Retiring in Florida has long been a dream for many people ready to trade harsh winters and high heating bills for the mild climate and bright blue skies Florida has to offer. Yet, acquiring a home in the Sunshine State has never been more out-of-reach as the affordable-housing crisis continues to grow across the country.

Residents of all ages have struggled to find affordable housing for several years now, and some have turned to the idea of tiny homes as a viable alternative. Here are a few related topics with which politicians and local communities in Florida are grappling as they try to update ordinances to address this crisis.

The basics

There is an ever-expanding group of people flocking to the tiny home solution, and this is just a small cross-section:

  • Retirees
  • Disabled veterans and civilians
  • Recent graduates saddled with debt
  • Recently divorced parents either paying alimony/child support or caring for children
  • Residents who recently had a financially debilitating medical issue
  • Homeowners who had to move suddenly, but were unable to sell their home and went bankrupt
  • Workers who move seasonally or as the industry changes; people in oil and gas, steel works, construction foremen, and agricultural workers are just a small portion of employees who must work on a national scale instead of settling locally.

There are so many ways people can find themselves living paycheck to paycheck or unable to maintain the bills that come with a standard apartment or home. Anyone who finds downsizing their costs and living space to be appealing, however, almost immediately runs into obstacles from a variety of sources.

Pocket communities

Since it’s difficult to find unoccupied land on which to park a tiny home on wheels, some people have turned to Ross Chapin’s concept for pocket communities. This is a dedicated space where tiny home owners can come together and share resources and land in a legal, affordable manner.

Among other things, this concept for land use increases its residents’ quality of life with everything from food production to social interactions. It melts away the isolation fostered by many new developments where the housing takes up the entire lot and residents spend more time indoors rather than outdoors.

Unfortunately, surrounding homeowners seem to always equate pocket communities with mobile home parks and assume crime will rise and their own house values will lower. Municipal planners struggle with the tax structures, the potentially transitory nature of homes, and residents who come and go as easily as renters but without the typical protections of tenant screening.

Accessory dwelling units

There are many different issues that come up when a property owner allows a tiny home to park on their property, or builds a permanent secondary structure known as an “accessory dwelling unit” (ADU).

Property setbacks, square footage or driveway access requirements, and unhappy neighbors can all throw a wrench in the works for ADUs. Although more and more municipalities are moving to allow these types of structures for extended family members and elderly parents.

ADUs are typically not allowed to have their own independent utility meters, which means homeowners may need to pay for professional plumbers, excavators, and electrical engineering services to update their property to accommodate the new structure.

Stick-built vs. recreational vehicle

One difficulty surrounds the nature of the tiny homes themselves; should they be categorized as homes or recreational vehicles? This designation affects how the structure is insured and/or financed, in addition to the rules that apply to its installation on a property. Some ordinances specify that a tiny home must be on a foundation rather than wheels.

Things are gradually changing as the groundswell of residents demanding affordable housing options increases. So the best thing to do if you have an interest in tiny homes is to join a local organization and make your voice heard at your town or city council.

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