Tiny home owners crying out for change to 'perverse' building rules

A Canterbury mother-of-two who opted to live in a house bus to make ends meet has appealed to the Government to introduce "common sense" legislation for tiny home owners.

Charlotte Murray chose the alternative lifestyle two-and-a-half years ago for her and children Evan, 12, and Tessa, 9, in Leeston, about 30 kilometres southwest of Christchurch, after struggling to maintain a mortgage.

She has since been visited twice by the Selwyn District Council and now fears being evicted.

"The first ... [visit was] because of a complaint about the fence on the property I am on. Then they asked me if I lived full-time here and in the bus. I said 'yes' and they said I'm [in] a building then."

A few months later, following another complaint from a neighbour, another council staff member visited and asked the same questions.

She agreed she was living in the bus, but said it had a certificate of fitness and she took it off site every fortnight to dump the tanks or go on holiday, something that could not be done with a building.

Murray and her children moved in to the bus two-and-a-half years ago as it was more affordable than traditional housing.
SUPPLIED
Murray and her children moved in to the bus two-and-a-half years ago as it was more affordable than traditional housing.

"My son's school is only 50 metres away. My daughter's school is around 800m away. I'm part of a community and leaving here would cause me much stress and uproot my kids," she said.

"Why are councils pushing so hard? Shouldn't I get the choice to live a life that is within my means, if it's not affecting anyone, and safe and sanitary?

"You can argue the legal side to death but what about common sense?"

Murray was one of several people from the tiny homes movement to meet with Green Party building spokesman Gareth Hughes this week at the show village of Eco Cottages owner Colin Wightman in North Canterbury.

Hughes heard from tiny home owners and fabricators, and council representatives from Waimakariri and Selwyn, who expressed confusion over the legalities of tiny homes.

Wightman said a recent string of determinations by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), upholding local councils' views that tiny homes are buildings, had compounded the issue and left innovative Kiwis fighting for their futures.

He maintained a vehicle did not come within the jurisdiction of the Building Act unless it was both immoveable and permanently occupied.

"Until recent months, MBIE and the courts upheld people's rights to live in mobilised accommodation units as long as they were on wheels with the ability to be towed and or moved," he said.

"We now have three cases before the courts."

Read the full article on stuff.co.nz here



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