Hawaii is the next Big Wave for Tiny Houses

Hawaii is the next Big Wave for Tiny Houses


When I moved to Maui in 2009, I had no idea affordable housing was in such short supply. There are plenty of empty apartments and houses, but purchasing a home or renting in Hawaii is not a matter of supply and demand, it’s based entirely on what the market will bear. And apparently the bears here have a lot more money than I do.

So ever since then I have been looking to find alternative ways to affordably enjoy paradise. I’ve considered container homes, tree houses and yurts, but when I stumbled upon Tiny Houses I was hooked! Tiny Houses are just what the name implies–they’re smaller than average and have a lot less of everything that a regular sized home has, except more character and less impact on the environment. One striking feature of most Tiny Houses is that they are built on wheeled trailers. This makes most Tiny Houses fit an area of about 8 to 9 feet wide by 16 to 24 feet long (128 to 216 square feet). I wrote an informative article about Tiny Houses not long ago: The Tiny House Movement.


Over the last few months I have been on a journey to determine if Tiny Houses are allowed in Hawaii. It’s been challenging trudging through the red tape. The first obstacle I discovered was that Tiny Houses are not defined in the State of Hawaii as “Tiny Houses”. Initially the building inspector for the County of Maui, Department of Public Works, said that any “dwelling” must be a minimum of 220 square feet which meant that according to the International Building Code (IBC) a Tiny House would probably be defined as an “Efficiency Dwelling” (see details: Efficiency Dwelling vs Tiny Houses). A typical Tiny House is less than 220 square feet so I was bit discouraged and had visions of living in the jungle in a camouflaged, non-compliant Tiny House hidden away from civilization. But I’m not one to give up that easily.


I think Maui County Council member Don Couch would describe me over the next few weeks as “persistent” to get his attention. I presented him with details about the benefits of tiny houses and why I think they are good for the community and he agreed to look into the matter. He and his staff made some phone calls and got some interesting responses. What they initially found out was that the County doesn’t have a definitive answer that is black and white about tiny houses.

Don introduced me to a “research assistant”, code named “Sam”, when we realized we needed help with the research. Over the next month or so Sam uncovered some very interesting facts that could change the course of the Tiny House movement in Hawaii.

Finding a new definition for Tiny Houses in Hawaii


Sam made numerous calls to other state agencies and different municipal departments around the country (anonymously) and here’s what he said:

So far, it sounds like most tiny homes around the country are working around building codes by putting the homes on wheels and registering them with the DMV. According to the Maui DMV Operations Supervisor, a custom built travel trailer would be classified as a “trailer.”

Looking further Sam discovered the actual vehicle code section for “house trailer” which is Hawaii Statewide Traffic Code §291C.

House Trailer: a trailer or semitrailer which is designed, constructed, and equipped as a dwelling place, living abode, or sleeping place (either permanently or temporarily) and is equipped for use as a conveyance on streets and highways.


It’s called a House Trailer!
The Public Works and the Plans Examiner Department said, specifically in reference to recreational vehicles; both said that they would have no jurisdiction over someone living in a recreational vehicle, that the DMV would have jurisdiction because it would be registered with them. The Building Permits Department said they would only become involved if an RV was no longer registered as a vehicle and was then classified as a home (RV was used instead of “house trailer” to save time explaining what that is). So officially, in Hawaii, it’s not a Tiny House or an RV, it’s a “House Trailer”. And it’s perfectly legal!

How to comply with the House Trailer laws in Hawaii*

  • Have a place to build and/or park your Tiny House on private property
  • The trailer it is build upon needs to be legal and must be registered by the DMV
  1. You need to have insurance for the trailer you are going to register
  2. The trailer has to go through an inspection (lights, breakaway brakes, etc.)
  3. The trailer needs to be weighed (the more it weighs the more it costs to register)
  4. It must pass a safety inspection

cypress-24What it means to Hawaii residents is that we have the green light to build or park a Tiny House on private property. These laws can be changed or removed if we don’t police ourselves and be good neighbors and community members. be sure to do any and all electrical to code. Use common sense and be considerate where and how you park your Tiny Home.

What the government will do now:

Revenue generation is a popular topic with government mainly because the coffers are low everywhere and public services are tight.  Property taxes usually pay for a lot of local government like Police and Fire, so whenever a good idea comes around that might reduce the flow into those coffers, local municipalities might want to throw in a few monkey wrenches (red tape and fees).  However, with this solution, and it is a solution to the economic woes for many people across the country, there are already built in regulations and indirect fees.

To build and use one of these Tiny House in Hawaii, you must have a legally licensed trailer.  Those annual fees (licensing and registration) can be fairly high due to the weight of the trailer.  Additional moneys go toward government the traditional way such as property taxes.  Because these House Trailers must be legally parked on private property, the owner of that property already pays taxes.

So expect that local municipalities and counties will attempt to charge fees, add regulation and generally find ways to make things more difficult without a really good, clearly thought out reason or purpose.  Ultimately, when community leaders see the benefits of Tiny Houses, they will see that they reduce the draw on water supplies and the energy grid, lower the impact on the environment, reduce the demand for social services, and provide an alternative to the high cost of traditional housing.

Here are two good reasons why municipalities should PAY people to live in Tiny Houses:

  1. Money:  Saving residents money so they have more to spend in the local economy, and reducing long-term debt.
  2. Environment:  Reduces the environmental footprint (less Space, Water, Energy, Garbage, Waste).

If you’re ready to live in a Tiny House, or you’d like to support this movement, connect with me for upcoming meetings, events and more.

Hawaii Alternative Considerations:

The main reason for all my research here in Hawaii has been due to the IBC (International Building Code) minimum square footage requirements.  Thus the need to build on trailers.   Some solutions suggest that Hawaii should relax of the minimum square footage regulations so that people can create alternative, low carbon footprint dwellings.

I spoke with Michael Janzen of Tiny House Design (http://tinyhousedesign.com) and he mentioned that some other alternatives are already developing in Hawaii recently.

Kauai – http://www.dwell.com/my-house/article/grateful-shed

Hawaii – http://www.jetsongreen.com/2010/02/modular-off-grid-house-arc-prototype.html

Big Island – http://youtu.be/wxGr9uloL9k  (great video!)

Maui – http://www.mauiecobuilt.com/

Some other useful links:

Maui County Codes:

Maui County Building Code:

Maui County, Dept. of Public Works, Development Services Administration, Building Plan Review Section: Codes Enforced (County code amendments to the IBC and IRC)
2006 Int’l Residential Code (IRC) – Ord 3929 – New Maui County Code Chapter 16.08A, eff March 19, 2012
2006 Int’l Building Code (IBC) – Ord 3928 – New Maui County Code Chapter 16.26B, eff March 19, 2012

Hawaii Revised Statutes

2006 International Building Code (for Commercial and Residential Buildings):
(Per Plans Examiner Dept.: See Chapter 12 Interior Environment)

2006 International Residential Code (for 1 and 2 Family Dwellings):
(Per Plans Examiner Dept.: Reference “Efficiency Dwelling Unit”)

Statewide Traffic Code specifically addressing using vehicles for human habitation:

§291C-112 Certain uses of parked vehicles prohibited between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.; definition; exceptions. (a) No person shall use any vehicle for purposes of human habitation, whether or not the vehicle is designed or equipped for that purpose, while the vehicle is parked on any roadway, street, or highway or other public property between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. or while the vehicle is parked on private property without authorization of the owner or occupant authorizing both the parking of the vehicle there and its use for purposes of human habitation.

(b) As used in this section “purposes of human habitation” includes use as a dwelling place, living abode, or sleeping place.

(c) This section does not apply to the parking of vehicles and their use for purposes of human habitation in parks, camps, and other recreational areas in compliance with law and applicable rules and regulations, or under emergency conditions in the interest of vehicular safety.

(d) The department of health shall promulgate rules and regulations, pursuant to chapter 91, necessary for the administration of this section. [L 1972, c 48, pt of §2]

I’d like to personally thank…

Special thanks to Sam, who spent tireless hours researching the laws and regulations for me.  He did an amazing job wading through the legal codes, making calls and digging through red tape to find concrete answers to some important questions.

Much Mahalo to County Councilman Don Couch for his ongoing efforts to help find affordable housing alternatives for Maui residents, and all the time he has spent with me sorting out the details of this and several other issues.

Related Tiny House articles

How-To Live with Less for Tiny House Living:

Design Benefits of Tiny Houses in Hawaii:

Image Credits:

Many of the excellent, high-quality Tiny House images shown here are courtesy Tumbleweed Tiny House Company.

Stay tuned for a Tiny House Intentional Community / EcoVillage coming soon to Maui…

July 11, 2014 UPDATE
There always seems to be some obstacle to innovation in Hawaii. Here’s a good example that was sent in from a fan.

This update pertains ONLY to Hawaii County (Island of Hawaii Only):

Hawaii County Code Section 25-4-10. Mobile dwellings.
All mobile dwellings shall conform to the County building code (chapter 5 of this Code), and the Public
Health Housing Code (chapter 2 of the State public health regulations), except:
(1) When parked in a licensed mobile home park; or
(2) When occupied for dwelling or sleeping purposes outside of a licensed mobile home park for less
than thirty days in any one location.
(1996, Ord. No. 96-160, sec. 2; ratified April 6, 1999.)25-4-10

Also, Hawaii County Code 5-71
Section 5-71. Amendments to adopted International Building Code.

The International Building Code, 2006 Edition, adopted and incorporated by reference into this code as provided in section 5-3 of this chapter, shall be subject to the amendments hereinafter set forth.

(1) Amending Section 202. Section 202 is amended by adding the following definitions:

“BUILDING. A building is any structure used or intended for supporting any use or occupancy. The term shall include but not be limited to any structure mounted on wheels such as a trailer, wagon or vehicle which is parked and stationary for any 24-hour period, and is used for business or living purposes; provided, however, that the term shall not include a push cart or push wagon which is readily movable and which does not exceed 25 square feet in area, nor shall the term include a trailer or vehicle, used exclusively for the purpose of selling any commercial product therefrom, which hold a vehicle license and actually travels on public or private streets.

This “currently” applies only to Hawaii County (Big Island).

Possible solutions to consider:

1. Change that law.
2. How can the county prove that the dwelling was occupied for more than 30 days consecutively? Just stay in a hotel for 1 night every 29 days.
3. If you move the house 10 feet every 30 days, then you can live in it forever.
4. Get a Mobile Home Park permit for your property.

What does this all mean for Tiny Houses in Hawaii?
Operation Tiny House is a go (accept on the Big Island apparently)! Feel free to move about Hawaii (in a Tiny House on private property).  If you’re interested in help with a Tiny House or you want to be a part of a Tiny Village on Maui, please contact me.

See update article here — http://www.mauigoodness.com/2014/04/08/hawaii-the-perfect-place-for-tiny-houses/

* Legal Mumbo-jumbo:  I am not an attorney and anything I say in this article could be wrong or mistaken so you should consult your attorney before even remotely thinking this is legal advice. Who would do that? Don’t be that guy!


  1. The tiny house movement sure is fascinating, and living in Hawaii, I can absolutely understand how this could become hugely popular. I’m sure the County will pipe up sooner or later regarding zoning for parking them when neighbors start complaining about additional people living on private properties.
    Personally, I’m not sure if I could live in such a tiny space, it be a huge lifestyle change. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Thanks for the info!!

    • Yes, I agree Cara. The county of Maui is sure to find a few ways to “address” this new trend, and I hope to work with them to make sure Tiny Houses remain an affordable alternative. As far as neighbors complaining; they’re just going to have to understand that it’s no longer a matter of choice–we simply need to find alternatives to sprawling high-rise apartments, dense city-block housing complexes and other not-so environmentally friendly housing alternatives. And Tiny Houses are one such positive solution. Mahalo for your comments!

      • I have thinking about this same idea for a couple yrs and googled tiny mobile homes on Maui. I would love to be updated as things develop.

  2. It’s great to see the progress you’ve made on this idea, and even better to see that it may actually be feasible! Great job Erik! And a very informative, well-written article as well!

    • Mahalo Malia, I very much appreciate your comments! We’ll see where this goes from here!

  3. Couldn’t you register a tiny house as a boat? You wouldn’t need wheels, you wouldn’t be as restricted in width.

    While 220′ is more than I need it is not significantly more costly. I wonder what other obstacles you face if you build something inexpensive. Can you get away with a composting toilet and low-voltage electricity?

    • You could register as a boat, as long as it met the requirements of a boat I suppose. But why would you if you’re can already register it as a trailer? Yes, you can use a composting toilet as long as you handle the waste correctly, and you can be 100% offgrid.

      • Your article is so helpful! I know very well how dealing with State regulations takes years off your life. My experience is unfortunately to do with boats, which are subject to incredibly complicated rules if in a harbor; I never investigated parking our sailboat on land, perhaps on a trailer (Noah’s Ark on top of Mt. Ararat comes to mind), but feel sure there are rules just waiting to come out and pounce! A tiny house on the cheap land near Volcano, for instance, would be a great solution to housing costs in Hawaii. Thanks for the information! Aloha.

  4. Hawaii is the perfect place for living small since its easy to be outside almost all the time! I would love to see this movement here. Makes sense on so many levels.

    • It is happening as well speak Liz! I’m excited that this is finally moving forward. There are some minor details to work out with the county, but overall, things are looking good! The next phase is figuring a way to cluster these Tiny Houses into tiny villages with integrated community gardens.

  5. Well written and researched Erik! So I guess if it’s parked on private property that you own or have permission to park, it’s all good?

    Look forward to hearing more.

    • Hey Tania, Yes, so long as the “House Trailer” is legally registered with the DMV, and it’s parked on private property, then it’s all good! Some details are yet to be worked out, like water, solar, composting toilets, electrical, etc, but we’re a go nonetheless!

      • Hi Erik
        Thank you for all of your research on the awesome tiny homes! I am looking to retire in Kauai in the next couple of years and I am looking into the option of buying a piece of property and putting a tiny home on it. I am so excited to see that this is available to do in the islands..yippee.
        Are tiny homes built on the island or do you have to ship one over? Also, I would love a two bedroom..any models available ?
        Again I thank you for all yor hard work and I look forward to hearing from you!

        • No official builders yet. Difficult to find trailers too. Ongoing efforts are being examined. Aloha

  6. Awesome work Erik! Can’t wait to see your tiny house!

    • Me too! Stoked, can’t wait!! Mahalo

  7. Wow so cool that you are in a journey to make more red tape for those of us building homes here all ready. Go find yourself a tent live in that. You can live in the jungle. I’m sorry but you need to stop trying to get this going. What you weren’t expecting was living in Hawaii actually costs some money. Sounds to me like you are single. Have no kids. And will most likely move away from here in the near future. But in the meantime you want to get the building permits changed for your own selfish reasons. More then likely to charge others for this tiny house. But not for a tiny price. Go home to where your from.

    • Mahalo Coral, for your sentiment of Aloha. I appreciate that you have expressed your dislike of the idea, but your entire statement is just an attack on me. Perhaps you could provide useful information so that others could decide for themselves? And just to correct you, I’m not doing this for selfish reasons. You obviously don’t know me, and no plans on moving or stopping the Tiny House Movement from expanding all over Hawaii.

      I had a choice whether to allow Coral’s comment, and I decided to publish it because I want everybody to know that when a good idea challenges the status quo, there will be some that fear change. If you are doing something remarkable, there will always be at least one person that just can’t help themselves from trying to ruin it for others.

      • No I have no plans on helping your movement. Neither do I want to support this. Yes Hawaii is extremely expensive. Building a home is even more. The cost of rent is to high. But to make it so the county of Maui has even more people here is just plain dumb. I love the way it is. We’re all ready over crowded here. Why make it more.
        I am not afraid of change. Nor did I attack you. I feel that what you are doing is making it harder for me to get through the red tape of building my home. And honestly I’m glad we don’t have trailer parks here. That’s the plain and simple fact. Yes the housing market could change for the better. But it seems to me you are selling these homes for the purpose of a get rich quick scam. As a property owner. I would not tolerate a multitude of these. A squatters dream come true. That’s what you’re building.

        • Aloha Coral,
          1st, nobody is changing or attempting to change the current laws pertaining to you and your situation. Nobody ever said we were changing building codes that might affect those who are building traditional homes. Not sure where you’re getting that from. We are also not inviting more people to come here. We are simply providing a solution for those that are already here and want to live in a more affordable situation with less of a negative impact on the environment. Nobody is suggesting people move here. Nobody is advocating for trailer parks either. Not sure where you are getting all these strange, way out in left field notions from. And again, I am not in the business of selling these homes. I don’t even have one. Not sure why you insist that I am selling these homes, but it’s not a bad idea! So far you’ve said this idea is, “dumb” and “get rich quick scam” and a “squatters dream”. None of which can even remotely be derived from the article you are replying to, so I call that an attack. Nothing has suggested the things you are saying. Good luck with your search for someone who is doing what you are saying because we’re not. Good luck finding some other article that says what you think this one does, because it doesn’t. Sorry, but you apparently have the wrong number.

          • I served my country for several years, and I was sad to come out and see that the housing dream is no longer a reality as it was for my family. My guess is you are older and cashed in before it hit, or probably make a lot of money. I am about to graduate a top tier university in the US, but I don’t have any intention of regarding the right for others to live based on my own sentiments…that’s simply traditionally unAmerican. I say traditionally, because it used to be about people being happy for others coming up. It seems to be now a days when people find a way around or out, the hatred from others comes out in non-conformity and social norms. My simple request to you, coral, is to please look at the world and see what most people need to be happy, and more importantly, ask yourself why your living standards and up holdings should force me to live your way, or in a sense of debt beyond our eyeballs in the country where people are free? I think you should research the movement. It’s not just oddballs (who live in homes too, as I discovered in Key West, many having them before the 1970s) but also people who are professional, plan on having lives and paying taxes just like you, they just want housing on their own terms and lives with their own meaning described. Is it really fair to assume that tiny housing is trying to mess your life up? How about just taking away minimal housing standards? Let people build what they legally and safely need, and let THEM decide whether it’s a shack or a mansion? Technically, that’s supposed to be America, right?

          • Thank you for your service to the people! Aloha

    • It seems to me that the red tape is created by others.
      IMO Erik is actually fighting the red tape, and those who want to keep housing affordable for their own benefit.

        • Oops, where I wrote those who want to keep housing affordable for their own benefit I meant unaffordable.

  8. I would love to be involved in your “Tiny House” movement on Maui. I’ve spent a lot of time admiring the houses featured on their website and am impressed by all of your efforts toward the cause here in Hawaii.

    • Keep in touch Manon, lots of good things are happening! Mahalo for your nice comments.

      • Aloha Erik, I cannot wait to hear more about your plans. Living on the west side, rentals are out of control price wise. Have you given any thought to the west side? I would love to be a part of this!

        • Pretty soon tiny houses will be available on Maui. Once that happens all anybody has to do is find a landowner willing to rent a spot. Aloha

  9. Are there camping trailer parks on Maui? Where? Makena? Similar question as Tim- which of the links you provided explain about toilets, potable water, electric hook ups?
    Mahalo, J

  10. Great article on a great topic–thank you for doing all this research! I’d like to have a tiny house as part of Maui Discovery Center.

    • It would be a great asset to educate others about low-carbon footprint living, water conservation, low-stress living, and even how to live in a difficult economy. Keep in touch. Aloha

  11. Great and well researched article Erik! Although I think a single person could exist in a tiny house, I’m not sure I couldn’t exist with my independent husband! That said, I think that the whole housing industry has to think about more efficiency in smaller spaces. Less stuff, better relationships, better food and good community living. And tiny houses are a great place to start. I remember visiting Fiji and Solomon Islands….the houses are tiny (8×10) with whole families living in them.

    • Aloha Kathy, I couldn’t have done it without the unsung help of “Sam” who did most of the research! I agree with you that, Tiny houses are NOT for everybody. In fact, only a small segment of society wants to live in them because they are very small, not cheap to build or buy, and aren’t easy (takes work). You’re right about the housing industry needing some changes. The world isn’t getting bigger. Most people are going to have to find alternative living situations, and Tiny Houses are just one small solution to the lack of affordable, simple, efficient housing that isn’t for everybody. Mahalo

      • I notice a trend with tiny home enthusiasts with being aware with worldly conditions of housing. We truly live in a bubble…which may burst out of our own ego eventually. Nothing lasts forever, but the ideals of living within our needs and simplistic notions have far more reaches than extremity and overabundance.

        • Yup, totally agree! Thank you for sharing your insight!

  12. Reading through the comments, conjuring up an image of Kathy in a Tiny House, Peter in a Tiny House next door, and two little skateboard-like Tiny Houses in front. ;-)

    • I think Peter might need a Tiny House just to put the camera equipment and the cats would need kitty doors for sure!

  13. Aloha Erik :) Excellent article…and great job taking the time & energy to research tiny homes for Hawaii. Maybe when I’m an empty nester that’ll work for me. I feel like I’m already living in a tiny house with 4 people in a 600 sq ft cottage – LOL. But I absolutely love the idea for affordable housing. :)

  14. How one could design a mini-community grouping of house trailers that would provide for the individual and common needs but NOT be legally or visually a “trailer park” would be an interesting exercise. It would be far easier than the “mini-sustainbale community” I have been laboring to build on the Big Island. The impetus would have to first come from trailer owners who both acknowledged the real costs to provide the needed amenities and had the means to fund the work. Further, even with amenable zoning, the infrastructure would need to be a good neighbor within its neighborhood to avoid harassment or new enactments.

    • On the Big Island it can certainly be done. Tiny Houses built on trailers are stronger than “mobile homes” thus putting a few in the same spot does not constitute a potential hazard when a hurricane hits Hawaii. Tiny Houses, or “House Trailers” are therefore an idea solution for an eco-village or cluster of tiny houses made into a village. Surround them with gardens and you’re doing the island a favor! Best practices are important, so put into place an HOA of sorts that protects the community from trash, waste, water, pets, noise and other issues so that neighbors can be reassured that the project is a good idea.

      • So in addition to a killer overall village design, create a job for a caretaker. That could be a retiree whose non-trailered home is there (that allows utilities to be connected to most sites) and he or she manages things. An extended B&B with privacy and axels.

        • Difficult to attach utilities due to building codes, etc, but offgrid is workable.

          Yes, sounds like it could be done so long as the county doesn’t have too big of an ego. Aloha

  15. My feeling is that these decisions should be made locally and by those who have already made investments in an area. Existing areas could be converted by satisfying existing owners concerns and compensating them for the impact. And by also establishing and enforcing sensible rules.

    As for whether tiny houses are good for a community or not, whose community are we talking about? The community of those who can’t afford the existing housing model would be immeasurably improved by being able to afford a house.

    We need room to make our own choices and experiment without negatively impacting those who prefer conventional housing. I believe it can all coexist, but good fences make good neighbors and the right, locally-determined rules will allow housing diversity to flourish.

    • The operative word here is “fences”. That would be a part of the infrastructure (yes, even off-grid living requires some when it becomes a grouping and has maintenance, security, and other demands beyond an individual campsite) in a properly designed trailer-friendly site. Going a little further, this could be a good place to work with biomimetic principles to make a more natural looking and environmentally attuned infra-structure which allows the dwellings to be less-structured and more affordable.

      • Nothing wrong with a cluster of tiny home dwelling people making the decision to put up fences if they wish, but I don’t think it should be a requirement, just as it is not a requirement in most traditional home construction.

        I like the idea of a nice-looking fence, especially to keep out pests and the local wildlife from tearing up the garden :)

    • To a certain extent I agree with you Alan, as far as working WITH neighbors to make a more inclusive community with sensible practices and considerations (not special rules). But I do not think it should be up to homeowner association or more regulation. Who would “enforce” Tiny House Community rules? The county doesn’t have the manpower to enforce the rules we already have. More rules aren’t going to be enforced in any other way other than on a “complaint” basis.

      The decision to live in a tiny house is a matter of choice, and the location should not be a matter of what wealthy homeowners think, but a relationship between the landowner and the tiny house tenant. Currently in Hawaii, I know of several Tiny Houses that are already being lived in. These people make great neighbors and keep to themselves. Thus, no problems, no complaints, etc. But, if the local municipality gets involved and makes rules and regulations, just to appease wealthy real estate investors, then that’s not going to make Hawaii a nice place to live is it? Relying on the goodwill and wisdom of those who “have invested in an area” is not the best path because often they are merely looking out for their own investment rather then the housing crisis, economic crisis and food crisis.

      The fact is that the typical “investor” in Real Estate might not be so friendly to the Tiny House movement for a false fear that it might reduce property values. But tiny houses have been shown to increase neighborhood property values. However, any loss in neighborhood value is dramatically offset by the improvement to society through the tiny house movement.

      Which community? If you delineate between rich and poor, then I suppose the poor would be much better off with more Tiny Houses in the community. But the community I am speaking about is the entire community, including the poor and wealthy real estate investors AND Traditional homeowners. The community is improved because those that choose to live in tiny homes will have more income left over every month to invest into the economy, thus creating more jobs and benefiting local businesses and farms.

      As far as your comment that the poor would be “immeasurably improved by being able to afford a house” I agree, but the only methods presented to them are creative ways to funnel the poor into debt prisons. Debt is not the answer, and it doesn’t improve the ability of the poor merely by purchasing a house, their lives are improved by the freedom to choose a life worth living.

      I too agree that Tiny Houses can coexist, as they do in many communities all over the world. I suggest we see where this goes, examine and perfect as we go. Make tiny corrections as needed. Eventually we can all coexist in harmony. So long as it does not become a regulation war between the haves, and have nots. Mahalo for your comment Alan.

      • I like this comment stream, and I would just like to add that in America, there seems to be a social stigma (my study) that would keep us from living like this. I don’t see any other real obstacle. Given time, people would find a way to profit on them, and the government a way to tax them. But people simply having a choice in the amount of square feet they need to live? That’s simply revolting! I find it interesting that in the same breath many Americans say “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” (impossible) and then do EVERYTHING they can do to keep people from getting up. It’s such a load. I recently read about a lady in Florida who was off-grid and forced to reconnect. Ridiculous…A person should not have to move to Denmark or Norway to have good lifestyle and be healthful towards the environment. Case in point, I work in Santa Monica, a city credited for largely supporting environmental design. My electric car charges on a solar-powered parking structure. Awesome…but a tiny house? In the CCC? Absolutely not going to happen. Even off-grid? yup. We love rich eccentricity and environmentalism, but poor solutions? Just ask the guy who invented tiny houses for San Francisco for the homeless…

        • Aloha Nick, I agree with you. The norm in society is to conform at any cost rather than think critically and be independent. It’s a strange situation when half of society complains about poor people being lazy and dependent upon the government, and then when those low-income folks innovate and create a low-cost alternative to the traditional ways corporations siphon wealth away from the commoners, then suddenly those non-conformists are extremists and a threat to the status quo. It’s a real problem because most all regulations and laws funnel people into conformity and away from practicality, creativity, innovation and efficiency. Fortunately, many people do get it, and the tiny house movement is growing!

  16. Mahalo Erik and ‘Sam’ for navigating the tricky Maui County codes. I have been following the tiny house movement for the past year and dream of having my own little tiny slice of heaven on wheels here on Maui.

    Keep me informed of a possible community. I’m all in!

    • Aloha Patty and thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’ll will definitely keep you informed! Mahalo

  17. Read this from a link to a link to a link. Fantastic idea, but I wonder: Where to dump all the waste or properly channel power to it? At it’s core it isn’t that far removed from a typical camping trailer (though much, much nicer looking). Having mulled over the possibilities of mobile living in Hawaii before, the problem of dealing with the waste water especially is the one issue I’ve never been able to reconcile.

      • Aloha Erik,

        I’m on the Big Island and I have also been looking into Tiny Homes. I have had several meetings with both our Planning Dept and Public Works. With all the various codes, I’m not very encouraged about bringing Mobile Cabins to the Big Island. I really like your idea of registering it as a House Trailer with the DMV. But, I’m being told the waste is still a major issue because there is no legal dumping of human waste on this island. So, I would think health violations would eventually be a problem, as well as the DMV having issues with a toileted trailer with no legal means of waste disposal. Also, most interested Tiny Home buyers actually would prefer to be hooked up to electricity. Is that possible? I’ve spoken with HELCO and they say no. They will not energize anything that doesn’t have a permit. I’ve also heard from inspectors that a House Trailer would be in violation because it’s built with non-pressure treated wood which is not legal in this state. Another issue is the state requirement for solar heated water which won’t allow for traditional electric heaters. These pre-fab tiny homes come with either no water heater or an electric one. And finally, do you have personal experience with registering a Tiny Home House Trailer with the Maui DMV? Have you actually seen a unit inspected for brake lights, weight limits, safety stickers? Do you personally know of any of these which have been fully approved and registered by the DMV?

        Mahalo for you valuable feedback. It’s much appreciated.

        Jim in Hilo

        • First, these are brand new, so we’re breaking new ground. There is no history to go by. So no, I have not yet actually registered a trailer on Maui, nobody has. We’re building one now–soon to be tried. But we’re not telling the DMV what it’s for, just that it is a trailer that’s going to hold 10,000 lbs.

          Second, why talk with planning and public works at all? You do not need approval from them to build and live in a tiny house, with solar and a composting toilet.

          Hooking up to electric. If you are going to hook up to electric service, you might as well get a permit and build a full-size house because the red tape is going to be the same. Tiny Houses are best off grid.

          Inspecting the trailer is done before building the house. The trailer is what is being registered, not the house. So they don’t inspect the wood.

          Water heating can easily be done with instant heat propane systems:

          Human waste is the combination of solid waste and urine. That’s not nearly as toxic and some fear. If separated, each substance can be handled differently, and actually benefit the soil and plant life wherever it is properly distributed.

          A composting toilet is the Cadillac of waterless toilets. It is the very best solution but it is expensive and requires ongoing supplies.


          Composting toilets are a mature technology and work very well.
          If it is installed properly, it will not have any smell.
          Although it requires water, it requires very little water so it can be used in all but the most extreme circumstances.


          They are quite costly to purchase
          They require that you have a supply of bulking agents to add to it periodically. Bulking agents include things like peat moss or sawdust. A large supply can be bought at a reasonable cost and stored for future use. So this is not a big con as you would probably have laid in a supply of these materials if you made this waterless toilet choice anyways.

          This is the preferred method for Tiny Houses for many reasons.

          Here’s the strait poop, on well, poop :)

          More on the science:

          Not that this matters, but here are some links to the legality of composting toilets in regular houses in Hawaii:


          One of my favorites — http://natureshead.net/land

          Anyway, I hope that answers your questions? Remember that any time you talk to any agency of the government they are going to try to force a square peg into a round hole and make you pay for the trouble. So interact with them as little as possible, and be wonderful neighbors in your neighborhood :)

          Aloha and Mahalo

          • (Jim Wrote) Erik, thanks so much for your detailed response. I’m pretty serious about bringing Tiny Houses to the Big Island, so I’ve done quite a lot of research. I have also built many cottages on Kauai (over 600sq ft) which were off the grid and used composting toilets. If you would be so kind, I have a few more questions/concerns about the mobile tiny houses:

            (Erik Wrote) First, these are brand new, so we’re breaking new ground. There is no history to go by. So no, I have not yet actually registered a trailer on Maui, nobody has. We’re building one now–soon to be tried. But we’re not telling the DMV what it’s for, just that it is a trailer that’s going to hold 10,000 lbs.

            (Jim Wrote) Oh, I see. I assumed they needed to know what would be hauled on the trailer. Now I understand that you will be registering the trailer alone and then adding the tiny house afterward. I’m very curious if that will work in the long run. What would happen if the dwelling that’s on top of the trailer was brought to the attention of Public Works (a neighbor reporting it, for example). The trailer would be okay, but I wonder what the inspectors who are responsible for public safety would do. It’s an unpermitted dwelling sitting on a trailer. Just because the trailer is permitted, doesn’t mean the dwelling on top is up to code or legal.

            (Erik Wrote) Second, why talk with planning and public works at all? You do not need approval from them to build and live in a tiny house, with solar and a composting toilet.

            (Jim Wrote) I don’t understand how you can say this. The code clearly states that any dwelling requires inspections and permits. And, since we’re talking about mobile units which are under 220 square feet, you yourself said they wouldn’t ever grant a permit. Off grid or not, public works has jurisdiction over the building of any structure (of any size) which will be lived in.

            (Erik Wrote) Inspecting the trailer is done before building the house. The trailer is what is being registered, not the house. So they don’t inspect the wood.

            (Jim Wrote) But in your blog, you say it’s all legal because it’s registered with DMV as a house trailer. If you are presenting only the trailer to DMV, the registration certificate would not say “house trailer”. It would simply state “trailer”. If you were ever challenged, the DMV would claim that the building on top was not disclosed or inspected and therefore not a legal “house trailer”. One of the links I found on your site actually says there isn’t a single legal mobile Tiny House in the United States right now. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge about this. There’s got to be a way because it’s actually too large a financial investment for it to be in violation and to someday be forced to be disassembled

          • Aloha Jim,

            1) Everything on the trailer is under the jurisdiction of the department of motor vehicles, not the public works. If the public works in your area is meddling in the affairs of the DMV, I suggest you file a complaint about their misuse of taxpayer money (being humorous here). Public works and planning are concerned with structures attached to the ground, and anything on a trailer is the DMV. So any a-hole neighbors can call the inspectors, but the inspectors should stick with their own jurisdiction.

            2) The IBC only covers permanent and temporary structures built upon the property outlined in the building permit/plan. Therefore, I can easily say that the no permit is required, no need to inform or submit plans, etc. A good example would be that if you buy an RV, are you going to submit an electrical plan and floor plan to the permits department before you park it in the driveway? I think not. In this manner Tiny Houses are the same as RV’s.
            Public Works does NOT have jurisdiction over automobiles, boats, RV’s, Tiny Houses, canoes, kayaks, vans, buses, airplanes, golf carts, dune buggies, hammocks, wheelbarrows, etc.

            3) The DMV does not inspect the “House” part of the trailer, only the trailer part. They don’t have wood experts, and they don’t need to check to make sure the tiny house has 36 inches of space in front of the loo. They are only checking to make sure the trailer is made to transport 10,000 lbs or so of weight safely. It’s not as complicated as you might want it to be.

            In general I get the feeling like you’re trying to make a case against Tiny Houses. I understand some might disagree with the movement, but I’m not going to allow Hawaii to put restraints on this movement. And if the government really wants things as complicated as you seem to think they are, then perhaps we should all become outlaws and ignore the government after all. There are laws that make everything illegal. But we the people are in charge. Not sure what side of the fence you’re on, but the more obstacles the government puts in the way of the people, the more they become the enemy of the people.

            Good luck with your project :)

      • After surfing the web a bit, I got the impression that grey water systems might be illegal in Maui. Also, I got the impression that in Hawaii in general, one needs to get a permit for one. I sure hope I’m wrong. What’s you take on this?

  18. When I worked with community programs in Maui, I met people living in children’s tree houses, one bedroom tiny homes, and their vans. They were hard-working, honest members of society, some were displaced due to cutbacks, some like saving money, some were just trying to be earth friendly. They were extremely organized and spend most of their time doing other things like gardening, sports, and volunteering. On the other hand, I met those who struggled to maintain their homes due to mold, termites, water damage, deterioration, and elevating property taxes (all that money spent on a house and it will never be truly yours if you owe these). After these observations I became tired of my own home maintenance and fascinated with compact living. It makes eco- sense (economical and ecologically). Great informative article.

    • Aloha and Mahalo Victoria for your comments! I agree and hope that the naysayers in our community will mind their own business and let those that want to live their lives with less, smaller dwellings and compact lifestyles do so without problems and complaints. I believe “we in the Tiny Community” will do our level-best to be great neighbors and respect the community and improve society as a whole. Let’s hope we can all just get along and live well in Aloha.

  19. good article Erik. did you come across any info on Honolulu county during your research?

    • Aloha Alex, no I did not. There is always the concern of city government getting in the way. Sometimes CC&R’s can be troublesome as well.

      Email if you need some help.

  20. To the would-be “off gridders” who are thinking about compliance with your local codes, etc. How about just not?

    I can appreciate the poster’s attempts at staying within the law. But I think that it’s time for some good old fashioned civil disobedience here, because what we’re really dealing with is an overly-oppressive government. Civil disobedience is acceptable when there is oppression like this.

    Regulation now exists at way too many levels (city, county, state, and federal), and the restrictions, codes, fees, fines, and compliance costs are excessively burdensome on people who are just trying to live. The complexity at every level makes it an exhausting process for a human being to try to fight directly (try it and watch how fast you deplete your financial and emotional reserves).

    Though your heart is in the right place by attempting to comply with all of these codes, laws, and rules, you also have another option: disobedience.

    By complying to all this regulation you are essentially giving up your rights and subjecting yourself to their authority, instead of affirming what you know to be true in your heart: that they are in the wrong and thus have no authority (symbolically at least). By framing your situation in the context of their corrupt and inefficient legal system you make yourself a part of it and welcome them to dictate your life.

    So just be disobedient. Don’t register your tiny home with them. Don’t broadcast your activities. Limit the contact you have with these officials. Pay your taxes on time, be friendly to the neighbors, and shut the F up (excuse the language).

    Place your tiny home in a concealed spot on your land so that it’s not visible from the road, or plant some fast growing privacy shrubs to conceal yourself. If you are inspected and asked whether you are residing in the tiny house say no. Get creative with your story. Here are a few stories:

    – I “live” somewhere else. Just hang out here sometimes.
    – I build these and am working on the unit for a customer.
    – I’m fixing the unit for someone.
    – I’m using this land to grow crops. This is my office.

    Just never admit that you live/reside there because thats putting you into their jurisdiction. Don’t register it as an RV either. Why the hell pay for their bulls**t insurance and plates and taxes and all that other hell if what you want is to live simply and cut costs? Detach yourself from their corrupt money systems in all ways you’re able.

    Also, do yourself a big favor and stop letting your mind trick you into feeling “guilty” about deceiving deceivers. Our country has such a high moral facade but let’s not forget that they deceived the indians and stole all their land not too long ago. See past all of the fluff. Even today, Government and all of its immensely complex arms routinely confuse and deceive wherever appropriate to achieve their agendas while maintaining this false mask that it is somehow just. In other words, the gov lies all the time, so don’t you feel bad about lying to them.

    If they tell you to move your tiny house, just move it to a more concealed spot on your land, or park it somewhere else for a few days. Seriously invest in means (fences, shrubs) to keep people from wandering onto your land or from being able to see what you’re doing from the street. This will go a long way.

    This layering of property regulation at the city, county, and state levels needs to be outlawed at the federal level. It’s a sadistic system that only hurts the people who are most vulnerable (us). It uses financial weaponry (fees, fines, forms) to target, weaken, and destroy those of us who have no money to begin with — often making us weary and destitute after jumping through all of these hoops, for the measly privilege of existing in this system that THEY have intentionally corrupted beyond repair.

    They want you to be dependent on their system and to suckle at their teat for all your needs. So don’t comply, don’t register, don’t sign up. (If you’re able)

    I love this burgeoning tiny-house, off-grid community. It’s the beginning of something truly great that will take this country, and the WORLD by storm in the coming years. Until it does, keep spreading the word to other people, keep your mouth SHUT to your local gov, stay friendly with the neighbors, and continue to live simple and free!

    • I hear you. A lot of people might find your comments upsetting, but I do not. I totally understand where you are coming from. The forces that oppress our innovative efforts to live affordably are unnecessary for certain. Most of the regulations are designed, not to better a community or protect the environment, but to generate tax revenue and revenue from compliance enforcement.

      However, anyone wishing to at least attempt to conform to the law and live affordably in Tiny Houses is welcome to do so. I suggest it because it will be difficult in the beginning, but hopefully result in less problems down the road.

      Mahalo for taking the time to express your thoughts on this matter! Aloha

    • Why so much emphasis on concealment and making up stories about not living in a tiny house trailer. If it’s registered with the DMV, what can they do? You seem to be suggesting a ton of effort to conceal your house trailer when a quick stop at the DMV to register it would make your whole issue mute.

      • Well said Jim. Sometimes the “powers that be” in a community, can find ways to override permissions from law. For example, a complaining neighbor might make trouble for a tiny house village by calling the police often or causing problems. I don’t blame people for being a little overwhelmed by the red tape and lack of obvious support from county officials. But it’s still a new movement. Some day these will be common.


      • The way I see it — it takes much more effort to ensure compliance than to just keep your mouth shut and stay off the radar.

        There’s also principle. Why should people have to insure their tiny house if they don’t plan on roading it? I don’t have a ton of money (mostly the fault of government) so why spend what little I have left on sh*t I don’t need — simply because there’s a bad law on the books? The bureaucracy and its infinite levels are notorious for bleeding regular folk dry like this. All because of bad laws. Dumb laws. Laws that need to be changed, questioned, checked, and resisted. And they go unchecked because of people who are unwilling, too lazy, or too afraid to consider resisting them. Peaceful resistance has its place people.

        If enough misguided people continue to think like this, simply allowing them to continue to legislate and regulate our lives unquestioned it WILL get worse. It’s a slippery slope into a tangled briar patch of thorns, laws, regulations, and codes galore.

        Bottom line, I don’t AGREE with registering or insuring my tiny home. I don’t recognize the authority of any regulatory body that would force me to have my tiny house registered and ‘insured’ if I don’t intend to have it on the road. I don’t support this irrational craziness. So why act like I do by complying? Stay true to your values.

        Part of it is understanding that the majority of people out there just will not understand that you can and should resist bad laws. And these people will have no qualms about ratting you out in a heartbeat to the local building regulators. So stay smart. Buy land with some good tree/shrub coverage (or plant some coverage) so that your business is not out there for all to see. And just live :)

        • I love your rebel attitude and I totally agree. We need to take back our rights to live how we want to live. We are not harming anyone by doing so.

          That said, I love working the loopholes in a system even more than rebelling. So, I am planning to build and live in an eco-village made up of tiny houses in Hawaii in a “traditional” neighborhood. To keep within the legal loopholes, I’ll call the tiny houses: detached bedrooms. They will stem from a central permitted (legal and hooked-in) structure (big kitchen, living room, laundry room). The village will also share amenities such as gardens, a pool, and workshop spaces.

          The main issue is the zoning laws that state that only 5 unrelated people can live on one lot, so in order to to have a real village we will have to buy a few lots -each having their own kitchen structure and 5 detached bedrooms with their own bathrooms and “wet-bars”. The only other rule I found is that: detached bedrooms need to be within 50ft of the kitchen building, but that’s not a problem -it’s actually a good thing to make the community more cohesive. This idea gives people privacy in their own tiny home while they can partake in the amenities of the common structures with friends. We can also all share ownership (splitting the cost of a home/lot 5 ways), so basically each of us can own a piece of paradise for 1/5 of what it would cost to live in a 5 bedroom house.

          Do you know of any other legal issues that may affect this idea? What do you all think about it?

          It is more sustainable to share and live with less. I am not poor, but I’d rather have a tiny home and land that I share with others, while I spend my money on other more important things than a big status-symbol house.

          • What State are you planning to set up this village?

          • Here in Hawaii, not sure which island. I originally wanted to do this in Puna near the Red Road (where my friends are), but now with the lava situation. I’m not sure that’s the best place -unless we put the detached bedroom cottages on trailers :-)

          • HI, might it be possible for you to email me the location of the code reference you have in your post here, the one dealing with the maximum number of unrelated people on a lot – namely five. I have been combing the codes and can not find that section! I would be so grateful if you happen to remember where you got the info or point me in that same direction. Mahalo!

    • I concur with most of what you say. Too many rules, and regulations have crippled this country. I’m not saying it should be a free for all, but common sense needs to brought back into the picture. What is wrong with living in a Tiny Home on your own property, off the grid enabling ones self to have a sustainable life style. Nothing in my opinion. They are low-impact, environmentally friendly and can be quite charming.

  21. This is more of a small house question. Is it legal on Maui, to build a 200 sq ft. studio on ag. land without a permit (and live in it)?

    • Aloha Karen,
      Building a fixed structure that is attached to the ground means following the International Building Code (IBC), AND zoning requirements.
      Therefore, the answer to your questions is: NO, you may not legally build a 200 sq ft. studio dwelling on Ag land without a permit.
      Zoning: Ag land has a maximum permitted dwelling limit of 2-dwellings per parcel (regardless of acres). A dwelling is legally defined in the IBC as either a standard dwelling of no less than about 440 sq ft., or an “efficiency dwelling” of not less than 220 sq ft. The efficiency is so noted because it has a combination kitchen-living-bedroom space. Both require permits. Both require you to stroll down red-tape road and convince the scarecrow, the lion and the tin man to allow you to continue beyond the emerald city. Remember that they have no heart, no brains and no courage :)

      • If I were not to live in the 200 sq ft studio, would it then be legal without a permit?

        • Nope, you cannot build any structure in any zoning larger than 119 sq ft. without a permit.

          IBC – R105.2 Work exempt from permit.

          Permits shall not be required for the following. Exemption from permit requirements of this code shall not be deemed to grant authorization for any work to be done in any manner in violation of the provisions of this code or any other laws or ordinances of this jurisdiction.


          1. One-story detached accessory structures used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses and similar uses, provided the floor area does not exceed 120 square feet (11.15 m2).

          See – http://publicecodes.cyberregs.com/icod/irc/2006f2/icod_irc_2006f2_1_sec005.htm

          • Thanks for your reply
            How about 190 sq ft on ag. land

          • Nope, you cannot build any structure in any zoning larger than 119 sq ft. without a permit.

          • Maui County Planning Department states
            106.2 Work Exempt from Permit. A building permit shall not be required for the following:
            16. Agricultural buildings less than 200 square feet in floor area.

            Is this something different?

          • The caveat is that you must have a farm or at least Ag land.
            The Ag accessory building must have a purpose OTHER than a dwelling.
            You’re not allowed to live in that structure, so what is the purpose of the 199 sq ft building you want to build on Ag land?

          • So you could have a house trailer and then built some 119 sq ft structures to supplement. For storage, closet space, office for example.

        • As far as my research goes, structures under 200 sq ft do not need permits, at least not in upcountry Maui areas zoned “AG”. In fact, since the passage of Act 203, you can now have a structure up to 1,000 sq ft without a permit as long as it is on at least 2 acres, was built for ag purposes only, and has no wiring or plumbing.

          • Not sure where you see the max 5-people part? I think “Michele Denise” mentioned that.

            Because ACT 203 pertains to “non-residential” structures on Ag land, all “dwellings” of any size that are attached to the ground require a permit anywhere in Maui County. In fact, according to the International Building Code, all dwellings must be at least 220 square feet (called an “efficiency dwelling”), and a traditional dwelling must be no smaller than 400 square feet regardless of zoning. On Ag land the requirements are even more strict. Only two traditional dwellings are allowed on Ag land. All other structures are called “farm accessory buildings” which cannot be used as a dwelling. So yes, you can build structures less than 200 square feet, you just can’t live in them.


  22. Just wondered if you know whether or not cob houses are allowed in Hawaii.

    • If they meet the International Building Code then yes. Otherwise, build it on a trailer :)

  23. It looks like the powers that be on the Big Island have closed the loophole;
    (1) Amending Section 202. Section 202 is amended by adding the following definitions:
    “BUILDING. A building is any structure used or intended for supporting any
    use or occupancy. The term shall include but not be limited to any structure
    mounted on wheels such as a trailer, wagon or vehicle which is parked and
    stationary for any 24-hour period, and is used for business or living purposes…”

      • So does this mean, it needs to be to code like an on the ground dwelling?

        • Nope. Has to be on wheels and registered with the DMV :)

  24. Good day! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could get a captcha plugin for my comment
    form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and
    I’m having trouble finding one? Thanks a lot!

  25. Hi Erik
    I see a lot of discussion about the outer islands. What about Oahu? Are the rules more strict here on Oahu? I would like to buy an ag 2 lot and park “house trailer (s).”
    Maybe building a regular house with bathrooms available for the trailer house. Off grid electricity and propane stove.
    There is a stream running through the land. Do you know of any setbacks for streams?

    Thank you

    • Aloha Tracy,
      Every “county” is going to have their own quirks to deal with. Maui County is friendly, but Big Island isn’t so friendly. Not so sure about Oahu. Legally, you can do Tiny Houses anywhere on Private Property without a permit so long as you do not connect to electricity, water, sewer, etc. But you must have the trailer legally registered at the DMV as a “house trailer”.

      As far as streams, I have no idea. not sure why that would be a concern. Good luck!

      • Plan on retiring to Maui, please let me know if there are opportunities for employment with Tiny House movement and/or houses available for purchase.
        Mahalo. j.

        • At this time there are no Tiny House related jobs here on Maui. Maybe at some point in the future… There are also no tiny houses available for sale either. Not yet anyway. Aloha

  26. The Wife and I just bought in HPP;;;;When we finally arrive, I know we will be going into battle with the county/state that are determined to get their cut of money;;; my thoughts are get surveyed, then get exavated (only enough for a cesspool, water catch and pad) we want the land as untouched as possible;;;then at which point we were thinking container home;;;;(I like to follow Paul Chambers as he shows step by step assembly methods);;;I’m counting on having help from a couple locals who are registered/licensed;;;and building some of it myself based on their guidance and ties to local inspectors;;of course it will be small;;;maybe 3 8by20 high cubes on a slab with solar;;;we dont need no stinking helco!

    • Not sure what you’re building or where, but if you’re building in Hawaii, and you’re building Tiny Houses on private property, 1) you will not need to excavate, nor install a cesspool or pad, you can go offgrid and then no need for a permit or inspections.

  27. Aloha! Thank you for this post, love it! My husband and I just relocated to Maui from Oahu for his job, with dream of owning property some day. After only 6 months our landlord sold the condo ( common in maui ) and he was laid off weeks later. Since jobs are scarce and housing is difficult to find just before Christmas, we are headed back to Oahu. We are still in hopes of making a permanant life in a tiny home of our own on Oahu or Maui someday. Because we are 30 something and nowhere near millionaires, we are at a loss to see how we could make this a possibility. Perhaps we may discover someone willing to lease land to us while we save for future property. I would definately like to stay in touch to see what you dig up in regards to an eco community / property. Thanks again for the post looking forward to more.

    • Aloha Chelsea,
      Sorry to hear about the hard times. In this false economy it’s difficult to survive, especially in Hawaii. I wish you both a lot of luck! Please keep in touch. I’ve hoping 2015 will be the year “Project Eden” begins… Mahalo

  28. Hi Erik,

    I started researching the possibility of shipping a tiny home to Hawaii, spoke
    to Tumbleweed, some realtors, etc. And, am so grateful to have found all the answers in your research articles online, Thank you!

    I will be moving to Hawaii within the year and have come to the conclusion that
    purchasing a tiny piece of land and shipping a tiny home there was the way for me for all the reasons you and others have noted.

    I googled this without success and am not on facebook so, may have missed the answer to this question for that reason. But, I did see you mentioned the possibility of a a tiny house community on Maui and will be grateful if you can let me know if there is one there and or on Oahu? And if so, how do people find information on them?

    Many thanks again Erik! Aloha, Tina

    • Aloha Christina,

      Currently there are several people interested in a Tiny House Community on Maui, however, no tiny houses are being built yet. The issue is trailers ($$$) and land ($$$$$). I am meeting with several land owners and trailer builders in the coming months to remedy this situation. I already have some offers for land that I have not had the time to check out.

      I will be notifying everyone on this website and on the Tiny House Hawaii Facebook page when land is available. Contact me when you are closer to selecting an island, and before you decide to buy land, so maybe I can provide valuable insight.

      As far as the other islands, there are NO official tiny house communities that I know of.

      I wish you the best of luck on your tiny house adventure!!

  29. Aloha Erik,
    I’ve always wanted to return to Hawaii, having lived on Maui in the 70’s. I have been thinking
    of buying property and putting a Tiny Home on it as a great idea to limit expenses, promote sustainable living and being environmentally friendly. It was a boon to find your site and many kudos for doing so much work! From what I’ve read on here and from some of the comments made, it looks like there is a ways to go yet. My experience living there was that money rules. If they can figure out a way to make enough money off of it, (the Tiny Homes) without too many objections from those that rule the roost then maybe it will happen. I certainly hope so, it would be a benefit to the islands. I will stay in tune to see what happens next! Janie

  30. Kamakea, my 7 year old son (who is part Hawaiian ) lives in Oahu. I live in Los Angeles and can’t stand to be apart from him.

    I see the tiny house movement as a viable alternative for me to be close to Kamakea. *On a side note, his mom does her best to alienate me from him. I’m a good guy and want to be a good father to my son and not just a sperm donor!

    Living in a tiny house in Oahu, in a eco-friendly community, similar to the one Eric speaks about in Maui; is the most viable alternative I see for me to be able to be close to my young son and be an active and participating father to him!

    I would be interested in building a tiny house community in Oahu, along with other conscious individuals wishing to do the same!

    Respect for the land and for the people of Hawaii is a must priority for me!

    Both Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians could benefit from the possibility of living in tiny houses. Let’s all help make this movement a reality!

    I thank Eric and “Sam” for all the research and work they have already put into this very conscious: social political and economic movement!

    Eric ( or anyone) I would love to hear more about making the tiny house movement a reality in Hawaii!

    “Power to the people”, always!

    • Agreed. I hope you can find a group of Tiny House minded folks on Oahu that can combined resources and create a tiny house ecovillage there. I’d be willing to support that cause, and I will even try to go visit (when I can afford it).

      Keep up the hope and keep working towards you goals!

  31. I would LOVE to live in a tiny house on Maui! I’m ready to retire so I don’t want to incur any huge debts but visit Hawaii frequently and love it. I’d be happy with Hawaii, Oahu or Maui.
    If you can get a community going, I would love to join.

  32. Erik,

    I’m very interested in tiny houses.
    I’ve been in construction for 15 years. Can I buy land in Oahu and make my own vacation Tiny House Park and set it up on VRBO?

    • Aloha Christian,

      You can buy land, and build tiny houses, but renting them out like vacation condos might be prohibited. I recommend you look into the laws pertaining to renting short term rentals before you decide to invest in the idea. However, you can buy the land, and rent parking areas for each and let people park their own tiny houses there. Higher space rental for amenities like water, electricity, etc.

  33. I’m moving back to Big Island and will likely build a Tiny House Trailer. I have 28 acres and even plenty of good spots hidden away. However, I do believe that a trailer needs an annual safety inspection and that means towing it down to your nearest inspection station. That could be an obvious problem.

    However, I’ve had fully illegal permitted dwelling for years and no one has ever bothered me out here in the sticks. “Live and let live” is the unofficial rule. Respect your neighbors and they respect you. The County only responds to violations if someone complains.

    However, when it comes to being sued by tenants in an illegal living situation you better not risk it. Not worth the hassle, rent out your Tiny House Trailers instead.

    Also you may want to look into having a “camp ground” on AG land. I think Tiny House Trailers registered with DMV would be fine.

    Thanks for this great article.

  34. Very helpful info. thanks! I’m looking at buying land and doing the tiny house thing while I save up and then build a smaller cottage. Maybe people would be willing to help out/pay a small land use and have there tiny house there as well. I’ll monitor the f-book page from now on but you should send me an email, I’m pretty darn serious about this.

      • Thanks, I think I did sign up. It’s great to maintain community in the islands, so important.

        Right now I live in Napa california, home of rich foods and wine mania, but not much community. I’ve lived in Hawaii off and on throughout my life. Driving 80 mph in a sea of smart phone traffic urban tangle it eventually wears on me while the competing energy of everyone mixed together gets tiresome. Plus, there is so much geo-engineering happening here I need to leave just for my health.

        I think as I get older I just don’t care for it anymore. Lot’s of stuff is great to have access to on the mainland, but I don’t own or buy much ironically. It is cheaper here, but at what cost to your spirit? To your lungs? To your energy body? EMF pollution? so crazy here. I have a EMF meter and it goes off all the time as I drive anywhere. I have created a EMF free home and I swear I can relax more here and feel better. Everyone who visits feels the same. I do live in a healthy tall deep forest, at great pocket expense no doubt.

        Thanks for keeping you cool blog up. It’s so much better than facebook or similar, real content here.


  35. So from your article is the Tiny house movement blocked on the Big Island…. Even if I own 2 acres?

    • technically speaking, yes. It seems that you either apply for permits and hope for the best, or you just do it and hope they ignore you.

      I recommend talking to the Mayor who I think can help get that law changed.

    • I don’t think so. Put it on a trailer that can move. Technically it needs to “move” every 24 hours, but who’s watching? You can permit a septic system and catchment tank if you want to go that far. You can build possibly a 1000sqft building without permits, legally, if you don’t have electrical and plumbing. You can park next to a covered lani you can walk out on to from your tiny house trailer. Have an outdoor shower and tub next to it and a car port near by. I think you would be legal enough and in a much better position than 40% of the homes out there that are not permitted anyway. Plus, you can sell you house if needed with ease! The county is not going to bust you for any set up unless you get complaints from neighbors. Just drive around puna area and you’ll see!

  36. Erik, thank you for sharing all this great info. I’m sure some will not want tiny houses on the islands, but a lot of homes already have ohana’s – it’s the same thing, just smaller! The islands are part of America and we all have the right to live there – not just the rich, or native Hawaiian’s. These little houses are the answer to affordable housing for a lot of hard working American’s. I’m trying to move to Maui, but houses are 3X what they are here in California. If I can find an affordable house on 2 acres, I might add one or two tiny ‘trailers’ for guests! So your information is very helpful and appreciated!

    • I wish you the best when achieving those goals!! Aloha

  37. Erik, great blog and information. Any updates on flat bed trailers in Hawaii?
    I am working on building a Tiny House on Oahu and have the land and now working on the flat bed trailer that is specifically built for Tiny Homes that is about 28 feet.
    I can order one from companies in the mainland that build specific trailers for Tiny Homes but I am looking at about 60 days to ship to Hawaii and a huge cost. I thought to look for used trailers and contacting rental companies like U-Haul and Penske and they do not sell their trailers. I contacted a metal/fabricator to build one from scratch and that would be more expensive then ordering from the mainland for over $6,000.00+. Any suggestions?

    • Aloha Lori,

      As I mentioned, trailer availability is a big issue here int eh islands. I don’t have a solid source, but watch your email for a message from me soon… Mahalo

  38. Hi Erik! Thanks for all the info on this for Hawaii – I’m trying to stay here for as long as possible and was running out of affordable options besides shared housing!! I’m moving from the big island to Kaua’i this September and need some info on that. I saw that Home Depot has affordable sheds and wondered if you could somehow attach one to a trailer bed?? Then there’s the question of where to legally and semi-permanently park them in Kauai. I only have between $6-9,000 for EVERYTHING needed: composting toilet, rainwater catchment system, propane stove or cook top, mini fridge, generator or passive solar system, etc. Any and all info is greatly appreciated!!
    Mahalo nui loa~

    • Aloha Amy,

      Wish you lots of luck! You can do it! Every Hawaii County is different in how they might handle “alternative living arrangements”. So it’s best to make a local contact, somebody in planning or in county council perhaps. Then find out specifics. Finding private property to “park” your tiny house on is the first critical step. The second is finding a trailer. Wish you happiness..

      • Hi again Erik! Just read an awesome blog; CosmoCamper and she mentions how many tiny house ideas/plans are still wayyyyyy too spendy, like $20-60,000 or more! She was a poor college student and found that an old trailer was far more sufficient and sustainable (you already have a shell and trailer or base!) Another blog PetitMaison (13 year old girl!!) said that trying to find parts to the used trailer added up to $2,000 and that it’s better to buy a new one but those run around $6,000. If a person can get free or cheap materials AND afford a new or gently used trailer that is the only way the average joe can afford one of these babies otherwise, a cool retro camper is the perfect canvas to remodel and revamp into your own tiny mansion on wheels! That’s my 2 cents anyhoo- :)

  39. Hey Erik,

    When do you think you’ll have this tiny home up and ready to live in on Maui? Tiny home eco-living sounds totally amazing and I’m totally on-board and currently working on concepts to designing my own modular tiny home to be placed on the island. Would love your input on where and cost of parking/purchasing small parcel of land in Maui. Thanks!

    • Aloha Lisa,

      Sadly the cost of materials is expensive. Anything that needs to be shipped is 2-3 times more expensive then on the mainland.
      Trailers are scarce and very expensive here in Hawaii. Thus, this whole endeavor is very slow going because the folks that want tiny houses can’t afford to go fast.


  40. If anyone knows of anyone in Kauai where we can put our tiny house trailer , I would be interested in paying a reasonable rent fee.there would be no need for electric hookups or plumbing. my husband and I have been doing this for years .

  41. Thanks for all the great info! I’ve been looking into Tiny Homes for a few years now and really want to get serious about it now. I’m just curious because you talk mostly about Maui, Big Island, etc….what about Oahu. I’m guessing there’s more red tape to go through here. And I’m curious….if there’s any contractors here on Oahu who have built any tiny homes or perhaps started a company solely for this type of living.

    Thanks in advance,

  42. I was wondering how you have not gotten nailed by Chapter 5 of the Hawaii Code:
    under the definitions of article 3 section 5-71

    Section 5-71. Amendments to adopted International Building Code.
    The International Building Code, 2006 Edition, adopted and incorporated by reference into this code as
    provided in section 5-3 of this chapter, shall be subject to the amendments hereinafter set forth.
    (1) Amending Section 202. Section 202 is amended by adding the following definitions:
    “BUILDING. A building is any structure used or intended for supporting any
    use or occupancy. The term shall include but not be limited to any structure
    mounted on wheels such as a trailer, wagon or vehicle which is parked and
    stationary for any 24-hour period, and is used for business or living purposes;

    • Aloha Michael,

      Section 5-71 only applies to Hawaii County, not the rest of the islands of Hawaii. Sadly, Hawaii County is behind the times. We hope to change that section and the other sections that restrict tiny houses on the Island of Hawaii. (code: http://www.hawaiicounty.gov/pw-new-bldg-code#71)

      A fan made this revelation back in 2014 with this:

      Hawaii County Code Section 25-4-10. Mobile dwellings.
      All mobile dwellings shall conform to the County building code (chapter 5 of this Code), and the Public
      Health Housing Code (chapter 2 of the State public health regulations), except:
      (1) When parked in a licensed mobile home park; or
      (2) When occupied for dwelling or sleeping purposes outside of a licensed mobile home park for less
      than thirty days in any one location.
      (1996, Ord. No. 96-160, sec. 2; ratified April 6, 1999.)25-4-10

      We are creating the Tiny House Association of Hawaii soon which will help advocate for tiny house legislation and protections.

      Mahalo for your input.



  1. Free Swag and Nine Other Reasons I attended WordCamp Maui | Island Gypsy Hawaii - […] Hang out with Erik Blair. Need I say more? Also, he is helping bring the Tiny House movement to …

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Pin It on Pinterest