The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has proposed a new rule, FR–5877–P–01, that has people in the tiny home movement questioning whether the government is trying to make living in small dwellings illegal. According to regulations.gov, this proposed rule would "define a recreational vehicle as one built on a vehicular structure, not certified as a manufactured home, designed only for recreational use and not as a primary residence or for permanent occupancy." Recreational vehicles would also have to be certified by several agencies. Since many tiny homes are built on trailer chassis, many within the movement are concerned for what this rule means for them.
Tiny House Build points out that tiny home owners should not be concerned about this new rule. Since tiny homes are meant to be the owners' full-time residences, they should not be considered recreational vehicles, but rather, permanent dwellings and should be regulated through the International Residential Code (IRC) which regulates single and two-family dwellings. The current IRC regulations that tiny homes often struggle with meeting are head height above stairs, stair designs, energy efficiency, and being built on a foundation. Tiny House Build has found ways to address all of the above issues except for requiring the structure be set on a foundation and meeting the stair regulations.
In 2015 the IRC passed a change to R304.1, the code that regulates the minimum size of a dwelling. The size was reduced from 120 square feet of "gross floor area" to 70 square feet. This includes all space except the bathroom. This change was done in order to address the growing tiny house movement. The IRC publication states, "Although the change will not impact typical residential construction, it will accommodate alternatives for very small dwellings that would previously not be allowed under the IRC."
Tent City Urbanism points out that if the intent of getting a tiny home approved as a recreational vehicle was to circumvent building code regulations, then the government has shut that down. If tiny home dwellers truly simply desire to embrace minimalist living, the IRC has opened the door for a legal way to have tiny homes. Overcoming the difficulties that are presented by IRC rules will require people getting the law changed or coming up with creative ways to address the issues in the dwellings. Plato said, "Necessity is the mother of invention," so let need drive innovative.