The Tiny house Blog

Speaker Panel Q&A - Jay Shafer, Zack Giffin, Dee Williams

Updated on:
June 9, 2023
Tiny house on wheels with woman sitting in door way

Join Dee, Jay and Zack as they open up the conversation to a live Q&A!

Zach: Thanks, you, guys. This is literally you guys are all legends.

Jay: Yes, Zack, I love that. You're wishing you had an hour man. That was awesome.

Zack: You know, I always think I'm going to just get in touch with something and then I just get all caught up and it takes forever.

Jay: Yes.

Zack: But I promised that I wasn't going to talk during this time because I just want to hear from J and D.

Jay: Let them go at it. Yeah. Okay, we got a good amount here. 191 people live streaming here. Awesome. Can you guys all see the questions that people are asking there?

Dee: Yeah, you know, it's really fun to look at these questions. You know. They're there. They're a couple of questions about zoning. And Jason and Zack, is there a session tomorrow that's focused on zoning?

Zach: There are a couple of talks more targeted towards regulations and zoning. Lindsay will be doing a pretty in depth talk on that. And then there's going to be a Q&A with Nick, mostly with [inaudible] You guys have time too?


Zack: Yeah, I think zoning is something that everybody that's interested in Tiny Houses needs to know about? Yeah, it's kind of a big barrier. And it's what's kind of holding the whole thing back from being a real tool to actually impact society.

Zach: Yeah.

Zack: But progress is being made. It's insane. I don't know how you guys feel about it. But it's, it just seems like, oh, it's like walking through water with cement in your feet. Trying to get an actual progress. It just seems long and so on.

Jay: Starting a business trying to sell [inaudible] is not easy.

Zach: Yeah, absolutely. No, I know.

Zack: It's impressive how many people do it?

Dee: As far as zoning goes, we're getting some questions about that. And Lindsay is going to offer some more information about Zack and Jay, over time, you've been doing a bunch of stuff. So, what I just wanted to offer to get information about where you live is to contact the local planners. So, somebody had a question on the western slope in Colorado. I know Boulder has been doing a ton of genders and doing work on that. [inaudible] That would be my recommendation.


Zack: I'll just say in terms of code, just to give people a kind of broad idea about the code. And the challenge is that, you know, Tiny Homes on wheels are a lot different than Tiny Homes on a foundation in terms of the difficulties of actually constructing one legally living in it full time. Right? So Tiny Home on wheels is kind of delineated a little bit when you're talking about it. And the real challenges facing Tiny Homes on wheels is when I first did one, it basically they looked at me in the county and they I wanted maybe to see if there was an inspection and they told me “Oh, it's a trailer. It's got, it's got lights, they work? It's under the weight ratio”, and they told me “You're allowed to modify a trailer." But most Tiny Homes that are being built and sold and lived in are being built as RV needs. And so, the real challenge for zoning codes is that the whole world is looking at a Tiny Home as an RV and RV's aren't allowed to be lived in and it's just really cut and dry like that.

Jay: There's changes being made. Yes, changes? Well, the law is that they have to have to address public health, safety and welfare. And a lot of these things are changing, because people are realizing what the heck, you know, just this, just besides the front house pertain to safety. And it turns out smaller houses are safer because of seismic engineering and stuff. Small is the first criteria in preparing for an earthquake. So they're changing stuff out here in California, San Diego, well, actually all over the nation, it's looking better and better.


Dee: So, somebody just sent a question asking about why Tiny House on wheels is considered a mobile phone. And so, the way that I've tried to explain it to folks is that when I look at my Tiny House on wheels, I see a little tiny cabin, I see home. The DMV when I went to get the license plate thing. On the trailer, they, they called it a trailer with an art sculpture stapled to the top of it. They called it a trailer. When I talked to the insurance company, they called it an RV. However, because it wasn't a certified unit, it wasn't really considered an RV. So, I couldn't get insurance, I couldn't get a loan. This is pretty standard in that that world is changing a little bit. And all these people that the city code, folks that came out and took a look at my house, I invited them to come out and take a look. And what they saw was a travel trailer. So, everybody has their own definition. And I think that's why there's some confusion around DIY. Do It Yourself Tiny House on wheels is that it doesn't neatly fit into any of these boxes. So, if you're talking about your city itinerary, you have to kind of explain some stuff. And, and that could be an awkward conversation. But that doesn't mean that they're not open to having it. I think folks understand we need affordable housing, more housing. And, and more than anything else. So many of these little houses are so cute. It's like, nobody's going to kick a puppy. Nobody's going to throw a kitten in the street. So, I think there's wiggle room to be able to figure that out. I'm looking over here? Is that what you found?

Zack: Yeah. That's exactly it. You know, I think I see a question that says in light of the recession, how do you think Tiny Homes will play a role, and, and my belief that it's really about support structures. It's, it's about as we get through these, in order to get through these challenges, doing whatever we can, as a society to allow people to help out others and utilize their property to allow others place to go and a place to live, is going to really empower people to get through these hard times. And that's what I really just believe it's, it's, it's about it comes down to support structures. All the work that I do with homeless and homeless veterans, it's really, one lesson has been very, very clear. People don't just end up in the street, and they go through their support structures until there is nothing left. And that's made harder by the zoning policies that inhibit homeowners and family members from being able to provide good places for people to go easily and legally. That's my short version.

Jay: You know, I actually, here, I'm happy to hear that we use the same classification or at least was aware of it. I've always just called my house a load on a flatbed trailer. And that's always worked. So, it doesn't have to be all that complicated. And it certainly doesn't have to be illegal. And it's important to remember that this isn't all about houses on wheels, either. I've worked on a lot of foundation houses that are tiny as well. And it's not that hard now to meet the code of the zoning, because they changed it from, needing 120 square foot room down to 70 square feet. So now you can pretty much build a Tiny House like him or online. Well, not mine right now mine is tiny, illegal. But you can do that legally now. You can build a house that's just 70 square feet, or at least under 100 and be legal.


Dee: Soo somebody asked kind of along the same stream, it seems like another question that somebody asked. “So, if you build it yourself, and it's a Tiny House on a utility trailer, say, or gooseneck trailer or a trailer of some sort, how can you get it certified? And by getting it certified, you have an opportunity to get insurance a lot easier.” So, I know in the state of Oregon, [inaudible] I know not everybody's in the US, but check with the folks that license cars and trucks and trailers. And in Oregon, you can request that they come out, somebody from the DMV will come out and do an inspection of your Tiny House and the trailer to make sure that it is a compliant travel trailer. And then you pay him like 50 bucks for the inspection. And then they certify it. And the way it works is you can only get one certification per person per trailer house. And after you get that certification from the DMV, then it opens up all their opportunities. I don't know. They don't do that in Washington State. But I’d check with you know, your local.

Zack: There's a number of different third-party Tiny Home inspection bodies Built Worth a NOAA and but you know that the one of the problems is that that certification isn't necessarily recognized as an RV per se. But there are a lot of places like the places that have made changes in Los Angeles. And now San Jose and hopefully San Diego, that are record recognizing those third-party bodies inspection.


Dee: Yeah, a woman or guy named Alexis referenced Tiny House certifiers and inspectors at So that might be a good resource. And I'm not familiar with it.

Zack: I don't know. I wanted to ask, did you ever ensure your homes? Like your personal home? Did you ever get insured?

Dee: Yeah, we certified ours though there was an underwriter in Portland that specifically was offering packages, products for Tiny Houses on wheels that were built by individuals. And it was through Lloyds of London who was ultimately the underwriter in that case. And then there are other companies that are building that actually certify, I think Tumbleweed has been certified Travel Trailer RV? I don't I don't know what this certification is.

Zach: Yeah, they're, I believe they have classification as a park model RV, which is the large RV.

Zack: You know, my belief is that the much more important reason for certification isn't necessarily insurance as much as financing, as much as allowing banks to really quantify the value of these Tiny Homes. Because that's this piece of the puzzle. People look at it and they say, “Oh, Tiny Homes, yeah, but they're not really that inexpensive.” A nice, Tiny Home for a professional builder. And it kind of pops their dream for them. But the real problem is that they're not actually getting treated the same way other homes do when we're offering financing packages. And if you apply the same kind of requirements for down payments and for interest rates, you know, your principles you would end up with a package that would be amazing how affordable it would be. And so that's another big piece of this challenge, I think the reason for certification.


Dee: So, somebody else just asked a question, and I'll direct this to the three of you guys. So, they have a 25-foot RV trailer. So maybe it had an RV on it and it got scabbed off. If you were offered recommendations on a thumbs up, thumbs down on that. What's your opinion on that? I have an opinion. But I want to hear from you guys.

Zack: I would just say that there's very few trailers that are built for RVs and travel trailers that are done for the weight requirements that are going to be needed for a double.


Jay: That's what she was pitching for.

Zack: But if it was me, but if I had a home and I knew I was only going to move it like on a property like it was on a farm, I might consider building a home on a trailer that wasn't really intended on taking a road. [inaudible].


Jay: My brother built a Tiny House the year after I did, he didn't want to deal with the trailer, because we spent a lot of time looking at the trailer design and kind of figuring out the engineering more on that. And he didn't want to have to think about that. So, he built [inaudible]. And you know, the idea was that he could pull it around his farm, have a summer orientation and have a winter orientation. And years later decided to move into the city. And you hired you know, shed movers at Home Depot or Lowe's or something. And you can get them to forklift up this Tiny House and move it somewhere. So, he hired them, and they came and picked it up and for 300 bucks from out in the country into town. He placed it perfectly on the property that he found [inaudible].


Zack: It was probably cheaper than renting a commercial mover to just a tiny home.

Zach: Yeah. And way cheaper than a trailer. But it's not quite for everybody.

Dee: Right?

Jay: I should mention maybe that what I've been doing for the last few years is designing and building houses that sit on the ground that can be easily lifted onto a flatbed. And then you can just bolt it to the flatbed forever if you want. But you have the flexibility that way. And I guess this is a nice dovetail into Alexis’ question. Yes, I am. I've got too many designs these days. I just don't put them out for a long time. So, it's about time. Thanks for spurring me on.

Zach: We want more.

Jay: Yeah. What's that?

Zach: I like your product placement. I reinforce it. Its gift and grip is awesome. I've seen it in person.

Jay: Oh, okay. Oh, yes. If people don't know about the gift and grip, let me show you. This is a business that my father started, Enter. And I've been much more involved since COVID. Basically, because they're older people in this kind of like trying to keep it going. And we got to figure out new solutions for how we're going to keep them with an income, I guess.


Dee: Yeah. Hey, here's another good question. “What are the biggest changes in the movement?” And this was a question for Jay and I. And you know, that the thing that's changed since I built my house and Jay, this is really a question for you. But what I've seen that's fascinating to me is the commercialization of Tiny Homes. And moving from it kind of being it, a little bit of a grassroots whacking thing to people know what it is now. I was renting a car in Kansas City and I did email address [inaudible] Tiny Houses and the woman renting this car in Kansas City was like, “Oh, do you know about Tiny House?” I was like, “Yeah. I love them”. And that seems like there's a lot more out there. What’s your take Jay?

Jay: About the evolution of the Tiny House stuff?

Dee: Biggest changes of the Tiny Houses?

Jay: Well, you know, in the beginning, I was I would say to people, my Tiny House die from the like, what's a Tiny House and now people are like, which one of the Tiny House guys are you? But you're the guy. I always aspired to see a lot of people doing it. I thought it worked so well for me. And I'm glad to see it's gotten huge internationally. I do realize now that recently that I would prefer to control the entire Tiny House world, but that ain't happening. Because you know, sometimes when bigger businesses get into it, things happen. But we've managed to hold on to the integrity so far.


Zack: I would just be on that.

Dee: Sorry.

Zack: I would just say my thought about the biggest changes that it's, I feel, in the beginning, the larger part of emphasis and percentage of people moving into was done, like really looking at themselves as minimalist, and wanting to move into minimalist capacity. And, more from kind of environmental perspective and environmental motivations. Now that it's kind of gotten more out into the mainstream culture. A larger percentage of people that are looking at being interested in it, are more just looking at the finances of it, and just removing the financial burden. And that is, not a thing that I like or dislike. It is a comment. Just [inaudible]

Dee: I guess, just to chime in one. One last thing that I think I've seen change a lot is just the brilliant people that are involved now. You know, the more information that's out there, the more we get this hotbed of creativity, design, people rethinking why we live the way we live, how we can accommodate folks who have less. You know, I've talked a lot with folks about the privilege of deciding to downsize, versus being trapped in the cycle of poverty, and not having that choice. And so, it brings it, you know, you're talking about a Tiny House, but all of a sudden, you're talking about very important social norms, in really important issues that, that we all need to put our brain and our hearts toward. So, Zack you've done that in spades and really appreciated the work that you're doing with a lot of different populations and trying to get the word out about affordable housing and how this can fit into that, but much broader conversation about affordable housing, and stuff like that. So, I think that's cool. There are so many questions, it's hard to know which one to choose much less, actually read them as, as we're trying to converse, somebody makes a point that maybe, maybe we had, maybe instead of having to read while she presents, it could well have a translator. Well, there was one question about tornadoes. You guys want to answer that? You ever worry about Tornadoes? How about theft too?

Jay: Yeah, you know, that last part of that question, that theft part? I got that question a lot. Like it was the number one question for a while. What if somebody steals your Tiny House, [inaudible] really easy to protect your house, you know, lock it up at the hitch locks. If you want to go further with the wheel locks in like the police gap, whatever things are there, you can go all the way if you want to just plant the whole thing down to the ground, if some fears are there.

Zach: Yeah, there's also some GPS trackers that you can get that have like a three-year battery life and you can hide them somewhere in your Tiny Home. And if somebody tries to take it, then you can track exactly right where it is.

Dee: Well, that's cool. Yeah.

Jay: What was the first part of that question Dee?

Dee: Tornadoes.

Jay: Tornadoes? Yeah, well, I don't worry about them too much, California, but I did spend about five years in my Tiny House in Iowa, which in Iowa City was hit by a huge tornado. And I never worry too much to that tie down to tie it down. In many ways, it's safer than a larger house because of the seismic swings. For the smaller structure again otherwise house.


Dee: Hey, there's another question here for you. Do you have to have an architectural degree or engineering degree to start a Tiny House building company?

Zach: Or at least maybe I should have done one of those.

Dee: Zack, are you gonna say something?

Zack: No, no, I like you just talking. I'm not sure my connections are doing very well.

Dee: It's gotten out a little bit. I think people probably thinking that they don't care.

Zack: I told people, I wasn't going to hog the airwaves on this because I'm like, just, honored to be here. And just to hear what you guys have to say. I would like to have more questions about you know, what's going on nowadays with COVID-19. And looking at that, where we're going. I just kind of did a talk about that same kind of idea. But to hear your perspective on how Tiny Homes are going to help us move through this.


Zach: It makes me sad to think about how necessary Tiny Houses are going to be after the shelter in places. I hate to think of all the people not making enough money. That's scary to me. So, I think that, as always, the demand just gets bigger and bigger. Like every year, I'm just surprised, by the way that it was, like 20 years ago, you used to Google[inaudible] you get these pictures, 2000sq ft houses which were small. And now that's obviously very different. Because it became so big year by year, exponentially, it seems.

I see that our time is almost out [inaudible] panicky. But let's get a question in. Now I feel like choosing one at random, or somebody choosing one at random.

Jay: Oh, are we all in our Tiny Houses? And why not? [inaudible] I am not. I'm at a friend's house. I've been sheltering in place at a friend's house for six weeks.


Zack: I saw a question about if everybody lives in Tiny Houses, what are we going to do with all these big halls? And, you know, I don't really think that that's an issue at all, I just think that what we have is we have a housing stock that's very misaligned with the needs of the population. And we need a lot more smaller homes. We don't need a lot bigger homes. We need a lot of individuals who are occupying big homes with empty bedrooms to open up that space for some families who need the space.

Dee: Years ago, there's a woman named Shea Solomon. Jay, remember Shea?

Jay: Yeah.

Dee: And she's, she's really brilliant. And she made this this was, gosh, you know, 1516 years ago, I was talking to her. And her comment was “We don't have a homeless problem. We have a generosity problem. You know, we've got banks that have houses that are empty.” I mean, there's a whole paradigm shift around looking at housing our most vulnerable folks and looking at affordable housing.  We need to work with clever creative people but it seems like the open locks on that one a little bit and start to explore some alternatives on how to use the housing stock that we already have and make it function for walkable, safe, awesome communities. So that's my spiel.


Jay: Perfect way to end it. Good to see you guys.

Zach: Hey, guys, thank you guys so much. For all the attendees and everybody there's going to be a cocktail hour so if you jump on there, you'll be able to cycle through and connect with different attendees. So, check that out. And Jay, Dee, Zack, you guys, thank you so much.

Dee: Thank you.

Zach: Amazing. We are excited for the rest of the events and everything. Yeah, you guys are still great. We can keep talking if you guys want a little bit longer.

Jay: Oh yeah. Are we still?

Zach: I think you're still alive. So...

Jay: Great. I love the attention. Yeah, keep it going.

Dee: I wanted to offer if anybody wants to email me questions, I'm happy to try to try to field them for you. I also have kind of a helpful how-to book and I'm happy to send that out for free. If you email me at I’ll send that out.

Jay: It's a good book.

Dee: Thank you, Jay.

Jay: It is cute, and informative. And funny.

Dee: All right, you guys enjoy the rest of the week. Thanks for hopping in. It's really cool to be on a screen with some of my biggest heroes.

Jay: You too.

Zach: Tell me about it. That's so amazing. I mean, really, you guys have been inspiring.

Dee: And it goes around, doesn’t it.


Jay: Through the wind.

Zack: Well, I look forward to seeing everybody's individual presentations too.

Zach: Yeah.

Dee: Make sure you can get the video and the audio to work.

Zack: All right. Thank you guys.

Zach: Good stuff, you guys.

Jay: You too.

Zach: It's been fun.

Dee: It has. Thank you very much.

Zach: All right.

Zack: Thanks everybody.

Zach: Bye.

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