As housing prices continue to rise, more Americans are seeking alternatives to standard brick-and-mortar houses. The alternatives include camper vans, tiny houses, mobile homes, and of course, shipping container homes.
Though prefabricated options are increasingly available, you don’t have to purchase a ready-made shipping container home. Instead, you can build your shipping container home from scratch. All you have to do is find the right shipping container for sale and convert it into your perfect living space.
But wait! Before you order any shipping containers, you should find out whether you can actually build a shipping container home in your state. Learn which states legally allow residents to construct shipping container homes below.
Which States Allow Shipping Container Homes?
Texas is one of the best states for building alternative dwellings like tiny homes and shipping container houses. You can get approval to build shipping container housing in major cities like Austin and Fort Worth. However, you will have an easier time finding approval in suburban and rural areas, which will have plenty of space to start living in a 40ft shipping container house.
California is another state that is accommodating to alternative dwellings. It’s legal to build a shipping container home there as a residential unit or Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU).
An ADU is a small, residential dwelling unit that sits on the same lot as a larger dwelling unit (for example, a detached single-family house). It’s an addition to the primary living space on the property. ADUs go by a lot of other names as well, like granny flats, secondary suites, accessory apartments, in-law suites, and backyard cottages.
Louisiana is another state that allows residents to build shipping container homes. The state offers lenient zoning laws, which can result in minimal government resistance to alternative housing construction.
Shipping container homes are legal in the state of Oregon. The one stipulation is that shipping container homes should be designed as single-family units. Because of this, they are allowed to be situated on land specifically reserved for single-family dwellings.
Missouri is another state that is fairly relaxed when it comes to constructing alternative housing. You may not even need to get a building permit to construct your shipping container house.
Other States and Shipping Container Homes
Texas, California, Louisiana, Oregon, and Missouri are states that allow residents to build shipping container homes. So, what states don’t allow shipping container homes?
Technically, the answer is none. No state in the country has officially banned shipping container housing. Shipping container homes are popping up across many states, including Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New York, and Washington.
Does this mean that you’re free to build a shipping container home anywhere in the country? Not exactly. While the state government may not prevent you from going through with the construction, the municipal and county governments just might.
Municipal and County Restrictions
It’s important to be aware of construction restrictions actioned by municipalities and counties (sometimes referred to as sub-regions), in addition to states.
There are thousands of municipalities and counties across the country, and each one will come with different limitations and restrictions for residential dwellings. The only way to confirm whether you can legally build a shipping container home in the area is to contact your local government and see whether your construction plans coincide with the relevant zoning laws and building codes.
Zoning laws are crucial pieces of legislation when it comes to your shipping container housing plans. These are local laws that regulate the geographical location of properties. They’ll tell you about the acceptable and unacceptable placements for your shipping container home.
One in particular that you might encounter is a regulation against mobile houses. So, if you want to build a shipping container house, the placement will have to indicate that the house is a permanent structure and not a temporary mobile structure. In that case, the placement of your shipping container house will have to be on a slab foundation.
How can you find out your zoning laws regarding the placement of shipping container homes? Contact your local zoning office or city hall to access your zoning ordinances.
Building codes are official rules regarding the construction of new buildings, including residential homes. These codes cover basic building factors like insulation, plumbing, electrical connections, HVAC, and more to ensure the health and safety of residents. Builders must comply with the rules set out in the relevant building code.
Most states follow the standards set in the International Residential Code or International Building Code. These standards will have some modifications or additions to meet residential needs. For instance, Florida is a state where residents are more at risk of dealing with hurricanes. As such, Florida updated its building code to add more protections against hurricane winds.
Some states don’t use building codes whatsoever. However, this doesn’t always mean that builders are free to do what they wish in these states. It often means that building regulations are left up to local governments to decide.
How can you find your building code? Check with your local government. If your local government follows a state-wide building code, you can access the documents that you need through your state government website.
Other Limitations You Should Consider:
A deed restriction is a legal limitation or restriction on how you can use your property.
Where might you encounter deed restrictions? One common example is when you decide to join a neighborhood controlled by a Homeowners Association (HOA). An HOA is a deed-restricted community that has set rules and restrictions that all members have to abide by. If your HOA doesn’t approve of your plans for a shipping container home or ADU placement, you legally cannot go forward with those plans. The HOA has the power to enforce its rulings and even remove improvements that go against them.
One of the biggest benefits of shipping container housing is that it’s adaptable to any environment. You can comfortably live in a shipping container home in any climate, as long as it’s built properly. For example, if you’re choosing to build in Alaska, you will need to prioritize insulation and heating in your construction plans to stay safe and comfortable in the cold climate.
Do your research and find out exactly where you can build your shipping container house. You just might be able to do it in your home state!