WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A woman in West Sacramento is on a mission to make housing more affordable for herself and pave the way for others to do the same through a "Movable Tiny Home Policy".
33-year-old West Sacramento resident Robyn Davis has lived in her tiny home on wheels made out of a shipping container for the last five years and for the last two years on an undeveloped residential piece of land she owns in West Sacramento.
Davis has spent the last two years at city council meetings advocating for movable tiny home legislation in the fight for a solution to affordable housing.
“I had lived in what I call my big home, my 1,200 square foot home, and it was way too big," said Davis. "I had watched HGTV, one of those shows tiny home shows, and I'm like, ‘Yeah, I can do that!’”
However, despite being on her own property, Davis says she is technically living illegally and faces tens of thousands of dollars in impact fees due to not meeting the city's current zoning and code standards.
This includes the cost of hooking up her home to city water, sewer and electricity. She currently uses a compost toilet and solar panels.
“I’m aware that I’m living illegally," said Davis. "But your standards are out-of-reach and unaffordable – not just for me but the majority of the population.”
Davis has been appealing to city council for over two years now, ever since moving her tiny home to this property. She also created an online petition and has shared her story in local groups on social media to gain community support.
“I’ve been denied a temporary use permit, denied off-grid options, denied affordability and threatened with notices to abate," said Davis. "While this entire state has a severe housing shortage, lacking of shelters and thousands on our streets living in whatever they can to survive.”
The issue Davis faces is that the city has rules for mobile homes and RVs but none specific to her situation with her tiny home on wheels.
“I don't really fit into any category right now," said Davis. “If you buy a tiny home and the impact fees – all the fees and the site plans – if all that's more than your home, not a lot of people are going to be motivated to do that."
The city has rules for accessory dwelling units – or ADUs – which is a second home on a property with an existing primary residence. But Davis' tiny home is the only thing on her property.
The Sacramento-based company that built Davis' shipping container, TAYNR, is owned by James Roberts, who is now moving away from tiny home production and into design and consultation for people looking to build tiny homes.
"The demand (for tiny homes) is absolutely there," said Roberts. "I mean, unfortunately, extreme misfortune of the fires, and now we have flooding, people are displaced and so there's the desperation that sets in."
Roberts is helping Davis work with the city to adapt her home as needed, trying to find a middle ground so she can live here legally.
“We designed her home to live in full time,” said Roberts. "The part we're trying to figure out now is, how do we make this round peg (and) square hole work?"
Roberts said he's hopeful a brand-new ordinance that just went into effect earlier this month in Santa Cruz County will help Davis' case in West Sacramento. It allows for the kinds of tiny homes on wheels that Robyn has as a primary residence.
A handful of California cities and counties have policies that are generally tiny home-friendly. But specifically, Davis would like to see more local governments allow tiny homes on wheels a primary residence.
“When she started talking about the small homes, I was very intrigued with her proposal," said West Sacramento City Councilmember Norma Alcala.
Alcala says she wants to see the city become more tiny home-friendly for a variety of reasons.
“Homelessness is chronic here in California, and you can't just put a Band-Aid on it," said Alcala. "We have programs within the city that are very good; they help assist homeless folks, but it doesn't take care of the problem - and tiny homes would.”
She also cites the environmental friendliness of tiny homes.
“They use a lot less material to build, a lot less energy to run,” said Alcala
Additionally, she says they have potential appeal to a wide swath of people.
“Not everyone wants a 30-year mortgage or a huge mega house," said Alcala. "We have to talk about the options that there are for different and alternative lifestyles."
Alcala says she plans on advocating for City Council to make tiny homes a priority this year.
“West Sacramento has always said they're innovative, so I think what we should do is afford that option to people who own small homes,” said Alcala. “I intend on speaking in favor of small housing, finding out how ordinances can be changed, you know, nothing's set in concrete.”
ABC10 reached out to the City Manager’s Office as well as the West Sacramento Mayor. Both declined to comment.
As some might suggest, relocating could be an easier option. However Davis plans to stay and fight for the option for movable tiny homes in the city she chose for a reason.
“I really love this property, I really love this city, and the council has been responsive,” said Davis. “I think they're more open minded now, honestly, than they were in 2020.”
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