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Want a tiny house? Better get a variance

by | Jan 18, 2021 | Land Use & Zoning |

Tiny houses have become increasingly popular among all kinds of people.  Some people just want relief from the extremely high housing costs that come from renting an apartment or buying a full-sized home.  Others are focusing on the environmental benefits of tiny houses.

Either way, they are more common than ever — but their owners are still having a hard time finding places to locate.

What’s the problem with a tiny house?

Mostly, the issues tend to come down to zoning.  Sometimes tiny house owners find that the community leaders are concerned that they are, in essence, vagrants.  Other communities worry that the houses won’t meet existing codes, are safe enough or will bring down property values.

At least one Pennsylvania community has been proactive about addressing the issue. The Lancaster County Planning Commission has developed a planning tool that it has made available to other municipalities to help them address their concerns.

Among other things, the Lancaster commission points out that communities that already allow housing units like “in-law cottages,” “granny flats,” and other accessory dwellings already have tiny houses.  That gives tiny home owners a better argument when it comes to asking for zoning changes or variances.

Just the same, tiny home owners may experience opposition when they want to build or locate their dwellings in a new area.  It’s important to look at the concerns that tend to be raised with tiny houses about safety and waste disposal, in particular, before you present a request for a variance.

Working with an attorney can help

When you anticipate problems with zoning, it’s often wise to involve an experienced attorney from the very beginning of your journey.  Speak with a Philadelphia real estate attorney about your options before you invest.


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