TOP 8 QUESTIONS ABOUT CREATING A TINY HOUSE COMMUNITY
Countless tiny house enthusiasts dream of creating their very own community. But for the brave few who pursue it, starting the process can be incredibly daunting. A common-sense place to start is a quick Google search.
But results on the topic typically include intimidating zoning obstacles, or misleading articles on “livable communities” that are actually mostly hotels or failed developer projects. Good news! If you found this site, then your research just got a whole lot easier with our ever-growing directory of tiny house communities of all kinds.
And this leads us to a couple of the most frequently asked questions for those looking to start a community, “what existing communities are out there, and how did they start?”
More good news! Most of our listings include contact information, so you can reach out to the founders to learn more.
Here’s a list of top questions about how-to create a tiny house community:
Where Do I Begin?
Research, research, research. Read up on tiny house communities, on our blog and individual community sites—available in our directory. Take this one step further by scheduling visits to existing villages.
What Kind of Community Model is Best?
You can choose from a wide array of community types. Simply put, intentional communities involve a group of people coming together over shared values to live together or near each other, typically with some shared facilities. That’s it.
Ultimately, it can be whatever you and your community mates dream up!
What kinds of community characteristics are most appealing to you? Here are few general structure categories, though there’s much cross-over between these:
Living together in neighborhoods designed for community interaction and personal privacy. While the homes are private, sharing is the name of the game. From tools, gardens to a common house. It’s designed to foster connection, through close proximity and resident activities, like shared meals.
All of this involves working collaboratively, including managing the property and decision-making. Further, these are typically set up as cooperatives, aka “co-op,” meaning shared ownership where each member as a financial stake.
Cohousing communities with more land have more agricultural opportunities. Those with an ecological focus can also be considered ecovillages.
It’s a neighborhood within a greater residential area, where a small group of homes is clustered around a common green space. While it can be a form of cooperative cohousing, it can also be created by a developer who then sells the individual homes or THOW parking spots. Additionally, it either includes formal HOAs with dues, or residents follow general community guidelines.
Example: Lake Dallas Tiny Home Village is a developer-owned pocket neighborhood with collaboration with local enthusiasts, including a few future residents.
Communities organized around sharing income and almost everything else. Think of it as all resources going into a giant community pool that is then distributed equally or based on need. Further, the decision-making process is usually consensus-based, where everyone agrees, sometimes with exceptions. Many communes have a self-sustaining goal, as well as sustainable focus. Often, they also identify as ecovillages.
Example: Cambia Community in Virginia is an ecovillage commune that is family and tiny house-friendly.
How Do I Find Potential Members?
Searching for like-minded community mates can be as straightforward as asking members of your local tiny house Meetup, or perhaps starting one as an exploratory exercise. In-person connections are preferable for feeling out ideal “fit.” Remember, value alignment is critical.
Further, entering into a community-building process can be quite taxing, emotionally and financially. The more upfront and realistic you can be about the obstacles ahead, the more likely you’ll identify potential members up for the challenge.
Admin note: Community member matchmaking is one of the slated projects for SearchTinyHouseVillages.com. Stay tuned for more on this!
How Much Does It Cost to Start a Community?
Like building a tiny house, the short answer is it varies greatly. Consider this assortment of factors to establish a ballpark cost:
Cost of land
Development and infrastructure costs, from utility hook-ups, grading to driveway creation, etc.
Common house, building from scratch, or taking out a mortgage on an existing structure?
Where Can You Start One?
Communities in rural, suburban, and urban areas exist. Purchasing raw land is not required. You can utilize campgrounds, RV, or mobile home parks. Another popular option is buying a house with a large lot or acreage, like a small farm.
There are two big questions you need to answer for every piece of land you consider purchasing. How is it zoned? And what building standards are required? Zoning laws govern the use of property in a particular area, and what can be built on it. Building codes regulate the specific rules for constructing a structure enacted by the state, county, and city governments.
There are rural counties with no zoning or building laws, but basic health and safety regulations will likely still be needed. Always check with the county to find out what rules and inspections are required.
When Tiny Lots formed, a tiny house community in north Texas, the owners checked with the county to learn what rules applied to their rural property. The only requirement was a septic system. Owners, Brett and Mindy West complied. Additionally, they took it upon themselves to install tie-downs for each tiny house, as a safety precaution from the regular high-winds.
What Legalities Do You Need to Be Aware of?
Besides zoning and building codes, it is essential to define your legal structure. Nonprofits and LLCs have their pros and cons, especially for tax purposes. In whatever kind of organization you form, it provides the opportunity to address ownership—cooperative, planned unit development, condominium.
Establishing clear bylaws for your organization, from extensive community group decision-making process, will ensure the utmost clarity from the start. The legalese of all of this can be quite confusing. We recommend consulting a lawyer to help through the entire legal process.
On the other hand, you can choose an informal option with a community agreement with no official legal status. If you don’t comply with local regulations, this might be your only option.
Be aware: any opportunity for a power struggle or financial confusion could wreak havoc on your community. At the very least, create a simple contract with general guidelines and financial expectations to get notarized.
How Can We Finance Our Community?
Financing is where many would-be tiny house communities hit a brick wall. Access to savings, credit, or loans is a make it or break it situation. Being incorporated offers legitimization, providing access to business loans, though upfront monies and/or collateral will still be required.
In some cases, one party may contribute the majority of funds which typically means more ownership stake, unless offered as a kind of loan to other members. Check out this insightful article on dealing with community start-up money.
Where Can I Find More Resources?
Check out this recent post with seven resources for starting a community. Be sure to follow the Search Tiny House Villages blog to stay in the know as future tools are rolled out, like matching mentor communities to forming communities.