On today’s show we’re talking about an innovation in creating more affordable housing. The city of Los Angeles has amended their definition of an accessory dwelling unit. The history of an accessory dwelling unit has has be the traditional in-law suite, or the nanny suite. This is sometimes an attic apartment, or a basement apartment. It’s usually attached to the principal home and forms part of the home, but is a separate unit. In these secondary units, the utilities come from the main house and they’re really considered to be part of the main house.

Under the latest change, the city of Los Angeles is adding movable tiny houses to the definition of ADU. I’m going to read the definition directly from the text of the municipal ordinance.


An enclosed space intended for separate, independent living quarters of one Family as defined in Section 12.03 of this Code and that meets all of the following:

  1. Is licensed and registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles;
  2. Meets the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 119.5 requirements or the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1192 standards, and is certified for ANSI or NFPA compliance;
  3. Cannot move under its own power; Is no larger than allowed by California State Law for movement on public highways; and
  4. Is no smaller than 150 and no larger than 430 square feet as measured within the exterior faces of the exterior walls.

So these are truly tiny houses.

There are a few restrictions. For example, No ADU is permitted on any lot that is located in a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone designated by the Los Angeles Fire Department.

One parking space is required for an ADU, except that no parking is required for an ADU that is: (i) Located within one-half mile walking distance of a public transit.

All exterior walls and roof of a moveable any tiny house used as an ADU have to be fixed with no bump outs, slide-outs, 7 tip-outs, nor other forms of mechanically moving room area extensions.

Even if your lot is large, you’re only allowed one of these on the property. If the tiny house has wheels, they have to be covered and hidden. The house has to sit on a paved surface. You can’t just put down some gravel and bring in a trailer.

The question is why would the city of Los Angeles want to bring movable tiny houses into the city? Who is it helping? Is it creating more affordable housing?

The fact is, it is creating a small amount of affordable housing for those who reside in the tiny homes. Equally important, it’s making home ownership more affordable for those who wish to purchase a single family home, but can’t quite afford it.

The city is also putting restriction on the types of homes. It’s pretty clear that you can’t just by an RV and hope that it will qualify as a tiny home. They have put rules in place to make it extremely difficult to use an RV for this purpose, without coming out and explicitly saying that they’re outlawing RV’s.

For example, the home must have square cornered windows. You’re not allowed to have radius corners on the windows.

Materials used on the exterior of a moveable tiny house shall exclude single piece composite, laminates, or interlocked metal sheathing.

The home can’t be more than two stories and you’re not allowed to place the tiny home between the main house and the street.

Those who live in tiny homes have given mixed reviews on the experience. On the plus side, you save money because your property is small. Equally important, you have so little space, that you tend to not buy stuff. There’s no point purchasing consumer items that you have no space to store.