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Zoning laws challenge tiny-home owners

Tiny-home building shows may be all the rage on TV, but these programs rarely explore one big hurdle that comes with tiny-home ownership: Where on earth should you put it?

In many areas, zoning regulations prohibit temporary accommodations such as RVs, mobile homes, and their new close cousins, tiny houses. Zoning laws may require minimum square footage for homes, may prohibit portable structures, or may limit what’s known as “accessory dwelling units,” such as small houses placed in the backyard of an existing home.

In other cases, tiny house owners may find themselves simply priced out of a home site due to zoning laws that require minimum lot sizes beyond their financial reach.

Certain communities have adjusted their zoning laws to accommodate the tiny house movement — notably Nantucket, Mass. and Fresno, Calif. — but some estimates suggest as many as 90 percent of tiny-home owners are living illegally when it comes to zoning regulations.

Whether tiny-home owners build their houses on wheels or place them on foundations, it can be real hurdle to find a place to live. While some find lots in year-round RV parks, those spots are limited. Alternate options include mobile home communities or rural areas, where zoning rules are typically more relaxed. Some tiny-home owners simply decide to put their houses in a friend’s backyard and hope that none of the neighbors raise a fuss.

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