Tiny Tuesday: No Easy Walk

Nobody said living in a small space was easy. It takes great determination to whittle down your belongings to the most essential of essentials, and then stay that way. It takes a major mental shift to redefine personal space and privacy. Surprisingly, it also takes a whole lot of research to make sure what you’re doing is even legal.

I previously linked to this article about the realities of tiny house moving, written by tiny-house dweller Dee Williams. The first point I’d like to explore is why so many of these houses are movable in the first place. What’s wrong with staying put? Most jurisdictions set a minimum square footage for dwellings, presumably to protect the inhabitants’ health but also to prevent developers from changing the character of neighborhoods. The zoning restrictions don’t apply to things on wheels, like RVs, which are considered vehicles rather than buildings and are governed by a different set of laws.

But travel restrictions push in the opposite direction, severely limiting the size of your house on wheels. In Massachusetts, you need a trip-specific permit to tow a vehicle taller than 13’-6” or wider than 8’-6”. In fact, if your house is taller than 15 feet or wider than 14 feet, you’ll need to pay a Super Load Fee and probably hire a driver and police escort. The DOT will get in on the action too, specifying a route for your trip that avoids low bridges and power lines… if such a route even exists. No wonder Tumbleweed tow-yourself house models top out around 172 square feet.

And most cities won’t let you park a tiny house on the street, or hook up to utilities without serious permitting. Ergo, you can put your house on wheels, but you better not plan to move it much. Don’t expect road frontage, either. Unless your land is zoned as a trailer park, a home on wheels can’t be the primary dwelling unit, which means most legal tiny houses are tucked in the backyards of other houses.

I have utmost respect for anyone willing to jump through so many hoops to live in a really small house. The reward of social and financial freedom is pretty sweet.

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