Since the mid-1800s, a growing number of people have opted for living in tiny houses. These structures offer freedom to travel and are perfect for those who enjoy simplicity and minimalism—but their popularity really took off when Henry David Thoreau released Walden.
In California, both rural and urban areas have benefited from the state’s efforts to eliminate legal barriers that make tiny living difficult.
It’s common for tiny homeowners to become overwhelmed by the difficulty of finding legal parking places for their vehicles, which are often referred to as THOWs (tiny homes on wheels).
The complications and confusion result from the inconsistency and ever-changing nature of tiny home classification laws. Because these dwellings lie in a gray area between houses, trailers, and mobile homes—all of which have their own legal housing classifications—it often doesn’t make sense to treat them like another type simply because they’re smaller.
The most important factor in determining where to park your tiny home is the legal classification of small dwellings in that particular area.
Because tiny homes on wheels are legally classified as recreational vehicles, they present the biggest challenge for people who want to live in them full-time. In most California areas, it is illegal to do so.
Fortunately, more cities and counties have been amending their land use laws to allow travelers in an expanding number of areas.
Due to recent changes in California state ADU laws, which reduced the setbacks for accessory dwelling units and recognized the need for additional housing—more people will be able to build as they see fit.
Because mobile tiny homes share most of the same features as ADUs, a growing number of areas are allowing residents to apply for exceptions to zoning laws that would otherwise prohibit these types of housing.
In order to park your tiny home on wheels legally in the state of California, you will need to live somewhere that allows for full-time THOW occupancy. You’ll have to do some research into registration requirements and standards before setting up shop there.
What Is Tiny House On Wheels?
The term “tiny house on wheels” refers to a mobile home that is small enough to be towed behind a standard car or truck.
This can be used as an alternative to living in the traditional house, but it also has many unique benefits.
Tiny houses are typically constructed from materials such as wood or steel, and sometimes even recycled materials. They are not built for permanent homes, but rather for short-term use as well as long-term storage.
This allows you to move your tiny home whenever you want, as well as store it when you don’t need it anymore.
Cities And Counties In California That Permits Tiny Homes On Wheels As Permanent Dwelling Place
Fresno is a large, densely populated city in the San Joaquin Valley. Its central location makes it an ideal place to live whether you enjoy being surrounded by people or prefer an escape from civilization into nearby national forests, lakes, and other areas for outdoor recreation.
The city of Atherton was the first major California municipality to officially allow tiny homes on wheels—also called trailer homes, mobile homes, or RVs—to be used as full-time dwelling units in residential areas.
The tiny homes classified by the City of Fresno Code of Ordinances as backyard cottages must reside on a lot with another primary dwelling and be no larger than 440 square feet. Only one such home is allowed per lot, in addition to any other dwellings present there.
In Fresno and many other cities, homeowners are required to ensure that the appearance of their tiny homes is similar in style and “visually compatible” with the primary dwelling. You can view a checklist of requirements for tiny homes HERE.
San Luiz Obispo
San Luis Obispo is a delightful city off the focal bank of California known for its rich history and workmanship culture. It was also one of the earlier cities in California to make updated housing laws that allowed tiny homes on wheels—a recent development among cities nationwide.
The city of San Luis Obispo has a bylaw that allows for only one tiny home on each property, and you must submit an application and have the structure inspected every 3–5 years to renew your permit. The size limit is 100 – 400 square feet of habitable space (not including loft areas).
If you are looking for a more rural location to park your tiny home, Humboldt County on the North Coast of California is an excellent option. This area is known for its forests and mountain ranges.
Humboldt’s ordinance regarding tiny houses on wheels states that they must have 120 – 400 square feet of living space. Additional local ordinances may apply to THOWs in inland areas and should be followed accordingly.
Other Counties And Cities With Laws That Permits Tiny Homes Full-time Residence
- California City
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- San Jose
- Placer County
- Santa Clara County
Despite the fact that there are few cities in California where people can live full-time in tiny houses on wheels, many other places are currently working to change their laws so they too will be able to allow people this unique lifestyle choice.
With the State of California recognizing how tiny living can positively impact the environment and the housing crisis, laws are becoming more accommodating to small houses each year.
Tiny Home On Wheels Communities With Full Legal Rights In California
Tiny homes can be an affordable and legal option for tiny dwellers, who may share a home with other like-minded individuals in DIY communities or live within recreational parks where they are permitted.
Two such spots in California include Tiny House Block and Delta Bay Tiny House Resort; the latter of which is located within the larger Delta Bay community near Sacramento
#1 Delta Bay Tiny House Resort
Delta Bay Tiny House Resort is a legal community in Isleton and offers tiny home rentals as well as parking spaces for people traveling with their own tiny homes.
The two-person occupancy limit and two-animal maximum remain in place at Delta Bay tiny home parking. The average monthly rate for such spaces is $1500, though these figures could change over time as well.
Please visit their website for more information on this program’s eligibility requirements and rules regarding the number of hours spent per day parked there
#2 Tiny House Block
Tiny House Block is a tiny home community in Southern California’s Cleveland National Forest. Tiny House Block offers short-term and long-term rentals for existing tiny homes within the community, as well as opportunities to live in a Tiny Home on their property if you are interested.
A parking space may cost $800 -$900 per month plus utilities, and prices can vary. For more information visit their website.
Benefit Of Living In a Tiny House On Wheels
Some people choose this lifestyle because they don’t want to be tied down by the responsibilities of owning a traditional home.
Others may find that they have more freedom with this type of housing option, especially if they own their own business and work remotely most days of the week.
For certain individuals, residing in a tiny house offers the straightforward delights of life. But finding legal places to park tiny homes can be complicated and intimidating—especially if you are moving into an established community with lots of rules about what kinds of buildings belong where.
Because tiny homes on wheels lack their own legal classification and many areas do not allow full-time occupancy of recreational vehicles, parking for them can be difficult. However, tiny living has become more popular in California than anywhere else because of the state’s beautiful environment and quick advances toward legalizing such dwellings.