*It is very important to remember that the federal government has MANDATED that cities and towns deal with the current homelessness crisis in our nation. This mandate has city planners desperate for healthy, sound, affordable alternative housing options, and informed natural builders are the now the most likely to be listened to when it comes to new development of low cost housing. PLEASE become active in your local area. Being a social or environmental change driver means driving local social and environmental change. Green your neighborhood. Attend meetings.
Frequently Asked Questions: Legalizing Earth Homes
Many Cob houses have been built in back yards and gardens using this law. If your little house is 250 sq ft or less, you do not need a permit to build it. You can go up, for loft and upstairs space, making a cozy little home with sleeping upstairs. Remember, there are Cob apartment buildings that are ten stories high, that have been continuously occupied for nine hundred years in places like Yemen, Iraq. When going up, be sure you trust your design and engineer. Please do your research. Safety is why laws are created in the first place.
If you have proof of ownership, or can verify permission to build, one needs to be able to (gently, and with humor) educate your local permitting department representative about your building method, and be prepared to answer any questions about engineering requirements and earthquake safety. All of this information is available through contact with other cob house builders who have solved this problem. Legal cob houses currently exist even in earthquake zones. Misha and Elisheva Rauschwerger have posted online the engineering calculations that got their house permitted in an earthquake zone in California, where the toughest permitting laws are currently. You can also obtain copies by contacting the Cob Cottage Company. Some builders have solved it by “just building” in a remote location, and when the house was tagged by the building department, they were “fined” and after paying the “fines” they had no more problems. Essentially, the cost of their house was paying the fine, once paid, no one could legally harass them. They bought their permission so to speak. No one, to this day, has ever had a bulldozer show up and squish their Cob house. They are too nice, and nice people tend not to do not nice things. Besides, who would pay for the amount of time it would take and the cost of a bulldozer, since they are extremely difficult to DE construct.
These, too change from township to county according to local government influences. Fees can range anywhere from processing and filing fees of just $10 or $20 to permit purchases of several hundred to several thousand. Even more, for fines. The best approach is to do an online search of your local planning and zoning departments to obtain your local fee scales and laws for the area of your potential project. Always remember to check the planning council and zoning department public meeting calendars so you can drop in and find out what is being done currently, who the folks are you need to influence, and to begin a friendly, supportive relationship with those who have the power to change your local laws, and waive your local fees.
This is additional zoning for large parcel homesteads of about 40 acres and over that grow grapes and orchards, tomatoes, rice, corn and other large crops where farm workers are needed to harvest effectively. This means one can legally house larger numbers of people with creatively designed dwellings that do not exceed square footage for the parcel development. It can also mean many small legal cabins or a large bunkhouse or apartment building. This can also true for developments that are zoned for commercial use such as a retreat center. Be sure you fully understand your local zoning ordinances for your area of choice.
In townships it is legal to house up to 40 people on 15 acres in apartment complexes and co-housing style neighborhood developments. To address this as a real option in your area, local residents must attend the local planning and zoning meetings that are held as public comment sessions by your city planners. Local voices speaking up in local planning and zoning council meetings is what ensures you have the local laws you need for developing what residents want and need their own area. Laws differ from township to township. In Santa Cruz County where Natural Villages education center is located, we have filed comments that mandate the county supervisors to prioritize co-housing style proposals as well as earth, cob, strawbale and other altenative materials for low cost housing development. Public comments can be made annually to be recorded in the county housing element in your area. These provide the mandates your city and county planning departments are required to follow. If you use your local governmental processes, you can make permanent changes to your local development options for alternative owner builders who want to organize village settings. EVERY major change in legal process comes from people collecting into a singular community voice, and insisting they re craft what was, into what is needed now. Change always comes in this form in communities. UNIFY in your area. Hold local meetings. Create social strategies for making more housing available to those who need it in your area.
By contacting one of our development directors posted online. Reservation communities are sovereign nations usually, and determine their own building codes and laws. If a Native American community wishes to use this housing and village development method, it is up to that community to determine where and how to begin. Organizing support will be provided upon request. Please use the consultants contact lists that are available in different areas of this website. Please do not hesitate to contact us.
On behalf of the people in Santa Cruz County: comments have been filed in the county housing element that is the legal document assembled by and for the people of Santa Cruz county: as acting Executive Director of the Santa Cruz County Community Housing Coalition, we used our "Public Voice" to place mandates before the county supervisors. ANYONE wishing to build an earth-based house can take the comments filed in the County Housing Mandate before the county supervisors and they are subsequently mandated to uphold these requests of the people of Santa Cruz County (or any other city or township in the USA). The two mandates that are filed in the Santa Cruz County Housing element are: 1) that the supervisors will find a way to say YES to any safe earth-based and alternative green housing option that is presented to their board. 2) that they find a way to say yes to any co-housing style community project that focuses on green, earth-based and alternative housing. Two comments about the earth quake safety: 1) Read the section in Hand Sculpted House by Ianto Evans about the tudor style cob houses that went through an 8.7 earthquake in New Zealand: STILL STANDING TODAY OCCUPIED, when all others including BRICK houses, in the same area were leveled. Why? LONG-STRAW IN THE MIX: When earth and clay molecules are smashed together with sand they bond and dry like a rock. When STRAW is added in large portions it causes a weaving fiber throughout the rock-hard wall. When built on stable, recycled cement block foundations over pebble-like gravel in the foundation trench, the whole house moves as a living unit and the straw means NO CRACKS CAN RUN through the walls, as they are fibered together with long-straw in the mix. CROSS-BRACING of the roof and upper walls are the most important earthquake safety precaution a cob house owner can take, according to Ianto Evans. Author of Hand Sculpted House. Keep the foundation walls dry. The NV property up in Little Basin has yet to have a community form with a management team wishing to work with board member, Roy Kaylor in order to establish a county precedent to challenge the community development mandates we placed before the county supervisors. Land is available there for this purpose if the right team can form to work with Roy and other NV board members. Steve Travis, another board member also lives adjacent to this 160 acres of redwoods, waterfalls and streams.