Tiny House Icons Evicted in Colorado

Jenna and Guillaume's tiny house parked along the roadside after issuance of a notice to vacate the premises during their Tiny House Giant Journey.

Homeless in a Tiny House

Jenna and Guillaume's tiny house parked along the roadside after issuance of a notice to vacate the premises during their Tiny House Giant Journey.

OTHER PHOTOS

The story of Jenna and Guillaume's tiny house eviction in Colorado is both unfortunate, and yet evermore common. This issue underscores the challenge we face across the country: Tiny houses are just too cute to ignore! 

As a professional tiny house designer, I love to help folks realize their dream for a safe, affordable, and efficient housing alternatives. That said, I always open the conversation with something like, "I know you're excited, and the tiny house TV shows make it look so fun and easy, but..." -- add dramatic pause...

"...Be sure to 'solve your parking first!'"

Need for Active Advocacy

My role as State Chapter Representative for the American Tiny House Association (ATHA) is one of active advocacy in the legitimization and legalization of tiny houses in Virginia. For all in this role, ours is at once an avid passion and huge struggle. But, that's an age-old theme in stories of oppression where the little guys are put in the position to overcome a brute force.

As an advocate for legal tiny house living, I have a foot in both camps, and straddle a wide and blurry line between the desired right to build our own small homes, and the need to adhere to bigger-is-better zoning ordinances and prescriptive building codes. To be fair, the rules and regs were setup to protect the citizenry, with zoning codes being put in place to uphold the values of property owners, and prescriptive building codes adopted (and enforced) for untold concerns regarding fire and safety. 

Legitimate Building and Legal Living

For those in the role of an Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), the lines drawn around their codes and standards are very clear. The laws they write to uphold are written like that for a reason. And yet, those same codes that seem sharply definitive at first glance, are fuzzy and blurred upon closer inspection. This leaves a gap of gray between what to be so black-and-white issue. 

It is this "crack in the code" through which tiny houses lovingly smile back and encourage others to take a hard look and firm stance against this new and ill-defined unknown of "what is a 'tiny house'?" So, our biggest advantage -- that now glaring lack of definition -- that is a huge fault and potentially crippling Achilles heel in our path to legal living. 

But times, they are a-changin'. The Tiny House Movement has too much mass and too much motion to halt its progress. As reality TV shows and news articles suggest, we are headed in the right direction... with lots of speed. Rather than let the seemingly immovable force of policy enforcement sink our ship, let us gently glide around any unrelenting forces and deftly implement change with Titanic force. Though our course may curve, our compass remains set, and destination undeterred for legally living in a tiny house.

But back to the story of our champions!

Maintaining Our Movement

Tiny House Giant Journey is a representative icon of our movement, and their recent eviction stands as an illustration of the hazards we all face if we do not proactively work to secure our rights to live in small structures and tiny houses. History may show that Jenna and Guillaume truly embody the freedom of spirit that exists within us all, and remains central in our Tiny House Movement. Seeking the right to rebel against repression is what put our founders on their own giant journey, and we too must now stand together united in a fight for legal rights to dwell in a tiny house. 

It seems safe to agree that public safety and protection of property values are key issues we should all willingly uphold. So, we must stay the course, and press forward with A) legitimation of our small structures (definition of "tiny house") and legalization of living (rewriting zoning laws and building codes) in our fixed or mobile cabins, cottages, and tiny houses on wheels. 

From a more central point of view, the needs and interests are similar for both the forces in the strongly held dominion of Authorities Having Jurisdiction and those among the ranks of our Tiny House Movement. We must all be willing to give and take on the small points, but let us all agree that upholding public safety is paramount, and outweighs the protection of public proffers, private profits, and political interests. 

Homeless in a Tiny House

As for Jenna and Guillaume, many mobile tiny house families may find themselves "homeless in a tiny house." While we may want tiny house parking anywhere and everywhere, that's not the reality of our time. We can -- and must -- work toward the goals of legitimation and legalization. 

We may not be able to live anywhere we like, but most who follow their Giant Journey would like to know that Jenna and Guillaume will have a legal place to park this winter, and the decades to come.

Live Large -- Go Tiny!

Image Sources >> Two articles by Tiny House Giant Journey:

Comments 4 Add yours below

Thom Stanton's picture

Yes, a new chapter has begun. you mention how both the zoning inspector and the mobile home park have just held meetings with their peers to work out how to respond to tiny houses. I am a local official in Massachusetts (I love tiny houses and am working to figure out how to make them safe and legal for year-round occupancy in my community). I can’t stress enough how important it is for people to talk to your local and state officials: they now know they have to figure out how to respond to all these tiny houses, but if they are completely unfamiliar with the concept, and don’t understand it or your motives, their default reaction when they get together to make decisions will be to find a REASON TO SAY NO, rather then to figure out a WAY TO SAY YES. So talk to them. Educate them. Organize tiny house support groups in your community. And also really important: Don’t let them stick tiny houses into the mass-produced, factory-built box of the standard RVs and HUD houses. Good Luck to you all.

Thom Stanton
Founder/CEO, Timber Trails LLC
Lead Organizer, RVA Tiny House Team (Meetup Group)
State Chapter Leader, American Tiny House Association

Thom Stanton's picture

Amen on amending zoning ordinances. The first of two points I hammer home in the article centers around definition of a tiny house. I've had many say,

Why not build to existing specs (e.g. RV, PMRV, IB, or MH)?

I think these code bases offer a pathway to success for some, but THOWs really break the mold and sit squarely between RVs and MHs in size. Even custom 1-off "backyard built" THOWs generally trump manufactured units in terms of overall build quality, but the lack of reasonably applicable code base for THOWs -- smaller size, on wheels, with lofted sleeping spaces -- leaves us somewhere along the roadside rather than legally located on private property, in a community, a recreational campsite, or classic mobile home park.

Progress is being made, and sensible folks (like you) are welcome advocates to the larger effort.

Thanks for the feedback!

Thom Stanton
Founder/CEO, Timber Trails LLC
Lead Organizer, RVA Tiny House Team (Meetup Group)
State Chapter Leader, American Tiny House Association

Thom Stanton's picture

They're pretty much the same as most other places in the US. The thing is, there's not (yet) any real latitude for classification of a "tiny house." As such, we should seek legitimacy for legality of THs to become a reality. When you can submit documentation for a backyard ADU, and check the box for Type = THOW, we'll have a good shot at parking where we please, even if it's only allowed through a zoning variance or conditional use permit.

Thom Stanton
Founder/CEO, Timber Trails LLC
Lead Organizer, RVA Tiny House Team (Meetup Group)
State Chapter Leader, American Tiny House Association

Thom Stanton's picture

Question: I love tiny houses! What's wrong here? 

Answer: Most likely a matter or perspective. If "must be built by code" is your only reality, there's obviously no place for parking a tiny house on whatchamacallit. If there's a way to build to a code, secure 3rd party inspection, and have documentation to present when posed with "show me your papers," as well as a way to classify by type (e.g. RV, PMRV, THOW) then -- oh yes, Lawd -- we'll have reached that promised parking land! 

Thom Stanton
Founder/CEO, Timber Trails LLC
Lead Organizer, RVA Tiny House Team (Meetup Group)
State Chapter Leader, American Tiny House Association