Zoning & Container Homes

If you’re new to home building and residential architecture, you’re probably not familiar with too many urban planning regulations, which may determine, whether or not you can build your shipping container home, on that vacant lot you’ve been fantasizing about…

Let’s simplify it, so we can all get a handle on this matter.

Zoning

There’s something called Zoning in urban planning that you need to pay close attention to before you buy that land. Not sure what zoning is? Zoning, is a technique of essentially dividing areas of land into categories. These categories are then given a land use zone. For instance, the home you are living in at the moment is most likely “zoned as”, R-1, R-2, R-3. Each zoning category will have different rules and regulations associated with that zoned area, known as zoning regulations. Such rules and regulations indicate setbacks from the front yard, back yard and side set backs. Some zoning regulations, known as covenants, will go as far as dictate what types of cladding can be on the house.

Zoning regulations, if not outdated, mostly exists for good reasons, whether we like them or not and having a bylaw amended, so you can build a container home and be the exception to any restrictive rules, is a very long and arduous task, that may not be accepted by the zoning regulation committee.

After 4 plus years of designing with shipping containers and helping clients realize their dream “shipping container” home, the hardest part of building a shipping container home, is getting past the zoning regulation. It can be huge obstacle and can be a very expensive mistake, if the client doesn’t do their homework first.

If you’re looking for land to build upon, here’s what I suggest:

  1. Ask the real estate agent for the PID number for the plot of land you wish to purchase.
  2. 2.Make a trip to your city’s zoning department, confirm the zoning with the (PID)
  3. 3.Ask the department what rules, regulations, covenants are associated with that Zone.
  4. 4.Specifically, you are trying to identify any written rules that exclude building with shipping containers, modular or prefab homes.
  5. 5.If you have thoroughly done the research and found no obstacles to building a shipping container house in that zone…then it looks like you’re in the clear.
  6. 6.Be cautious and take it a step further and inform the zoning department what you are planning on building…show them an image of what the shipping container home will look like…they may ask to see construction plans.
  7. 7.Ask the real estate agent for completed geo technical soils test or other tests that have been completed on the site. You don’t want to be surprised later.
  8. 8.Make a bid on the land with the real estate agent, pending approval of building with shipping containers from the local zoning department.

Now, if that seems like an exhausting and daunting task, which has mired your fantasy of that shipping container home sitting on that plot of land, that’s because it truly is!!!

So, skip all that nonsense and make this whole process a little easier and hire a local architect, builder or urban planner familiar with shipping container builds, to do the work for you. And of course, ContainerHome.Biz offers this service to it’s clients.. feel free to contact me personally pat@containerhome.biz. Ultimately, above all this is not something to take lightly.

In general, zoning regulations in a rural area are much more relaxed. This is common sense because there is much more land available and logic dictates that when something is a scarcity, such as land in a city, it’s more expensive and more rules and regulations associated with it. In terms of building with shipping containers, it is generally much easier to build in a rural area. Of course there are always exceptions to the rules.

Written by

Pat Russell

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