State lawmakers are considering helping tiny houses get legit.
Many tiny houses do not comply with state codes, but in most cases they are built and used safely under the radar of code enforcers, said Martin Hammer, a San Francisco-area architect who has consulted with tiny home advocates.
“There is a recognized importance among people in the tiny house community as well as in the building official community to ensure that (tiny houses) are being built safely,” Hammer said.
Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, has sponsored House Bill 1085 to allow cities and counties to reduce minimum room size requirements so that tiny house builders can create homes with smaller living, sleeping and eating spaces without violating building codes.
“My intent was to encourage flexibility,” Blake said. “Not everybody wants a 5,000-square-foot home.”
One example of how building codes are out of step with the tiny house movement: They require sleeping spaces to be at least 70 square feet with 7-foot ceiling height. Tiny houses typically have lofts, instead of bedrooms, with low ceilings and just enough space to accommodate a bed.
Blake’s bill would give tiny house owners some relief in communities that choose to reduce minimum room sizes, until new tiny house-friendly building codes begin to take effect in 2019 as part of an update to the International Residential Code.
Blake said he sees value in the simplicity and affordability of tiny houses. He could see himself living in one — provided he could keep his shop for woodworking.
The changes would not address one of the biggest barriers to code compliance for many tiny homes: the fact that they are on wheels and are therefore regulated as recreational vehicles, or RVs.
That was the key factor that led to a Steilacoom couple’s fight with the town last year over their 200-square-foot home. The town administrator ruled that Peter and Shannon Johnson’s home was considered an RV, and as such was not allowed to be a permanent residence under town regulations.
Hammer said tiny house proponents plan to tackle regulations for homes on wheels next.
Forrest Holt: 360-943-7240