Frequently Asked Questions
Read through some popular questions and concerns to learn more. If your question is not addressed, reach out!
Q- Wait... Why can't tiny homes be placed on somebody's privately owned land?
A- Local zoning laws prohibit this, even if a property owner fully approves. Zoning laws require permits for all sorts of things. In some towns, a landowner must file for a permit to even build a shed or plant a raised-bed garden. Town zoning is in place manage development. Without zoning and permit processes, towns administration would not have an organized record of important development matters.
Some towns allow special permits for detached backyard apartments, often called Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). The town of Hadley, MA does not currently allow for detached ADUs, which is the primary obstacle for legal tiny homes.
Q- What about building codes?
A- In recent history, building codes state that, "every dwelling unit shall have at least one habitable room that shall have not less than 120 square feet of gross floor area.*" That already made some tiny homes too small for building code! However, the 2015 International Building Code revised it's room size standards to accommodate tiny homes, stating that a room can be as small as 70 square feet.
Hadley is adopting IBC 2015 in July of 2016, which will allow tiny homes to comply with building code as long as other amenities, such as ventilation and plumbing, meet the minimum requirements.
Q- What if you just bought your own land, then?
A- If a tiny house owner bought land to park their home, they could get their home inspected, create an appropriate foundation for their dwelling, and possible reside in it legally if all requirements were met. However, more people who are interested in tiny homes actually hope to rent land to create mutually beneficial relationships, save money, and have the option to move easily (if their home can be towed). By renting land in a backyard, a tiny home owner could share existing infrastructure with a property owner who desires an additional source of income. Many people who want to live in a tiny house are interested in being caregivers, land stewards, or helpers for their property owners, which creates a useful support system for everyone involved.
Q- Aren't tiny houses trailers? They belong in a trailer park, don't they?!
A- Tiny houses are mobile in the sense that they can be moved with relative ease. However, mobile homes and park-model trailers are a different genre of small dwelling. Mobile homes and campers are built with their own set of regulations and are registered as such. Trailer parks allow certain models of mobile home and most campsites do not allow campers that are not built by a registered camper manufacturer. Tiny homes, on the other hand, are built using traditional methods and are built for energy efficient, long-term habitation.
Q- What if the town will end up looking like a tent city??
A- Town residents might be concerned that if tiny houses are allowed, then they will spatter the landscape, resulting in a giant trailer park. This misconception grows from a desire to protect the aesthetic of the landscape.
However, with the adoption of the Hadley bylaw to allow small backyard cottages, no structure would be permitted until site plans and all structures are fully assessed by both the building inspector and the planning board. Only ONE tiny house of up to 325 square feet would be allowed behind a single family home and the tiny home would be fully assessed for structure, size, safety, and style.
Q- What will this do to property values?
A- A tiny home in the form of a backyard cottage will objectively have the appearance of a shed or a very small cottage. The matrix of Hadley's landscape includes open land in combination with large houses, small houses, sheds, barns, chicken coops, greenhouses, and more. Adding tiny homes to the mix will do very little to the appearance of a neighborhood and will not reduce the value of neighboring houses.
A single family home that gets a successful special permit for a backyard cottage will be documented for the appropriate tax increase.
Q- If tiny houses are just taking up more land, then why would they be good for the environment?
A- People who wish to live in a tiny home are doing so to simplify their life, reduce their carbon footprint, and enjoy an increased closeness to nature, among other reasons. A town that allows tiny homes is allowing a niche of environmentally conscious people to maintain a dream of stewarding the land. Often times, people who wish to reside in a tiny home also wish to manage their waste in an environmentally and economically beneficial way. In addition, tiny homes take up very little space and are often movable, meaning that they do not imprint the land permanently.
If your question was not addressed, reach out!