The tiny home movement is sweeping the U.S. Tiny home living continues to rise in popularity because it helps people spend less. However, the best combination for saving money is moving into a tiny home in a state with a low cost of living.
This brings us to Nebraska. The overall cost of living in Nebraska is well below the national average. So the midwestern state is one of the most affordable places to live in the United States. For this reason, many tiny house enthusiasts who want to go tiny are considering Nebraska.
Since tiny homes are not legal in many places, the question is whether Nebraska is a tiny house friendly state. Are tiny homes legal in Nebraska? What are the “tiny house regulations” in Nebraska?
Nebraska is tiny house friendly. There are no state-wide laws regarding tiny houses, so the regulations vary from one location to the other.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about building and living in tiny homes in Nebraska. Thinking of owning a tiny house in Nebraska? Then you need to read this guide first!
Tiny houses are legal in most places in Nebraska. However, like all other houses, tiny homes in Nebraska are subject to the zoning requirements of local jurisdictions.
Nebraska does not have specific guidelines for site-built tiny homes. But it has specific guidelines for tiny homes built off site. To be legal in Nebraska, off site tiny homes must have an appropriate State or Federal label affixed to them. This label attests to compliance with the relevant building codes.
Nebraska has an official document describing the types of tiny houses it recognizes. The types of tiny houses recognized by Nebraska are:
These are tiny homes built following the rules and regulations of the HUD’s Federal Manufactured Home Act. This is the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Federal Manufactured Home Act.
These tiny homes must pass a HUD inspection and be issued a HUD manufactured home label.
Modular units are tiny homes built following applicable codes. These include International Residential Code (IRC) and National Electrical Code adopted by Nebraska. Modular housing units built following these codes must pass relevant inspection. Such homes passing inspection will be issued the Nebraska Modular Housing Unit label.
These are tiny homes built following one of two standards. The first is the Park Model Recreational Vehicle Standard. The other is the National Fire Protection Association Standard on Recreational Vehicles. These tiny homes must pass relevant inspection. Such homes passing inspection are issued the Nebraska Recreational Vehicle label.
The first step for a prospective owner of a tiny house in Nebraska is to check with the local jurisdiction. The zoning laws vary widely by jurisdiction.
Some of the things regulated by local zoning laws are land use, location, and building size. Thus, while tiny homes are allowed in some areas, they may be banned in others. Also, even in places where tiny houses are permitted, they must meet specific requirements to be legal.
Virtually all of Nebraska’s 93 counties allow tiny houses. However, this does not mean you should build in any county. Some Nebraska counties have extremely strict building regulations for tiny houses.
Thus, some counties are more friendly than others regarding building tiny houses in Nebraska.
Some very friendly Nebraska counties and cities for tiny houses are:
In Nebraska, you can live permanently in some tiny houses, while others are classified as temporary residences.
Tiny homes classified as manufactured homes or modular buildings can be permanent residences. But they must comply with local jurisdictions’ applicable construction codes and zoning regulations. However, tiny homes classified as recreational vehicles are considered temporary residences.
How tiny a tiny house can be in Nebraska depends on local regulations. But generally, the minimum size is 120 square feet. The maximum size is 320 or 400 square feet, depending on the type of tiny house.
Nebraska tiny homes having a HUD approval label must be built according to the rules U.S. HUD’s Federal Manufactured Home Act. The regulations specify that the homes must be at most 320 square feet in size.
Tiny homes with a Nebraska Modular Housing Unit label must be built according to the International Residential Code (IRC). This means they must be at least 120 square feet and at most 400 square feet.
Tiny homes with a Nebraska Recreational Vehicle label must be built according to the Park Model RV Standard. This means these tiny homes must have an area of at most 400 square feet.
In Nebraska, cities are responsible for tiny houses’ building requirements and zoning regulations. So, the tiny house regulations in Nebraska vary from place to place.
However, the rules vary widely depending on whether the tiny house is a permanent, temporary, or transitional dwelling.
Permanent tiny houses are also called Tiny Houses on Foundation (THOF). As this other name suggests, they are tiny houses built on permanent foundations.
Tiny houses on foundations generally have less strict rules. So, they are the best option if you want to deal with less restrictive regulations when switching to tiny living. However, these tiny homes are not mobile because of having a permanent foundation. So, you cannot attach your THOF to your truck and travel with it.
That said, permanent tiny homes must have foundations meeting the IRC foundation requirement. For example,
Permanent structures do not have to meet only foundation requirements. They must also meet all local building ordinances. Also, the permanent structures must be connected to water, electricity, and sewer utilities.
Permanent structures meeting applicable construction codes and local zoning requirements qualify as permanent residences.
Temporary tiny houses are “tiny houses on wheels” (THOW). As this other name suggests, they are built on the base frames of motor vehicles. This assures the initial and continued transportability of the home. A tiny house on wheels can be a recreational vehicle, motor home, park trailer, or travel trailer.
In Nebraska, a temporary tiny house on wheels must be built in accordance with ANSI A119.5 or NFPA 1192. ANSI A119.5 is the Park Model Recreational Vehicles Standard.
NFPA 1192 is the National Fire Protection Association Standard. A THOW must also have a federal label attesting that they comply with these standards.
The regulations regarding temporary tiny houses are tighter than those for permanent tiny houses. This is because the IRC’s standards for permanent structures are higher than the standard for Recreational Vehicles.
The transitional structures are ready-removables or portable shelters. They are used to provide temporary shelter to solve problems of homelessness.
Generally, transitional structures are not considered legal living spaces. There are very strict regulations regarding transitional structures. This is to protect people who will stay in these houses.
In Nebraska, if you plan to live in a transitional structure, you must check with local rules and regulations. You must obtain permits from the local building department. They’ll check that the structure meets applicable safety regulations.
Where you can build your tiny house in Nebraska depends on local regulations and codes.
You’ll be able to build your tiny home in Nebraska:
Some of the things that’ll determine where you can build your tiny house in Nebraska are:
One of the reasons Nebraska is a good place for tiny home living is that you may not have to pay property taxes.
Nebraska's property tax rate is 1.61%. This is the ninth-highest average property tax rate in the United States. So, before building a tiny home in Nebraska, it is good to check with your local tax authority to know what applies to you.
That said, depending on specific conditions, switching to tiny living will help you avoid a massive property tax bill.
If you own the land where the tiny home is set in Nebraska, you will pay property tax on the land. However, you will not pay property taxes if you do not own the land. If your tiny home is on wheels, you will have to pay personal property taxes on the home as a recreational vehicle.
Interestingly, you may be able to reduce your tax bill by taking advantage of Nebraska’s homesteading property tax exemption.
Tiny houses are subject to the zoning requirements of each local jurisdiction, so the tiny house regulations vary from city to city. For this reason, people have to check with their local laws to know where they can park their mobile tiny homes.
You may be able to park your tiny house on your own land. Many people take their mobile homes to their land in rural areas.
You may also put your tiny house in your backyard. In this case, you’ll have to look for lands zoned for multi-family housing. Ensure that the land allows you to build accessory dwelling units.
That said, some of the places you can park your tiny home in Nebraska are:
There are tiny residential homes in different places in Nebraska, especially in cities like Lincoln and Omaha. However, the state does not have tiny home communities yet.
The community will span about 2.4 acres, near 17th and Charles streets in north downtown Omaha. It will have fifty (50) tiny homes. The homes are designed for a single occupant and will have about 275 square footage of floor area.
Each unit will have a living area, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, and covered porch. The community’s amenities will include a community center, gardens, and a shared laundry room.
Shannon R. Harner, the Executive Director of NIFA, expects “The Cottages” to open the door to more tiny home communities in Nebraska. NIFA is Nebraska Investment Finance Authority.
The tiny house movement in Nebraska is relatively weak as the state does not have tiny home communities yet. However, there are tiny homes in many parts of the state because it is tiny home friendly. Douglas county and Lancaster county are two of the many counties in Nebraska that welcome tiny houses.
Nebraska leaves tiny home regulations to its municipal government, so the tiny house regulations vary from city to city. For this reason, it’s important to check local zoning laws and building codes before building a tiny house in Nebraska.
The zoning restrictions show you where you can build your tiny house in Nebraska. The building codes show you what standards the house must meet.
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