In the previous post about living off the grid, Hawaiian Style, I mentioned the possibility of buying a piece of land here in Hawaii and building a small house for less than the cost of new vehicle. Would you like to see an example?
Say hello to Kristie Wolfe. Kristie has made a nice little career out of being a minimalist and building her own versions of tiny houses. You can see all her creations on her website in the link but the one which has garnered a lot of attention, and inspired this series of posts is the tiny little cabin she has built on the Big Island. It ain’t much, very minimal, but it has a lot of interesting aspects about it, especially the cost. Rather than get into details, it’s more better if you just watch the video. It’s about 24 minutes and pretty interesting. Have a look:
Kristie’s little cabin is a prime example of what one can do on a limited budget with some basic building skills and a minimalist mindset. Go back and watch the video again a few times and look closely at some of the unique things she did. Sticking a sink over the toilet bowl so when said bowl flushes, the water runs through the sink, enabling one to clean up and fill the tank at the same time is a prime example of minimalizing and making full use of limited water supplies. She makes good use out of the small amount of space she has and utilizes solar, and propane for all her energy needs. It’s just a cool little place out in the jungle.
From what I have found in my research there are many similar builds like Kristie has, though she has garnered a lot of fame due to the low expense of her cabin. It helped in she did the construction herself, with her Mom’s help, and she didn’t have to deal with any government interference. But this brings up some serious questions.
Kristie mentioned in the video her cabin was a non permitted building. When she dealt with any supplier, the first thing they asked is if it was permitted or non permitted. I am still researching the legalities of what can and cannot be built on the island but it bears some importance for anyone considering building or bringing in a tiny house of some sort. Here is what I have learned so far and remember, this information is to help point anyone interested in the right direction, it’s not accurate legal advice, so don’t quote me on any of this as it could and probably will change at any time. Do your own research.
If you are going to build or place some sort of structure on your property, and you do not tie into any utilities, meaning the power grid, water supply, or sewer system, you are building a non permitted building and may not be subject to restrictions as opposed to tying into said grid. Keep in mind, if said utilities are available in your neighborhood, you may be required, like it or not to tie in. The big utilities don’t like individuals who think they have the right to produce their own power or glean water from the sky. They spent big money to build the infrastructure and dammit you’ll tie in and pay to use it no matter what. But for something like what Kristie built, which is out in the lava fields and tropical jungles of the Big Island, no such utilities exist out there, yet. So, generating your own power, using the rainfall for water, and properly disposing of your own waste is a necessity.
Keep in mind too, I mentioned in a previous post, if you place a tiny house on a street legal trailer and license it, then it is subject to the same laws as a rv. If you are not on a trailer and the house is going to be lived in, you may be subject to minimum square footage and a lot of other rules. It’s a big and important difference and while creating a lot of grey area, seems to allow setting up a tiny house without too much hassle. A good source of more better information can be found about this at the Erik Everywhere blog. He went to a lot of trouble to research how much trouble the government will cause when you attempt to live off grid in a tiny house. And as he says, don’t take this information as law, do your own due diligence before you start spending money. Remember, you will be going up against government at the federal, state, county, and sometimes local level. You may be dealing with corporate warlords who bend and shape the law to their own benefit. And worst of all, you may be dealing with the bottom feeders, a Home Owners Association, or those who rule without logic, common sense, nor decency.
Before you build or roll anything onto your land, and even before you purchase said land, talk to anyone and everyone involved and find out what can and cannot be done. The real estate agent may be a good place to start but be aware said agent is intent only on selling the property. They will not have your best interests in mind. If there is a HOA, be up front about what you want to do. Get a copy of the rules and regulations regarding what is and is not permitted. If they seem to be unwilling to allow what you want, move on. Talk to any potential neighbors or others in the area who have built something similar to what you have in mind. What did they have to deal with? Are they having any difficulties or getting hassled by any government agency? If you are going to buy from a tiny house builder or supplier, ask them questions. Again, they are only interested in selling their wares but the good ones will be up front about any possible issues. And finally, talk to the government, go drink heavily first because it will numb the pain, but talk to them. Find out what the government may or may not require. The one thing you don’t want is to buy some land, set up your little treehouse in the jungle and the day after you move in, get an eviction notice or order to tear down by somebody. It could happen so beware. Again, do your research thoroughly.
I know back in Florida, tiny houses and off the grid living is very limited or even prohibited. Unless there are some back country properties in the north part of the state, about the only place one can place a tiny house is in a rv park, and even then, you’ll be using their utilities.
About the closest thing to living off the grid in Florida is living on a boat, and living on a boat is slowly being squeezed out as developers take advantage of a friendly state government to continue to over build in the state. The funny thing is, as the oceans rise, and more of Florida goes under water, and yes, it is happening, about the only way one will be able to live in Florida will be on a boat.
Here in Hawaii, I get a different vibe from the government. Everyone here is very mindful of the environment and how fragile it is. Developers don’t seem to have the government in their pockets the way Florida does. Perhaps tiny houses and off grid living will be considered as the state moves forward in addressing affordable housing in the islands. Or not. Given the way the new Federal government is heading, now directly run by billionaires and corporate warlords who will use the power of said government to line their own pockets, we may all be forced to live on the grid, no matter what.
But, if you are able to overcome the legalities of living off the grid, and are able to find suitable land, build or bring in a tiny home, the cost savings are incredible, and with a minimalist attitude, you can live more better without spending so much money be it here in Hawaii or just about anywhere else where land is available.
In the next post, some more cool tiny house ideas and resources.