Are you one of the growing numbers of people interested in alternative (and often less expensive) housing options like yurts? If so, it’s important to understand your local government’s rules and regulations related to living in these structures year round, as a primary residence. Read on to explore the option of living in a yurt in Santa Cruz County.

What is A Yurt?


Traditionally, yurts consisted of an expanding wooden circular frame overlaid with a felt cover. Fun Fact: this structure is known to have been used throughout Central Asia for at least 3,000 years. 

With elements of these core-features intact, yurts have become increasingly modernized with companies like Pacific Yurts offering practical, sustainable solutions for a variety of modern uses. Modern yurts are typically covered in durable fabrics and vinyl and might come with full bathrooms, windows, domed skylights, and even radiant floors (on the luxury-end of the spectrum). 

Making A Yurt Your Primary Residence


Clearly not your typical housing-solution, living in a yurt year round may sound like a radical idea to some. However yurt-houses have become more popular over the past few years. According to this article, companies that sell modern yurts report exponential growth in recent years, in some cases quadrupling.


In Santa Cruz County, if you plan to build or erect a yurt for your primary residence you will likely need to obtain a building permit. If you want to install a yurt for another purpose, you should inquire with your local planning department to determine if a permit will be required. Below we’ll cover some of the key steps that go into obtaining a permit and making a yurt your primary residence. 

The California Building Code And Your Yurt


All new homes built or erected in Santa Cruz county must meet the requirements specified in the California Building Codes. These rules may restrict the type of yurt that can be permitted. If you want to learn more about buying or building a yurt that is up to code, we suggest you talk to a manufacturer directly or work one on one with an architect. 

The Right Lot


If you purchase a lot with no structure on it, you’ll have to undergo a process to ensure that your lot is buildable.

  • You may need to get your lot connected to electricity or gas, water, and sewer systems. These utilities may be provided through public or private sources depending on where you are located in the county and the lot you choose. To access public utilities, you may have to work with your local water district, fire district, and public works departments to find out if your parcel can get “hooked up”.
  • Additionally, you’ll have to ensure that the land is relatively flat: if too large a percentage of your lot is sloped, you’ll run into problems and may not be able to build or install a yurt.
  • You may also have to undergo an environmental review if the land has protected flora or fauna on it. 


As you may have guessed, determining the buildability of a lot can be a complex process. We suggest that you talk directly to the zoning and planning department(s) within the jurisdiction that your lot falls within. Not sure how to find the right office? Give us a call, we can help. 


Another, often times less complex route to determine the usability of a lot would be to hire a land use planner. You can learn more about land use planners here. If you’d like a recommendation, please let us know!

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