NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

D.C. Code Restricts Affordable Housing Availability

November 18, 2014

In Washington, D.C., a group of architects have developed a community of miniature homes, but housing regulations threaten to keep the houses off the market.

While small -- one house is just 140 square feet -- the tiny homes constructed in the nation's capital have bathrooms, showers, kitchens, offices and bedroom lofts, writes Todd Krainin for Reason Magazine, and they require little in the way of heating or cooling costs. Their cost? It ranges, from $10,000 to $50,000 -- cheaper than the typical cost in D.C., says Krainin, which offers a median housing cost of $450 per square foot.

Krainin says the tiny homes could offer affordable housing for young, single adults, but there's a problem: city regulations. Washington, D.C.'s land use restrictions mandate that homes be of a certain size, among other restrictions. To avoid those restrictions, Kraining writes that the tiny house inhabitants have added wheels to their dwellings, in order that they be treated as trailers rather than houses. However, the wheels offer their own set of difficulties: if they're classified as trailers, D.C. law doesn't allow the owners to use them as primary residences.

Can owners be granted exemptions from the city's regulatory code? They can -- but at a cost, which Krainin reports can reach up to $50,000. As a result, the costly and restrictive land use code limits affordable housing options in D.C.

Source: Todd Krainin, "Washington's Beautiful, Illegal Tiny Houses," Reason Magazine, December 2014.


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