Since the mid-1800s, many people have opted to live in tiny houses. These structures offer freedom to travel and are perfect for those who enjoy simplicity and minimalism—but their popularity took off when Henry David Thoreau released Walden. In California, 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 contractors often refer to them 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 legal housing classifications—it often doesn’t make sense to treat them like another type simply because they’re smaller. The most critical factor in determining where to park your tiny home is the legal classification of small dwellings in that area. Because cities legally classify tiny homes on wheels 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, many areas are allowing residents to apply for exceptions to zoning laws that would otherwise prohibit these types of housing. To legally park your tiny home on wheels in California, you will need to live somewhere that allows for full-time THOW occupancy. You’ll have to research 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 tow behind a standard car or truck. It can be an alternative to living in a traditional house but has many unique benefits. Typical Tiny houses construction ranges from wood or steel and sometimes even recycled materials. They are not built for permanent homes but for short-term use and long-term storage. It allows you to move your tiny home whenever you want and store it when you don’t need it anymore.
Cities and Counties in California That Permit Tiny Homes On Wheels as a Permanent Dwelling Place Are
FresnoFresno 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 allow tiny homes on wheels officially—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 other dwellings. In Fresno and many other places, the city requires homeowners 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 ObispoSan Luis Obispo is a delightful city off the focal bank of California known for its rich history and artistry 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).
Humboldt CountyIf 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 regulations may apply to THOWs in inland areas, and you should follow them accordingly.
Other Counties and Cities with Laws That Permit Tiny Homes Full-time Residence
- California City
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- San Jose
- Placer County
- Santa Clara County