CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — A man says he and his wife have been living a dream, but it is about to end as the County forces them to move out of their home.
“Up above the loft here, we have our bedroom,” Michael Brown said as he gives 8News Anchor Amy Lacey a tour of his home.
When he walks around the home he shares with his wife Ann, dog Stinky and cat Sweet pea, it is obvious he is proud of the foundation they built for their family from the ground, or in this case, the wheels up.
“This was your own design?” Amy asks him. “Yeah, my wife and I created a floor plan, and then my uncle who is a builder out of state designed the framing plans to help make our dream a reality,” Michael explains.
Their dream was a tiny house, a growing movement that’s sweeping across the country. People give up spacious for sparse. In the Browns’ case, 8 1/2 by 21 feet.
“It’s everything that I need and nothing that I don’t need,” says Michael, adding that he and Ann were able to pay for the home in cash, $25,000.
“So, you have a house that costs less than some people’s cars these days?” Amy asks Michael. “Yep, it’s great,” he says, explaining that cutting down their living expenses was the goal of living in this type of housing.
In October they moved in to the tiny house in the backyard of their traditional house that a tenant is now renting. Not having a mortgage allowed their monthly housing bills to go down from $1,400 to $300.
A few months after making the transition, Michael says the County came knocking on their door. “They don’t know quite how to classify it.”
“It can get complicated,” says Ron Clements, the Chesterfield Building Inspection Assistant Director.
The issue? Clements says the County does not have any specific rules for tiny houses. Anything classified as a structure has to follow buildings codes to the T.
The Browns had their house on wheels titled through the DMV as a travel trailer, but they still cannot live in it year-round. A Chesterfield zoning ordinance prohibits using any type of recreational vehicle for permanent housing or connecting it to utility services.
“Both the building code and the zoning ordinances probably have some catching up to do,” Clements says, adding that the County is actively talking about how to handle tiny houses. He even sees the state’s mandates changing within the next couple of years.
That does not help Michael and Ann now, with the clock ticking and a move hanging over their heads. As of right now, their big dream for a tiny house is halted.
“Whoever wants to live in a tiny house should be able to live in a tiny house,” says Michael.
The Browns say the County wanted them out of their tiny house in March, as soon as they received what is known as a letter of defect. Officials have been working with them, however. The couple was supposed to move into a rental on Monday, but now it is not going to be ready and they are asking for more time.
Could they just move the tiny house elsewhere and live in it? Clements says yes and no. In that case, it would be classified as an industrialized building required to follow safety regulations set by the Department of Housing and Community Development.