Accessory Dwellings

A one-stop source about accessory dwelling units, multigenerational homes, laneway houses, ADUs, granny flats, in-law units…

Reflections on Six Years in “temporary housing”: a mobile detached bedroom

From 2003 to 2009, I lived in a tiny home on wheels located in Iowa City. I built the home with Jay Shafer, proprietor of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company.

The Mobile Hermitage, pictured at right, was constructed on a 10′ x 7′ trailer frame. Part of my motivation in living extremely small was to engage in lifestyle activism.

The home was designed to share shower, bathroom, laundry and other facilities with a larger community house. In this respect, the home was more like a detached bedroom than a complete home.

According to the local housing code, the house fell into a category of dwellings referred to as temporary housing because it was on wheels like an RV. The housing code has a provision for Accessory Structures, but that category of structures is limited to buildings that are typically built on a foundation. It’s important to clarify that “Accessory structures” are not the same as “accessory dwelling units,” in planner-speak.

Accessory structures are built according to local housing codes, but depending on local ordinances, it may not be permitted to live in them. Their purpose is generally restricted to the function of workshop or studio. However, it’s unlikely that anyone would know or care of a guest, family member, or friend was living for an extended period of time in a studio.

An advantage of temporary housing is such dwellings can be built using commercial-grade materials, providing durability and comfort, while at the same time being moveable. Also, temporary housing provides greater latitude of design creativity because such structures are not governed in their construction by city housing codes.

In the video below, I go into more detail explaining my small living experience and local housing codes.

Video. The video below provides a comprehensive presentation on this topic.

Video – Short Version. A shorter video on this topic is below.


Greg Johnson is the president of the Small House Society and an Iowa City web designer, photographer, and computer support specialist.

About Greg Johnson



This entry was posted on January 26, 2012 by in 399 SF or Smaller, Detached, New Construction, Projects and tagged , , , .
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