Home is Where the Farm Is: Tiny Houses for Farmers & More

model-koolau-1Join the conversation at the next
Tiny House Community Conversation
Wed. February 22nd in Honoka’a, 6:30-8:30 pm
at the Hawaiian Cultural Center of Hamakua


Email greenschool@oneisland.org to RSVP for directions


North Kohala Working Group meeting is
Tuesday, February 28th, 6:30pm
email for directions


+Enjoy the Tiny House slide show here.+


tiny 4How would legalizing Tiny Houses impact life in Hawaii?


Tell us what you think in the message box below.

We are gathering testimony to support safe and efficient, energy saving Tiny Houses as smart affordable housing solutions and will be presenting citizen comments to our elected representatives to help get new legislation passed.



It all started with Food. One of the main roadblocks to increasing the local food supply is the lack of farmers farming. Ask any young farmer what they need to farm and they will point to:

Land . Water . Housing .


One Island is Championing a  Conversation to Change Land Use, Zoning and Building Requirements

tiny 10
Tiny houses may not need building permits if considered mobile agricultural trailers


tiny 9Tiny Houses are a cost effective solution to one of the main constraints that hampers our food system.


All over the US, the Tiny House movement is gaining momentum. When a Tiny House Jamboree in Colorado attracted not the 4,000 anticipated attendees but 40,000 people in 2015, it was a sign the movement had arrived.


Let’s double local food production

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Here in Hawaii, a State-level bill will have the power to change County zoning and building code requirements and easily result in doubling food production. How? By giving farmers and farm workers an affordable way to live on the land they farm. More workers, more food AND a safer, better quality of life for farm owners and workers.

When farmers’ housing and transportation costs are lowered, they won’t need the ‘other’ day job to pay rent on a house in town and this means

they’ll have more time and resources to farm more food.


Beyond Food – Affordable Housing for All! Tiny Houses represent a viable solution to Hawaii’s affordable housing crisis. Retirees, live-work artist pods. Disabled and senior housing. Workers needing low cost housing. Kids returning home. Buy, build, rent, lease-to-own – Tiny House options offer smart solutions.
Enjoy the Tiny House slide show here.


Mahalo to our Elected Representatives supporting this process of developing new legislation:
Representatives Cindy Evans and Chris Lee; Senators Mike Gabbard, Russell Ruderman, and Josh Green; County Council Members Tim Richards, Dru Kanua and Jen Ruggles.
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Promoting the Tiny Homes for Farms Solution at the Hawaii Farmers Union United State Convention
16 comments on “Home is Where the Farm Is: Tiny Houses for Farmers & More
  1. Farming and agriculture on the Big Island needs to have fresh change to the laws, regarding zoning and housing requirements. It makes sense and the time IS now.

  2. We are an eco-feminist community that sustains itself on agricultural eco-tourism. We don’t bring our food to the market; we bring the market to the food!

    We would love a more affordable zoning process for our tiny homes which house our volunteers and interns who help with our permaculture style of farming.

    We are a small community and the existing laws are onerous, expensive bureaucratic and offer little recognition for the kind of low impact ‘green tourism’ that communities like ours practice.

  3. Barrie Rose says:

    Having been actively promoting tiny homes on the Big Island of Hawaii for the past 10-12 years It is our experience that these tiny homes are licensed and registered as travel trailers so are not illegal. They are an excellent solution for this use. A person or several can have a fully functioning, furnished, home plumbed and wired ready for solar/catchment for $50,000 – $80,000 depending upon various building choices they make. Try to duplicate this on the ground with permits, etc. it will easily cost over $100,000. To have a home that is mobile in an agricultural community may be ideal as it can be transported to different farms as housing for workers. One could feasibly sleep from 2 to 4 farm workers with a thoughtful design. The challenge that our customers have is not to have a home built for them but where to place it. It is my opinion that because of the classification of these homes as “travel trailers” one could place several in one location with permission of landowners while the necessary work is being accomplished. Then it could move on to another location and another. Perhaps there is someone out there who is willing to finance such a project. If there were two of these homes that could be moved from area to area it would allow for up to 8 workers to come in for a period of time to work on a farm. Something to think about!

  4. Stella Caban says:

    I am really stoked to see this as an initiative to be taken on the Big Island. While travel trailers or even RCVA certified trailers on tiny homes are legal – there is still some greyness around this especially when it comes to different types of ag lease land – i.e. the Hamakua Ag Coop land, that doesnt allow any kind of living structure and have done crackdowns on this in the last few years regarding. For me, as a younger farmer (32), without a long credit history nor a super lucrative job to be able to put away $50,000, financing is also a huge issue. I’m hoping with greater awareness and acceptance of tiny houses, that lending by banks and other financial institutions could become easier – this is already starting to change on the mainland with financial institutions like Lighstream lending specifically for tiny houses (RCVA certified only – travel trailers don’t cut it). Right now banks are uneasy to lend for a tiny house because its not a recognizable form of collateral that could be used for a secured loan. If we could even go one step farther – programs by the govʻt via Dept of Ag or what have you could subsidize the interest on such a loan would also be tremendously helpful to a young farmer.

  5. Holly Algood says:

    We need alternatives like these small yet elegant structures for low cost farm housing. The need for farm workers is great. Providing safe and comfortable structures for farm workers on the farm is the right thing to do. It helps farms, farmer workers and communities to produce more local food and to thrive.

  6. Patricia Zura says:

    Hawai’i already has a tradition of tiny houses-the coffee shack. A real Tiny House would provide better, more secure, accommodations for farmers and workers, being, essentially, an entire home that, should conditions change, could be relocated with minimal fuss. It also can provide site specific security to crops that have historically been targeted at harvest. Also the ability to wake up and walk out to start your chores is a time-honored farming tradition, no commute necessary. If the workday does not include two hours of driving to tend your crops you will have happier, more productive farmers, adding to Hawai’i’s food security.

  7. Andrew Williamson says:

    I definitely see the benefit for allowing farmers to have tiny house dwellings on the land they work. I am curious though, in addressing another problem here in Hawaii, lack of housing period, is it possible to establish tiny house communities? In other words, multiple tiny house dwellings on one piece of property? What are the regulations for this?

  8. Danny Li says:

    One simple path is for the County’s Building Dept. to allow using locally-sourced bamboo in home construction. Work with the Hawaii Bamboo Society to develop safe and economical methods to use bamboo as appropriate building material.Learn from decades of experience of habitable structures in S.America and Asia.

  9. Marta says:

    My husband and I live on Kauai and have been talking about Tiny House options. We’d love to support and stay in the loop! Mahalo for all you do to bring Tiny Houses to Hawaii.

  10. Jonathan Bryans says:

    We are very grateful for such a time as this! Me, my wife and children are artist/farmers/ contractors that have sold everything to be here to help with this movement and desire to see the people free. I have been into sustainability for years and tiny homes. I believe these changes will help people off the streets, give them purpose, even effect the drug issue here in all the islands .Aloha and Agape!!!

  11. Lucas stokes says:

    Would love to be part of this

  12. Lorraine Kohn says:

    We’d love to know if and when you’ll have a meeting in Kona? I’d like to understand more about what is currently allowable (up to 700 sf without bath and kitchen facilities does not need a permit on acreage? Legal as farm worker housing?)and what is proposed. Thanks for setting up the meeting- hope to attend!

  13. I believe tiny houses could be a part of the solution to get people on to agricultural land and farming the land. Exceptions need to be made for leasing State land so a tiny house would allow a farmer to live on his land and protect his crops and equipment. No one else is going to do it for us. Having affordable septic systems in place on Ag lots so a tiny house can just park and hook-up. They no longer wish to farm ; unhook and go ready for the next farmer. The tiny houses could be clustered some what in a large ag park. Paramount is getting people on the land and growing food.
    I also see the tiny house Idea as a possible solution for the homeless. Not to mention these houses as a way young people here in Hawaii could have a home at all. We need to be thinking smaller human imprint on our Islands.
    Tiny houses would afford the public a look at what is meant by a sustainable life style. The opportunities are only limited by our lack of imagination.

  14. Green School says:

    The climate and lifestyle of Hawaii encourages an indoor/outdoor lifestyle. It is also one of the best settings in the world to implement green building and energy efficient practices. Many farmers are wanting to down size the scale of their indoor living spaces, lower their cost for housing, be on farm to monitor their crops, lower farmworker rental housing and transportation/commute costs, spend more time farming, and lower the environmental impact of their housing.
    Tiny Houses are a great solution for our affordable housing crisis. On-farm housing is an ESSENTIAL BUILDING BLOCK to reclaiming our State’s, and Hawaii Island’s, local food system.

    Tiny Houses – on wheels or on foundations – are a perfect solution for getting Farmers on their land farming more locally grown food, and in turn increasing our island food security.

    I support making a State level decision that allows Tiny Houses, both mobile and permanent, to become viable farm worker and farm owner housing. I ask you to approve this Bill, and to keep in mind that it should apply to future building as well as retroactive to small dwellings that can be grandfathered in as small on-site farm homes.
    To lower barriers to affordable housing, I support following other States’ laws, and city ordinances, that allow buildings under a certain square footage to not require a building permit, including accessory dwelling units, permanent or mobile. If we could allow under 500 square feet structures, for a farm owner’s personal/family member dwelling or for farmworker housing to be allowed, with minimal registration costs, this would assist hundreds of island farms in providing affordable, small footprint, housing directly tied to increasing farm production.

    Home IS where the Farm is!

    Our organization, One Island, is actively convening Tiny House Community Conversations around the Big Island, and is hosting working group planning meetings to gather public input to help define the parameters of approvable small-footprint housing. We are engaging the public in this very important conversation and ask our State Representatives and Senators to join us solving one facet of our food security crisis – more housing = more farmers = more food independence!

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