written into building codes, bylaws and zoning laws, people who live in a tiny house can only hide in the shadow.”

Fortunately, there are already several examples of legal and authorized tiny home communities popping up around North America. Park Delta Bay in northern California is one example of a completely legal tiny house community. There are also legal tiny house communities in Texas, Florida, Georgia, and other states. As more and more people, especially the younger generations, begin to migrate towards the tiny house movement, tiny house communities could start to emerge around the country and completely transform the housing market.

Tiny home communities are also becoming the answer to housing first alternatives - a way for many municipalities to address homelessness cost-effectively.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-09T17:14:50+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.