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How to Build a Tiny House in Detroit

March 20, 2019

So you want to live in a tiny house? Here are some ways to build or obtain one in the city of Detroit.

By Molli McGee

Featured photo by Brett Mountain

Bigger isn’t always better, and this is certainly the case when it comes to tiny houses. At no more than 500 square feet, these humble abodes come packed with functional features and simple comforts — a queen-size bed and full kitchen, just to name a few. So how does one go about living in a tiny house in the city of Detroit?

To be clear, tiny living is generally quite difficult. Few cities and counties have acknowledged tiny houses in their regulations and codes. In fact, some places have actually created rules to make it more difficult to live legally in a tiny house. Let’s take a look at some of the ways to acquire a tiny house in Detroit.

1. Connect with an affordable housing organization.

Cass Community Social Services is a nonprofit with roots in Detroit that went from feeding those in need, to offering affordable housing. How did they do it? With tiny houses, of course. Their rent-to-buy program gives low-income folks in Detroit the chance to become homeowners. These tiny homes aren’t lacking in anything. With a functioning kitchen, bathroom and a decently-sized living space, this is a worthy option for anyone deemed eligible.

tiny housesBrett Mountain for SEEN

The tiny houses on Elmhurst in Detroit are part of Cass Community Social Services’ tiny homes program.

2. Consider an ADU.

An accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, is a detached structure that sits on the same piece of land as the primary structure. According to an October 2018 Detroit Zoning Ordinance:

  • No accessory building or structure shall be constructed on any zoning lot prior to the time of construction of the principal building to which it is accessory.
  • You can’t live in an ADU unless someone is currently living in the primary dwelling.
  • R1 and R2 districts of Detroit do not allow anyone to live in an ADU.
  • A permit is required for an ADU exceeding 100 square feet.

As you can see, there are some rules pertaining to ADUs — but it’s not impossible. If you know someone who lives in one of the eligible zones for ADUs, you likely have a chance of erecting your own tiny home on foundations.

3. Build on a trailer.

If you’re unsure about living in one place, consider a tiny house on wheels. By law, a tiny house on wheels is considered a recreational vehicle. While you can only park in designated RV areas, it’s certainly a safer way to own a tiny house if you are ever asked to move.

The Takeaway

Currently, there are no clear-cut rules for tiny houses in Detroit — at least not yet, anyway. There are plans in the works to make tiny houses the way of the future, and introducing them as affordable housing is a great way to start. Building codes and zoning regulations are constantly changing. The further you get from the city, the more likely you are able to live tiny without issue.

Before purchasing your tiny house, remember to do your research to find out where tiny living is possible. Tiny houses are the future of affordable living, and Detroit is headed in the right direction. As it turns out, caring for tiny things can leave a massive impact.

Molly McGee

Molli McGee writes about about tiny houses for the Tiny House Society. When she’s not writing, Molli loves to be at the beach and practice a sustainable way of living.

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