When we rounded up Shareable’s Top 10 Stories of All Time, tiny houses were a runaway favorite. Among the top tiny house stories were several pieces on tiny house villages—an exciting branch of the tiny house movement that combines tiny living with a focus on community.
To find out more about tiny house villages and get some insights into creating one, we connected with several people who are active in the movement. They shared with us some of the benefits of tiny house villages, advice for overcoming regulatory hurdles, and their best tips to create a tiny house village of your own.
Respondents are Timothy Ransom, president of Panza, the nonprofit behind Quixote Village, a self-governing tiny house village of formerly homeless people in Olympia, Washington; Chelsea Rustrum, a sharing economy author, consultant, and tiny house community builder; and Claude Trepanier, COO at Habitat Multi Generations, a social enterprise that builds sustainable development tiny house projects in Québec…
What’s the first step to get a tiny house village project started?
Timothy Ransom: For Quixote Village it was building a constituency, through engaging volunteers, that would support fundraising efforts and the political work that would engage governmental agencies as partners.
Claude Trepanier: Identify a suitable land area with a zoning suitable for small house construction. Define clearly the requirements appropriate for a successful tiny house community (affordable land space, road, drinkable water supply, wastewater disposal, common infrastructures to decrease costs). Meet the city officials involved in urban planning and secure them with a professional presentation taking into consideration every concern.
What are the biggest challenges in creating a tiny house village, and what are the best ways to overcome them?
Timothy Ransom: Money, money and money. NIMBY-ism when siting facilities for poor and homeless neighbors. Burnout of volunteers.
Chelsea Rustrum: Every parcel of land is governed by city, county, and state agencies, with laws that limit the potential of a tiny house village. The planning department cares about the use and density of the land, public works is concerned about access, traffic, and environmental impact, environmental health wants to makes sure that there is adequate water and sewer requirements that are met, and the building department is concerned with structural safety, which is where the wheels/no wheels on the tiny home creates a gray area between being considered a mobile home, RV, and a typical residence.
For many, the idea of a tiny house village sounds too much like a trailer park, which is something many don’t want to stand behind. That’s why having a strong vision and communication of what the village looks like, who will inhabit, etc. is so important.
Claude Trepanier: Finding suitable land and laying out a comprehensive landscape plan taking into consideration every concern (bylaws, infrastructures, resident’s community needs.) To have tiny houses accepted in a municipality, they have to change their bylaws significantly, not only the dwelling’s footprint—the allowed building materials and infrastructures—but also the zone usages, what one can or cannot do in their house and on their land.
Tiny houses are very different from existing large footprint houses. Municipalities have the responsibility to lay out coherent and good looking dwellings and living spaces which will yield a sustainable market value, so they can continue collect taxes based on dwellings market value. That is why it is very difficult for municipalities to change their bylaws for a small number of residents with specific needs or requirements.
What if every resident in the municipality asks to have a tiny house on wheels in their backyard?
What will be the reaction of a large footprint house owner to have a tiny house next door? The most elegant solution, which looks realistic in order to preserve harmony across different zones in a municipality, is to set-up a zone laid out specifically to tiny house characteristics as well as to suit tiny house owners preferred lifestyles.