Update on the Code Violation
We met with the City just before we took off to Kansas City. In the meeting we shared our views of why we live tiny and that we never met to slide under any radar. The meeting was with the lead code inspector, the man who served us our code violation and Hal, the City Planner. They shared their take, we shared ours and together we are going to work toward a resolution. I honestly don’t feel like things could be better received. Since we were are working on a resolution at the national level that could very well play a hand in how our situation works out, they granted us a 90 extension with the possibility for more so long as we are working toward a resolution.
With my current situation it is only more important that we work to advocate the tiny house appendix into the 2018 IRC. We have gotten over some HUGE hurdles and there is one hurdle left. We NEED your help. In Kansas City we won the right to a nation wide vote. Tens of thousands of building officials across the country will be voting on this appendix and we need another 2/3 majority vote. This time we don’t have the benefit of speaking before them all which we know helped win favor in KC (though they will have a link to the hearing, the trick is convincing them that it’s worth their time to watch the public comment). We need everyone who is even sort of interested in tiny houses AND those who think there should be a legal path for anyone to live tiny to write a respectful and concise email or make a call to their local building department. Those officials need to know that this is an issue that matters in their direct area. There is a template email HERE as well as instructions on how to track down your officials. It literally will take about 5 minutes of your time and has the power to help so many, including me! Please take a few minutes and write!
A side note is that larger city votes count for more, for instance a vote from Boston may be worth 10 votes while a vote from Boise may be worth 1-2. That means it’s REALLY important to have those of you in high population areas write in but it also means that if one of those big cities votes us down we need 20 small population areas casting positive votes to counter them. Get the info needed HERE, share at will!
Just to further the code violation update. I want to provide at least my side of the conversations as openly as I can so I can provide an example for anyone else who may be facing this and also so that I can get suggestions from the community if anyone has some. Below is a copy/past of the email I sent to Hal after we got home for KC to discuss the next steps. He replied the same day to let me know he would look into the options I brought up and say that he thinks there is something that can be worked through. Again, I don’t know how much better things could be received. We will be meeting again after the vote on this IRC Appendix comes in, the first part of December. So please contact your local folks so we have something to talk about!
I wanted to follow up with some ideas I have had over time. I’m sorry in advance for the length of this email, I am trying to fit five years of work into one email ;-). I of course understand the issues from the City’s side when it comes to things like utilities and impact fees, I honestly have never intended to slide under any radar. I do really appreciate your willingness to brainstorm solutions with us. I feel like tiny houses are only going to become a bigger issue and it would be amazing if we could be a part of an overall solution. I am realistic about the situation, I know the obstacles faced but we also love our home and if it’s at all possible we would like to continue living in it, in our wonderful community. We would like to find a compromise that works for the city, neighbors and us if at all possible.
As far as the actual complaint goes, I know we have a great deal of support in our neighborhood and at least two neighbors have offered to start a petition showing that there is neighborhood support in excess of neighborhood concern. It is a high rental neighborhood, a great deal of the owner occupied neighbors have spoken to me in favor of my house and I have been told many times that my house adds to the eclectic and fun nature of our neighborhood. I am not really looking to make anyone uncomfortable or dispute any legit complaints or worries but having been here three and a half years, I have got to know the neighbors and a few have come to me to express their support. I am not sure if that is helpful or necessary but I thought I would mention it in case it can help on a path to a solution.
The team who presented in Kansas City has been working hard this week, I updated that we won that vote there so we have moved onto the national vote. We’ve been putting information together to help spread the word and hopefully get some new votes for this last and final round taking place the 8th-21st. We will know in the beginning of December if it carries or not. I have been kind of holding off on getting in touch because I imagine the direction we can go hinges a little on how the outcome of that vote goes… But just to keep communication open I want to send a draft of my thoughts right now:
I think, in an ideal world, I would love to continue to use our house as an example of what can be done in other locations too, to incorporate owner occupied affordable housing into urban areas. Here is our best case idea:
Is there room to use a cottage house model as a base to create 2-3 pads on our property that would have utilities and space to place an IRC compliant tiny house on wheels (THOW) (dependent on the approval of the appendix). It may be possible to work through a detail that is acceptable to the City to place the tiny home ‘permanently/semi-permanently’. Landscape it up nicely. In my head I am trying to work through the tax issues with that and I’m not a pro at cottage house regulations in Boise (I was on the P&Z Commission in Meridian and I know they just disallowed them at that point, I’ll have to read up some more for Boise) but I know you will know better than me… I think it only works if the impact fees and costs are carried by the owner of the property (us) and are just recouped via rent over time.
I know I am jumping around with a cottage house model and ADU idea but the compromise is really in the middle there, I think, and maybe borrows from both… The long term idea being that people would be able to repeat this and create this pad on their property for an ADU where they can gain rental income with minimal upfront cost like building a whole structure when others would have (in theory) an IRC compliant structure anyway. This would help property owners (to help off set being ‘house poor’) while providing affordable housing options to those with tiny homes in the areas where they are needed, near jobs.
I think an important idea to note is how careers have changed over time, there are a large amount of ‘traveling’ professions; nurses, teachers, contractors etc. who stay in a location for 3-6 months and then move to a new location. This combined with the digital generation who work completely online and prefer to travel as well as those with family members who need assistance are a growing population and make up a large portion of those interested in tiny homes. They want a housing solutions that fits their life and to be ‘legal’ about it. I think when you take these things into consideration while looking at the intent of zoning ordinances it makes sense to somehow cooperate small, affordable, owner occupied housing into areas to increase density and provide the right types of housing near the areas the workforce needs to be. I believe tiny houses absolutely fill a gap that aligns directly with the intent of regulations.
That is best case, I also want to mention a few ways that I know others have used to approach this issue. I think time will tell if anything is ‘working’, personally I think they all have pros and cons and, to date, the solutions provided have mostly been reactionary and need based as opposed to progressive and design based. Some examples of that are San Francisco adopting some alternative housing clauses out of emergency. The Opportunity Village and other homeless housing options often use exceptions based on emergency need as well. While they are necessary in those cases they are not easily repeatable elsewhere. I think it was Teri that mentioned on the APA panel, it’s important to consider the effects down the line of repeating whatever solution can be achieved. I think there is definitely a solution that can be found while meeting every parties needs. With that, some other ideas:
Case study – At the APA panel Teri mentioned to me the potential of using my house as a case study of sorts. If I was able to achieve IRC Code compliance that there may be room somehow for a special use permit (or conditional use?) to use my house as a test or case study. I believe I can attain IRC compliance with minor modifications, particularly if the tiny house appendix can be accepted and then incorporated in Idaho’s code as an appendix (I understand this is a big process but if it was a potential solution I am up for that challenge) [this one isn’t easily repeatable but if more studies need to be done to find tiny homes legitimate I am more than happy to be a guinea pig]
I am guessing this is a no but I want to throw it out there, a CUP for a case study somehow incorporating a business entity, given I run an online business dealing in tiny house information?? (I think this is a loophole that I’d prefer not to go down since my goal would be finding something that is easily repeatable… but thinking outside the box…)
As an ADU to the existing house… though I think I understood that it would have to relocate to be on the main house lot rather than stay where it currently is. That is possible, though it would be in the driveway of the garage, the lot the house is located on is 35′ wide and the tiny house is 33′ long, it would be a tight squeeze and may break other requirements, is there a work around? Combining lots? I am not sure that that is even a possibility or really ideal in the long run for us.
As we mentioned, eventually we will build something on the empty lot, we have been kind of watching the neighborhood develop to decide which way we want to go with that but we aren’t opposed to the option of building a main house if our tiny house can find a way to be an ADU to it.
Any way to find a foundation detail/skirt it that would allow it to be a ‘primary residence’ on the empty lot? Other jurisdictions, though more rural, have accepted a foundation detail similar to that used for a mobile home (tied down to concrete piers) and skirted. The lot is classified as a sub-standard lot so I am not sure if/how that effects the situation.
I think, in each of these scenarios the utility hookups are something to be talked about. We are not at all opposed to hooking up to utilities. I purposefully bought a ‘high tech’, one step, composting toilet that has been accepted as an approved waste management system in other areas of the country, if there is a way I can maintain that use I would prefer it (I really do like it better than a flush unit!). In my eyes though, everything is on the table, if that is just not possible then we will roll with it.
I really feel like there is a solution somewhere that can work for everyone, I really, REALLY appreciate your openness to at least thinking over the possibilities for us. For right now this is just ideas, the action item is, is there a time I can set up to meet with you again in the first part of December? I feel like meeting before the final vote for the IRC Appendix wouldn’t be as productive. Thanks for your consideration!
PS-I was recently made aware of someone named Marla in Virginia who found my site and taken and unhealthy liking to my story (she has been imitating me, copying pictures of my kids to her facebook page, and keeping a blog with the story of my life only she is playing the role of ‘Macy’). It is pretty clear that she has some mental illness issues but she claims to have called the City of Boise either impersonating me or ‘on my behalf’. I have no idea if that happened in reality or just in her reality. This is the weirdest thing I have ever had to apologize for but if something like that event occurred please accept my apologies. I have been doing everything I can to distance myself from her and make it clear that she NEEDS to stop all of her efforts… while also trying not to tip her over the edge where I feel like she might show up at my doorstep…. uggg… “