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Small homes, big differences

You can’t turn on HGTV these days without hearing about tiny houses—homes that exemplify living simply in small spaces.

Park-model manufactured homes, which have been around since the 1950s and grown in popularity as a source of affordable housing during the last 10 years, might be considered the original “tiny house.”

Snowy scene of a tiny house

A tiny house in a winter snowscape.

Both versatile and “cute” these structures take up less space and cost less than their traditional stick-built counterparts. Their owners often desire less living area, less financial commitment and
long-term debt, and the freedom to pursue experiences. Tiny homes can be primary homes, second homes, and/or accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

So, what’s the difference between a park home and a tiny home?

Park models are traditionally defined as:

  • Less than 400 square feet of floor space
  • Able to be towed on public roadways
  • Requiring registration, tags, and insurance, like a vehicle
  • Ideal for RV (recreational vehicle) parks, RV or manufactured housing parks
  • Purchased from the manufacturer for ease of registration and travel safety
  • Retail-priced from $20,000 to $140,000

So, what’s different about a tiny house?

  • They have more floor space--400 to 999 square feet.
  • Larger units cannot be towed behind vehicles but can be hauled on a truck bed if permits and consumer/public protection are in place.
  • It’s hard to find conventional mortgage financing for tiny homes.
  • They require no vehicle registration, tags, or insurance.
  • They’re ideal for private land, back property, guest homes.
Manufactured-home parks won't accept them

It seems logical that manufactured-home parks would be great places for tiny or park homes. Unfortunately, most don’t allow tiny homes because they are largely unregulated. Most manufactured-home communities and municipalities require that factory-built homes be certified by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Tiny homes are not always factory-built or certified to meet building and fire codes.

In some New Hampshire jurisdictions tiny homes may be utilized as ADUs, but regulations differ from community to community. Homebuyers considering tiny homes as primary residences should be aware that many local zoning ordinances and codes prohibit their placement or are not yet equipped to answer questions regarding their placement

An overview of N.H.’s ADU regulation can be seen at the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority’s website .

Governed by federal and local codes

The federal Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC) and HUD agree that any home in a manufactured-housing park should meet the National Fire Protection Association or American National Standards Institute codes. Some communities may also apply a local or international building code.

The tiny home movement may just be a new and creative way to add to affordable housing stock. There’s no doubt that a design is in the works for a home that meets all the required codes, at a price point the market will bear.

Communities that have embraced tiny homes are paving the way for new developments across the country. We’re excited to see what they bring.

Joia Hughes is a ROC-NH™ Housing Cooperative Specialist.

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ROC-NH™ is a program of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, Inc. and a ROC USA® Certified Technical Assistance Provider.
ROC-NH is a registered service mark of ROC USA, LLC.

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