Tough Times for Tiny Home Builders

A tiny home in progress. Credit: Daily Record.

While tiny homes may be all the rage in popular culture, local governments and regulations have made things tough in Washington State.

It hasn’t been easy to start a tiny house manufacturing business. There is a stigma against tiny houses from many local governments,” said Darin Tusler.

He helped start Union Gap-based Yakima Canyon Tiny Homes in December 2015.

According to the Daily Record News, the company has faced push back from counties classifying the homes as recreational vehicles and not permitting them for full-time occupancy, since they are built on trailers.

It’s still too new and so you can call two days in a row and get two different answers (from counties),” said Tusler.

Paul Billings, Tusler’s partner in Yakima Canyon Tiny Homes says that the homes are built to standards.

The homes technically are RVs, but are built to housing standards and beyond,” said Billings.

Darin Tusler and Paul Billings discuss progress inside of a home. Credit: Daily Record.

The homes have to travel down the road and so everything is screwed in for the most part and strapped down, it’s even stronger than you normally have in a home.

In Kittitas County, building official Mike Flory provided some clarity on the rules in his county.

It isn’t illegal to build a tiny house in the county, but there is a difference between a recreational vehicle and a home,” said Flory.

If you want a tiny house you can have one. I can show you how to get one under 200 square feet.

County ordinances state that a home has to have a foundation, a roof structure and meet size requirements of at least 70 square feet for bedrooms and bathrooms, which was reduced from 120 square feet in 2015.

Mike Flory. Credit: LinkedIn.

So the code is actually following the trend,” said Flory.

But, according to Flory, Billing’s comments about his tiny homes technically being RV’s create an issue.

A recreational vehicle, though, is not a house. Companies manufacturing tiny houses are building them on car trailers and calling them recreational vehicles, because if it was called a manufactured or modular home, it would need to be inspected and meet certain building code requirements that recreational vehicles don’t need to meet,” said Flory.

They’re building houses on something that was never designed to have a house on it.

Recreational vehicles are not meant for full-time occupancy.

Flory says that while some counties allow people to live in recreational vehicles, Kittitas County does not due to health concerns, with FEMA homes after Hurricane Katrina used as an example.

Flory also cited what ended up being a $170,000 misunderstanding.

After spending $70,000 on a tiny house, a man bought a piece of land, put in a sewage and water line and placed the tiny house on the lot–without getting the proper county permits.

It turned out that the tiny house did not meet county code, and wasn’t allowed. So the homeowner had to take the tiny house off of his lot and put in storage.

It cost him around $100,000.

That’s a hard pill to swallow it really is,” said Flory.

Paul Billings. Credit: Daily Record.


State Requirements

For Yakima Canyon Tiny Homes, the pain isn’t just limited to county ordinances.

In order for the company to manufacture tiny houses, it needs a license from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, has to be listed in the Yellow Pages, operates with regular full-time hours, have signage by the road and have a direct phone line.

In addition to those requirements, the annual cost of renewing the company’s manufacturing license is nearly $20,000 per year.

The company has yet to turn a profit.

It’s been a nightmare. Going through the state has sucked,” said Tusler.

The license from the state does allow the company to manufacture anything permissible by Labor and Industries, including manufactured homes. This means it could design a tiny house as a manufactured home. ##

(EDITOR’S Note: MHLivingNews has covered the “tiny home” movement extensively, including the potential for big legal trouble for owners and a detailed side-by-side comparison with manufactured homes, highlighting function and value versus fashion.)

(Image credits are as shown above.)

RC Williams, for Daily Business News, MHProNews.

Submitted by RC Williams to the Daily Business News for MHProNews.

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