Hi everyone. I wanted to write an update that covers what has happened so far to the best of my understanding. The long and the short of it is that we’re not kicked out of our tiny house, at least not yet (Small victory #1).
First, to recap the events leading up to tonight:
- We built a tiny house on wheels and moved it onto property that we bought in Steilacoom.
- We lived there peacefully for 17 months. Assimilated into the community. We never stole any utilities or illegally hooked into the grid, we paid for all utilities and paid the taxes for property that we are on.
- We got a letter from the Town Administrator which basically said the town was aware that we are living in a Tiny House, they thought we were breaking several municipal and utility codes by doing so, they wanted to give us a chance to offer input on our living situation before making a formal decision.
- Three or four days later we met with the town administrator. We assured him that we were playing by the rules as far as we knew. There was no ordinance preventing people from staying in an RV on theor property. We asked which codes were being violated, apropos the letter we recieved, and he had no answer for us. He told us it was a gray area and that he would be in touch after talking more with the town lawyer and town planner.
- A few days later we received an email from the same Town Administrator that told us about an upcoming Planning Commission meeting that would be voting on a new ordinance that deals with use of temporary uses and structures (specifically limiting the use of an RV in town to 14 days). In the email the Town Administrator suggested that this ordinance might “directly impact us” so we might want to go and provide input.
On our way to the meeting at the Town Hall we definitely weren’t sure what to expect. The ordinance proposed seemed to be targeted at us and our tiny house, especially when we considered the timing of everything. What are the odds that all of these things are happening right now? I’m sure people have been living in RVs for years but shortly after they discovered our tiny house, suddenly there are ordinances going into effect that might prevent it? In reality it might have just been coincidence that all these things are lining up, but it’s hard to tell.
At the Planning Commission meeting tonight we asked the commission to consider creating an exception for tiny houses, to not lump them in with RVs but to recognize them for what they are: houses (just really small ones). They do not serve the same purpose as RVs and are built to be long term livable places. They make more sense to be considered as ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units, AKA Mother-In-Law units, AKA backyard cottages) and essentially they serve the same purpose which is more affordable, smaller impact housing. Several other town members and friends also spoke on behalf of us and in favor of tiny houses.
Ultimately what the planning commission decided is that because a tiny house really isn’t an RV (small victory #2), the proposed code doesn’t affect tiny houses so the whole conversation about tiny houses isn’t really relevant to the new ordinance (which they then passed). They also admitted that tiny houses can’t be ignored, some of the members seemed to actually be very in favor of the idea (with caveats of course) and they decided to add the discussion around tiny houses as an upcoming agenda item (small victory #3). Creating a new agenda item to discuss tiny houses in a future Planning Commission meeting seems like a good step. Tiny houses will be talked about by actual people who create municipal code and the implications will have to be considered seriously. We of course plan to be at any of the upcoming meetings related to tiny houses to voice our opinion and hope that they will be open minded and progressive when it comes to this movement. It will still be a battle of course and definitely not everyone involved is open to the idea. It feels like there will be a mixture of yes, maybe, and no. So at this point we will have to wait and see what happens and we will do our best to remain a positive advocate for Tiny House dwellers in our city, state, and beyond.
Thanks to everyone for your support. As of now it appears that we can stay in our tiny house at least until more decisions get made. We will keep you updated as we learn more.
KIRO 7 News Coverage 8/8/2016 11pm broadcast (link coming soon)