In my other article (Tiny House Communities, Types and Living Expenses (Real Data)), I looked at the tiny house communities from the ‘community member’ point of view. I listed the tiny house community costs with examples, and also listed the important points when to look for a community.
In this article, I will look at the same concept, from the tiny house community creator’s point of view.
When I talk about tiny house communities, one of the most common questions that I receive is ‘what are the different types of tiny house communities?’. I will go through the main ones, along with their characteristics and examples today.
I will group the tiny house communities (or villages) from 2 different angles:
- Based on the types of tiny houses that they have (tiny houses with foundations vs THOWs)
- Based on the resident types (low income, retiree, etc.)
Table of Contents
Permanent Tiny Homes vs. Tiny Home Parking
The first grouping is based on the tiny house types.
Some of the tiny house communities have permanent tiny houses on their property, and they only host permanent tiny houses. Even if you have your own THOW, you cannot park in those communities.
Some just rent our the readily available tiny houses, either long or short term; and some sell the permanent tiny houses along with the lot they are built on.
For example; Canoe Bay Escape Village, Wisconsin ONLY accepts their own units. You cannot bring your THOW. They sell or rent units (even just 1-day rental is available).
On the other hand, Palmetto Grove, South Carolina has many different options to stay. Their land is huge (about 160 acres) and they have all the possibilities; rent or buy a tiny house from them, or bring your own tiny house. They are a dealer for multiple tiny house building companies, so you have many options if you want to buy one.
In general, living in a THOW has one significant advantage over permanent tiny houses: mobility.
If you are looking for a place to live a long time; permanent tiny house communities may be the right one. On the other hand, if your main purpose is to travel, maybe you need to have a THOW (Tiny House On Wheels) and find a community that accepts THOWs as residents.
Our Tiny House Communities, Types, and Living Expenses (Real Data) article have more than 20 tiny house community information, check it out.
Tiny House Retirement Community
According to the latest statistics, there are over 30,000 tiny houses in the US. While early adopters were young couples, lately older people have started to join to movement.
In fact, according to researches, 2 out of every 5 owners of tiny homes are 50+ years old. Switching to a tiny house in retirement can give you freedom, independence, and more disposable income.
Pros and cons are going into tiny life during the retirement years. Here is the summary table that I have prepared for you:
|Financial – A tiny house costs less to buy than a regular one. And it costs far less to maintain.||Small Living Space – The average tiny house space is smaller than most hotel rooms. Not easy to go up to loft areas or to use small bathrooms.|
|Privacy – Even though the tiny houses are small, still the residents have their privacy||Legal Status – Tiny House rules and regulations keep changing. Not easy for retirees to keep up with the latest regulations. (Not a problem for tiny house communities)|
|Independence – No matter what the age is, being independent is important for people.||Logistics – Not easy to move THOW from one location to another. (Not a problem for tiny house communities)|
|Freedom – The retirees living in a tiny house has more freedom in their life.|
With tiny house communities, the 2 disadvantages of the tiny houses disappear for retirees: Legal Status and Logistics.
So; if you are ok with the ‘small living space’ problem, maybe it is time to try out the tiny house community for retirees concept.
Because of our ages, we haven’t tested any retirement tiny house community yet. Maybe in the future 😉
Tiny House Low Income Community
Some non-profit organizations aim to create self-managed communities of cost-effective tiny homes for people in need of housing.
Residents of such communities come from a wide variety of backgrounds and circumstances that led to their previous life on the streets.
If you have a chance to live in such a community or know those people; you will clearly notice this: They all have one thing in common, deep gratitude for their much-needed transitional home, a secure place to sleep, and independent community living.
One example is SquareOne Villages: It is a non-profit organization creating self-managed communities of cost-effective tiny homes for people in need of housing.
SquareOne Villages have 5 villages; 3 of them are already completed and accepting residents, and 2 are under the development phase.
SquareOne Villages is accepting donations and also selling memberships to fund their low-income communities.
Another example is the Tiny Home For Good organization. They support those facing homelessness by providing affordable, safe, and dignified homes and fostering strong community partnerships to ensure resident stability.
Recently, Tiny Home For Good started focusing on supporting US Veterans. They do not have a standard rent rate, rather they decide the rent base on the possible resident’s income level.
They are building 300 sq. ft. homes and they are equipped with all the amenities of a regular-sized home. They partner with local contractors and businesses to build from the ground up. Volunteers from around the community also lend a hand in construction efforts, which makes the costs cheaper.
Here is a list of Low-Income tiny House Communities from across the country.
- Quixote Communities — Olympia, Washington
- Infinity Village — Nashville, Tennessee
- Community First! Village — Austin, Texas
- My Tiny House Project LA — Los Angeles, California
- The Cottages at Hickory Crossing — Dallas, Texas
- CASS Community Tiny Homes — Detroit, Michigan
- Second Wind Cottages — Newfield, New York
- Othello Village — Seattle, Washington
- Dignity Village — Portland, Oregon
- SquareOne Villages — Eugene, Oregon
- Occupy Madison – Madison, Wisconsin
- Tiny Home For Good — Syracuse, New York
Almost all of them are accepting donations. If you are looking for a place to help, just check these community organizers. You will love their actions and I am pretty sure you will start helping.
How To Start A Tiny House Community
Have you noticed the latest trend in recent years? Whomever I talked to between 30 – 45 years old, they ALL want to buy land and live together with like-minded friends. There are no exceptions, everyone wants the same.
But, up until now, there is no solution for this request. How about, as an entrepreneur, you buy land, build tiny houses, create a tiny house community, and either rent long-term or sell.
I have researched the process and listed the details below. Go through the steps, and maybe you will have a tiny house community owner one day.
- Write down your vision: What is your Vision? When creating something new, a new organization, company, or a community, the vision is important. You have to clearly define your vision. Otherwise, you will start your journey, without knowing your final target.
- Learn from the others: Why to re-invent the wheel? Instead learn from the others, and do not make similar mistakes. Visit an existing tiny house community and talk to builders, managers, residents. Experience and knowledge is improtant. Super important.
- Decide community type: What kind of community you are planning to build? Try to add as much details as possible to your community idea.
- Will it be just an RV park? or community with tiny houses on foundations? or both?
- Who will own the land? will you sell the lots? or you will just sell the tiny house usage rights, but the land ownership will stay with you?
- Who will make the decisions regarding to community rules and regulations?
- Are you planning to create a community for a specific group (low income, retirees, etc.), or will it be a general public community?
- Find suitable land: Not all locations are good for a tiny house community. Here is the quick list of items that you will need to check, before buying land:
- The land should have proper zoning rules for small house construction – check with local authorities.
- The land should have some good characteristics to draw attantion (near lake, with good views, good walking paths, good climate etc.)
- Should be possible to extend. It is a good idea to start small, maybe just with 5 – 7 tiny houses on the land. Once you succeed, it would be nice to buy the nearby lands and get bigger.
- Check physical access to land: How easy to access to the land, and is this a good fit for your vision? Maybe you are planning to create a place really far from all the technology and human access. If this is the case, buying a land close to a shopping mall is not a good option.
- Check utilities: Is there the required utilities, with enough capacity for a new community? There may be the clean water and sewer connections, but do not forget to check the capacity. Some connections are enough for just 1 home, and won’t be enough for your tiny house village. Make sure, the capacity is good enough. I know someone who has bought all the houses in a street, with the idea of building town house complex. Once he has applied for the permits, the building department has rejected his application with the reason of ‘not enough sewer connection’. So; make sure the required connections are there with enough capacity.
- clean water connection (enough pressure),
- wastewater disposal (septic plan to support enough residents),
- power to support enough tiny houses
- Communicate with local authorities: This item is super important, please pay extra attention to this one. Meet with local authorities in charge and work with them. Get local officials (electeds and staff) to buy in on the goals of the project before issues of zoning etc. come up. For many, the idea of a tiny house village sounds too much like a trailer park, which is something many don’t want to stand behind. That’s why having a strong vision and communication of what the village will look like, who will live in it, etc. is so important. Get in touch with local departments and use their guidance. There are various departments and offices that you will need to be in touch with:
- The Planning Department cares about the use and density of the land,
- Public Works is concerned about access, traffic, and environmental impact,
- Environmental Health wants to makes sure that there is adequate water and sewer requirements that are met,
- and the Building Department is concerned with structural safety, which is where the wheels/no wheels on the tiny home creates a gray area between being considered a mobile home, RV, and a typical residence.
There are 3 main actions that you may take to have a good relationship with local authorities:
- Prepare your project in great detail, and provide all answers even before they ask you the question.
- Show success stories in similar municipalities.
- Set-up a multidisciplinary team of experts in zoning and municipal bylaws, civil engineer, architect, biologist, real estate lawyer, and land surveyor.
- Prepare initial financials properly: The city officials would like to know the financials of the project. They wouldn’t want to approve a project without proper financial planning. Nobody wants ‘half-done’ tiny house village in their towns. You need to have answers all detailed questins:
- are you planning to base your financials on donations? any example projects?
- do you have enough savings for the project?
- are you planning to apply for a business loan? any pre-approvals from any banks?
- is there any grant possibilities for projects (housing for low income etc)?
- are you planning to sell the tiny houses even before building the community? any similar examples?
- are you planning any community bonds?
- how about crowdfunding?
- Prepare long term financial plan: The initial financial plan is important, but long term financial planning is also as important as the initial one. You may have enough funds to complete the project, but don’t forget there will be ongoing costs for the community. How are you planning to cover those expenses? Any similar tiny house community projects’ structures will help you a lot in this phase.
- Are you planning to sell or rent the lots?
- Will there be any membership structure in the tiny house community?
- How the community will manage future costs such as maintenance, upkeep on houses, and shared spaces? To be able to pay the minimum ongoing costs, what should be the occupancy rate?
- Prepare the lot plan: A detailed project plan will be needed for sure. How many tiny houses will be in the community, what kind of common places will be created, what will be the max. occupancy etc. kind of questions will be asked to you. Better to be ready. In the lot plan, you can list all planned amenities or facilities as well. Some example ones are:
- collective garden,
- community center,
- food cellar,
- Create Social Media accounts: We all know the importance of social media. People are winning or losing lections on social media. Better to use the social media properly for the project. I suggest you to create a social online community in the city before the actual physical community.
- Pay attention to communication: Once the tiny house community is open, keep in touch with all involved parties:
- keep close attention to residents’ needs and requests
- keep close contact with local authorities as well
- make sure you are in good terms with neighbors
- keep your staff happy. if your staff has problems, they will not work well with the clients
People starting to build a tiny house village will have to deal with many areas;
- the whole world of site acquisition, including land use and permitting requirements of the local jurisdiction;
- the world of financing, which might include relationships with funders, including governments, bankers, loans, etc.;
- and finally the world of relationship to the residents of the village—financial and lease agreements, management plans, rules and regulations for behavior and interaction and, if necessary, hiring and management of staff.
So; this road is not easy, simple, or quick. It may take easily 1,5 – 2 years to complete the tiny house community project; starting from the planning phase, until opening a tiny house community. So be ready for the long days, frustrating meetings, tough phone calls.
But I am sure that if you start with proper planning and follow the action items listed here, you will manage the project successfully and start enjoying your tiny house community before you know it.