A Path To A Tiny House Community?

As of late I have been chatting with several tiny house people about what it would take to actually have a true tiny house community that was legitimate, legal and welcome in a city.  It would be very easy to do this in a small rural city location or somewhere in the Midwest where there isn’t anyone for miles, but the fact is most people want to live near a city where they have career opportunities, a social life, things to do and ease of access to stores.

30wczo-600So how might we achieve a tiny house community in a decent size city?  I was speaking to another writer who had taken an interesting approach that I think might work here in the US (he is located in Canada).  They were able to get their tiny houses designated as a RV, and then they pooled their funds to buy out a mobile home trailer park.  From there they waited until all the current leases had lapsed (they notified the residents that they would not be renewing the leases) and they had an entire trailer park to themselves.  Now I have mixed feelings on this, but I think you could navigate this step in a way that is ethical and fair, but it is fine line for sure.

The key to this strategy is that you have to buy out an existing park, because there are few big cities that are allowing land to be newly zoned for trailer parks or camp grounds.  Many cities are shifting to mixed income housing to handle low-income housing.  Once you own it, I think the first step would be to clear the entire lot and do some heavy duty landscaping and design.

Your Turn?

  • What do you think about the idea of buying out an RV park?
  • What ideas have you had to get a tiny house community started?
  1. Wow, that is kinda brutal. Trailer parks are typically low/limited income residence. I’ve seen several trailer parks sold to developers who displaced many elderly who had purchased their mobile home and planned to live out their days in the trailer park, but then were unable to relocate because of cost, or because trailer parks typically have restrictions on how old a mobile home could be so now the home they lived in could not be relocated.

    While I agree it is a creative approach, I hope the people who used to live there were helped in their relocation. Otherwise this is no better than the developers who put 5000 sq/ft rubber stamped house walled off communities all over the place.

    At lest part of the idea tiny housing is affordability. Displacing people who can’t afford to move is a bit hypocritical.

    • Well if you are buying it from them they don’t have to say yes, it is simply and offer. We aren’t going to act like the mob “I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse” lol! What is more many mobile homes around here are all renters. Since we don’t need the trailer homes, you could give them to the residents for free. Now they own something of value, that they could live in or sell.

      • what if the land is now cleared of mobile homes? You have a fresh plate to begin with, but also have to convince the cities of a different kinda of housing.

    • I agree with Jesse…. Brutal, and also self-serving.

  2. It would not be as easy as you think (even in a rural community). As some cities have minimum square footage requirements for occupants of a house many rural areas (including our county) have minimum lot sizes. They often will not allow more than 1 family dwelling per .25 acre. That means for every acre you can only have 4 tiny houses. To truly make a community you would need 3-4 acres which at the going rate would be a $36k land investment. That doesn’t take into account septic (which is required), electricity, phone, Internet, etc. Then you have to talk about living standards. Would you allow each tiny house to dump their compost or would you require them to have flushing commodes, etc?

    As for the mobile home park? Based on the average American mobile home park? Absolutely not. It wouldn’t interest me at all. The ones I have seen are primarily concrete with very little room between spots. They have virtually no communal space and oftentimes have no landscaping to speak of. They are little more than parking lots for trailers.

    As for my ideas? My ideas begin with working with current residential zoning ordinances for single family tiny homes. Living where you are in what you want.

    • Right on many things man, I would plan to clear the entire lot and re landscape the whole thing. Here in Charlotte there are three mobile home parks that are hold overs from a long time ago, but they are in great locations in decent part of town.

      The toilet issue would most likely be either flush toilets, or maybe a common house. I haven’t thought about it much to be honest.

      • Mobile (or manufactured) houses are also designed to have their wheels/axles removed on-site and are not really designed for multiple relocations.

        You also seem to be lumping all tiny homes into one category. We have both portable and permanent installation designs to choose from. The portable plans are the most similar to mobile/manufactured housing and probably would have the easiest time integrating into established mobile home environment.

        Some of us don’t want the responsibility of a lot of land. A small garden, dog run, small patio and somewhere to park my car and house on are all I really want. I guess that could be considered an urban lot?

        • This was directed to Ashley and Elaine. Sorry, first time posting and I’m still learning! LOL!

        • Barrett, I suppose I did lump all tiny homes into one category. Thanks for the clarification!

          • I only make the distinction because there are different obstacles for each type. As an example, Jay Schafer’s original Tumbleweed designs were on wheels to bypass the minimum square footage ordinances.

  3. I have to admit to being in agreement with Jesse. While creative, it does seem rough to remove people in that way. Part of why I’m interested in tiny houses is because I am on the margins of society financially. So I wouldn’t want to live somewhere like that where that had happened.

    • Yes, it would be a delicate matter that you would have to handle very carefully, I think with enough thought and working with people it could work out. Who know, they might want to join in!

  4. Yes! I would also love to know who has done this in Canada and where. I’m having a hard time finding Canadian information on-line. So actually, ANY information about small houses in Canada would be lovely. Thanks!

  5. I’ve thought of the same thing. As another option I’ve thought about campgrounds as well. If the park is big enough, a portion could maybe generate some income for a co-op. No this is not an ideal solution, but it is a possible venue for change.

    • The trick with the campground is that you then get into the laws surrounding camping, which usually limit to a short time. Here in Charlotte it is 4 weeks.

  6. Preface: I am a fan of tiny living and have been enjoying this site for a while now 🙂

    As a serious but ignorant question, not to make people mad: What really is the difference between a trailer park home and a tiny house? Both are supposed to be an affordable housing options, smaller area, and potentially transportable (all out of desire/ requirements/ cost). Please explain! If the disparity really is just a stereotype or class/socioeconomic status difference, then we may have some thinking to do.

    • A mobile home park has single-wides up to 14×80, or double-wides, a place that only accepts “park model homes” deals only with single-wides that are 14x40ft long (they can build a 20ft shed or extension, but that’s it), and Tiny Houses are typically 8x20ft or smaller.

  7. to steal someone else’s dreams for your own just how low will you go?

    • Joe,

      Who said anything about stealing? If you approach someone with a fair offer and they take it, that’s not stealing. It’s not like we would force them to sell. I would think there are a lot of park owners who are scratching their heads on how they are going to get out from under their own mortgage on the mobile home park. As for the residents, mobile home rent (2 bedroom) goes for about the same as a equivalent apartment, but a lot newer construction. If you give them a year to make arrangements and aren’t a jerk about the whole thing, then I say fair game. If they own, you are paying them (an offer they accepted), land plus the mobile home value will get you into a starter home here in Charlotte.

      • I believe that the ‘forcing’ part happens to the tenants. You _buy_ the land from the park owner, but you _force_ the tenants to leave by not renewing their leases.

        The tenants _own_ the actual home, but because these are much wider than normal vehicles, they can only be transported by professionals with permits, meaning for significant $$. So you can put them into the position of being forced to move, but not able to afford to move.

        This is the same sort of forcing that you see when someone buys an apartment building and forces a condo conversion, except that the renters are saddled with expensive property that they cannot reasonably move.

  8. Ryan

    Did you see this article about Seniors in a trailer park in Brewster, NY?


    Brewster is about 62 miles NorthEast of NYC and 45 miles from Yonkers.

  9. The biggest problem with owning a mobile home in a trailer park is that you don’t own the land. Developers often convince city councils to change their city plan to eliminate mobile home parks (those low-income, blighted places). Typically lot rent is month-to-month rental, which can be a problem if the owner decides you need to go. At which point the owner often closes all the common areas and doubles the rent. The logic is that since they bulldozed 3 mobile home parks and turned them into shopping centers or gated communities, the relative average prices go up on the few mobile home park spaces that are left (what the market will bear). They typically can give you up to a year notice, at which point you and your home have to be gone. If you own a single-wide, there may be no place to move it to. Typical city and county regulations are such that you can only place it in an accepting mobile home park, you may not put it on private property, and the landfill will not accept it. It is your responsibility to remove it from the property. I’ve seen people bulldoze their home, sell the metal for scrap, and then haul the rest to the landfill as construction scrap. They have now lost their entire investment and have no place to live. If a previous owner had sold a number of 99-year leases (scattered throughout the park based on who could afford to buy the lease) and they are registered with the county, the new owner can offer to buy them out, but if they don’t accept then the development plan is thwarted. The owner can still charge high rates to force the non-lease people and trailers out, clear the park (despite the sign saying they would be happy to rent spaces), then threaten the leases with cutting off their water and sewer in the name of renovations to upgrade to new regulations … and the development plan. The developer will also stop all newspaper articles about mobile home-owner protests by threatening to withdraw all their expensive advertising and attempt to buy influence on the city council. Been there, played the game, lost my single-wide.

  10. Ryan, super project
    There is a trailer park that has recently closed in Mound MN. At the currant time I am doing research in creating a proposal for investors and other interested parties that would be interested in building a their Tiny homes here. The property falls on two cities- there by two different city codes to deal with. The land is for sale at 2.6 million for 5.9 acres and includes lake shore.
    I don’t own the land, but am looking at raising funds and creating a Tiny House village.

    So any input you can offer would be most appreciated

    • I think Cheryl has the right idea here and some people may be looking at it singularly. Yes, the park in Canada did move out people actively living there. We can agree that is wrong.
      However, like Cheryl, there are closed mobile home parks around me as well. Who says they have to be inhabited parks? The important factor here is the zoning and buying a dying park with few or no inhabitants may be the best option.

      In the case of their being a few people living there (like your elderly who want to live out their days in their home) then you can allow plots for them to stay and not accept new mobile homes. Pure and simple. The point is, you want a community. There is no reason that the few mobile home owners cannot participate in the community. Maybe they have always wanted a plot for a garden or are willing to participate in a community garden. Maybe they’ve been looking to make improvements on their homes that are cost effective, quality, and eco-friendly. Having Tiny Home advocates are just as important as tiny home owners. And more importantly, no one is displaced.

  11. As mentioned earlier. The question of an actual example of this happening in Canada.
    I live in Ontario , and would be interested in finding out more about it. Possibly even
    Very interested if it was close to me. Never the less ,actually finding others that are
    persuing answers to these issues , would be great. Especially , for me , in the southern
    Ontario area.

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