Category Archives: Oregon

11/24 Proposed code amendment would allow granny flats in Salem, Oregon

Salem Weekly News logoSalem needs more housing, city studies conclude, and the city has come up with a plan to try to address that need.

The City is considering allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which include granny flats, mother-in-law units, tiny houses and conversions of garages, sheds, basements and attics into living spaces.

Proponents say ADUs can expand housing choices, help provide affordable housing and meet Salem’s unmet need for more multifamily housing.

An ADU is a second housing unit that is part of a main house, or it is a detached unit that is smaller but on the same lot.

This form of housing has never been allowed in Salem, said city Project Manager Eunice Kim. Earlier this year, the council directed staff to come up with a proposal to allow them.

“When zoning was first in place in the 1920s they were never put in [city codes],” Kim said. “In recent years we’ve gotten a lot of input from the public asking them to be allowed…”

A proposed code amendment is slated to go to the Planning Commission and City Council for consideration in early 2017, Kim said. Public input will go into drafting the proposed code amendment.

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09/13 Seattle Is Regulating Away Micro-Housing

Seattle Micro-housing, by the rules, 2013-2016. Sketch by David Neiman

Seattle Micro-housing, by the rules, 2013-2016. Sketch by David Neiman

Although micro-housing is not a nationwide phenomenon, it has become a niche option in cities with expensive housing. College students, young professionals, and beginning families, rather than living in the suburbs or cramped with roommates in cities, can live alone in centrally-located apartments that are slightly smaller than the average hotel room, and often have shared common spaces. Starting in 2009, Seattle became a leader in micro-housing development. But as this momentum grew in the Emerald City, NIMBY opposition arose, followed by restrictive regulations. Now these regulations have combined to effectively kill the concept, taking thousands of affordable units off the pricey Seattle market.

This was the conclusion reached by local architect David Neiman, who just wrote an extended piece for the Seattle-based Sightline Institute called “How Seattle Killed Micro Housing.” The article is a case study in how regulations can metastasize indirectly; it’s not that any one Seattle law states, point-blank, that micro-housing can’t exist. But the units have become so burdened by design reviews, parking mandates, micromanagement of layout, and location limits, that they make little economic sense for developers, and few are built. In this respect, they have become de facto “illegal…”

Neiman drew up one scenario in which a micro-housing project built beforehand would have provided 40 units, at an average of 175 square feet, and $900 monthly rents. Following all these regulations–which were mandated by a city administration that claims to care about affordable housing–that same project will provide only 21 units, at a 330 square-foot average, and $1400 monthly rents.

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08/11 Another tiny house eviction

Claire Teasdale and Bennett Frazier's tiny house

Claire Teasdale and Bennett Frazier’s tiny house

In Northeast Portland, one tiny house is causing a big problem.

Claire Teasdale and Bennett Frazier thought their trendy, tiny home was the perfect solution to the city’s shortage of affordable housing.

“I didn’t want to have to continue to find rentals that allowed dogs, were in good areas and near bike paths,” said Teasdale.

At just over 200 square feet, the tiny home, which the couple built themselves, costs them around $300 per month including utilities.

That’s largely because the property the home sits on is owned by Claire’s dad, and, with his permission, they hooked up to his water and electric lines.

The couple has lived happily in the house for nine months.

“This was something we could afford and that we could do with all these hoops in front of us,” said Frazier.

But alas, life in the tiny house would not be hoop-free.

Last month, Portland’s Bureau of Development Services contacted the couple and told them that because the house has wheels, it qualifies as a recreational vehicle and can only sit in an RV park.

Their only recourse is to move it accordingly or alter the house and the property. The couple estimates that could cost them upwards of $30,000.

Teasdale and Frazier have now moved out and are trying to work with officials. They say it’s frustrating having to do so, given what Portland residents face on a grander scale.

“It’s so surprising to me that we’re in the middle of a housing crisis, and yet an innovative design is a major focus,” said Teasdale.

Read more and watch the video:

Are tiny houses coming to Salem, OR?

Tiny Mountain Houses photo special to the Statesman Journal

Tiny Mountain Houses photo special to the Statesman Journal

Tiny houses, granny flats, backyard cottages.

Whatever you call them, they’re all the rage – except in Salem.

The Capital city is alone in Oregon in banning tiny houses, more formally known as accessory dwelling units.

But that soon may change.

Salem is facing a growing housing shortage, and ADUs could be the answer, city officials say.

“We have a big need for housing. We have a big need for affordable housing,” said Eunice Kim, a city planner. “We’ve already heard from the community that this is a priority.”

Salem’s ban on tiny houses dates back to the 1920s, when the city first put zoning in place. Accessory dwelling units just weren’t put in code.

Older neighborhoods that predate zoning may have a few ADUs, and those are legal. But none have been legally built for nine decades.

A 2014 study found that Salem needs an additional 207 acres of land for multifamily housing, or 2,897 units, to meet projected population growth over the next 20 years.

Lou Pereyra, Principal of Tiny Mountain Houses, says his company has one solution to the shortfall.

“I am currently involved with several city’s building departments and housing authorities to establish criteria and sensible elements that directly apply to affordable housing solutions,” Pereya said. “My hope is that if Salem is truly taking the next step, that they take a hard look at what other cities are allowing to become more flexible and lenient with requirements related to ADUs”.

This spring, the Salem city council told staff to develop a proposal to address the housing deficit. They’re recommending changing zoning rules to allow ADUs in single-family zones.

“Due to the smaller size of building lots being created today, it’s more likely that ADUs will be associated with homes in older neighborhoods that sit on larger lots,” said Mike Erdmann, CEO of Home Builders Association Association of Marion & Polk Counties, which supports the code change. “The city’s challenge will be incorporating neighborhood concerns with the necessity of relaxing existing zoning standards.”

Don’t worry though – Salem isn’t going to become Portland, which has been called the nation’s tiny-house capital.

“Whatever regulations come out of it will be tailored to the needs and concerns of Salem,” Kim said.

Staffers already have solicited input from neighborhood associations, community groups and business groups. An advisory committee will begin meeting later this year. And outreach meetings will take place before rules are adopted.

Among the questions being considered:

  • Should there be a size limit on ADUs?
  • How much parking, if any, should be required?
  • Should the owner of the property be required to live in one of the units? Should there be a limit on the number of occupants?
  • Should the location of the ADUs entrance be restricted?
  • Should there be design standards?

“I realize there are a lot of folks that are not too keen on having higher density in their neighborhoods, but the need for affordable housing is going to continue to grow really strongly,” said Andy Wilch, housing administrator for the Salem Housing Authority. “Those units are going to be closer to jobs, resources, everything.”

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05/28 Tongue & Groove wants to build Tiny House Community in Bend, OR

Tongue & Groove tiny house

Tongue & Groove tiny house

Jesse Russell wants Bend to be a little more like the Bend where he grew up, where working people can afford their own homes.

He and his business partner and longtime friend, Kit Blackwelder, in business together as Tongue & Groove Tiny Homes, are sizing up opportunities for a tiny-home development. Tiny homes, in this case structures of 200-400 square feet, are a trend espoused by some as an option for affordable housing.

Russell met with a Bend city planner for a routine review of a proposed development, only a site was chosen at random as an example of Tongue & Groove’s idea. The partners have no property on which to build. Russell said he submitted the plan to see if the idea would meet city regulations.

It would work under Bend’s cottage code, but the cost of land and system development charges, or SDCs, in Bend work against the idea of tiny homes as affordable housing, Russell said.

“For us, in order for these to pencil out, the SDCs need to (be) scaled,” Russell said, “With the land we have available now, if SDCs were scaled, we’d be able to hit that $150,000 mark….”

Russell plans on building seven units on slabs, not wheels, with required common areas and sewer, water and power hookups. The homes themselves would adhere to building codes, Russell said. Building tiny homes to code would circumvent tiny homes popping up on unapproved sites, he said.

“There are people living in tiny houses right now in Bend and Sisters,” Russell said. “They’re under the radar, and hopefully they’re well built. Hopefully, no one gets hurt.”

Tongue & Groove is looking for assistance, like a break on system development charges, or an investor to help buy land on which to build, he said.

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Registering a tiny house in Oregon


Construction requirements for tiny houses that will be sold or rented:
The provisions of OAR chapter 918, division 525 apply to the design, manufacture, conversion, alteration, and repair of recreational vehicles and recreational park trailers rented, leased, sold, installed, or offered for rent, lease, or sale in Oregon.

Adopted Minimum Safety Standards

Effective October 1, 2011 the following standards are adopted by reference as the standards for the manufacture, conversion, alteration, or repair of recreational vehicles, recreational park trailers, accessory buildings, and accessory structures:

(1) The 2011 Edition of NFPA 1192, Standard on Recreational Vehicles, as published by the National Fire Protection Association, and further amended by the Division.

(2) The 2009 Edition of ANSI 119.5, Standard for Recreational Park Trailers, as published by the American National Standards Institute, and further amended by the Division.

(3) The 2011 Edition of NFPA 70, National Electrical Code, specifically but not limited to, Article 551 pertaining to Recreational Vehicles and Article 552 Park Trailers, as published by the National Fire Protection Association, and further amended by the Division.

(4) The 2011 Edition of ANSI/RVIA Standard for Low Voltage Systems in Conversion and Recreational Vehicles, as published by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association.

(5) The Oregon Residential Specialty Code, as adopted in OAR chapter 918, division 480, and those standards referenced within are adopted as the Division’s standards for the construction, manufacture, alteration, repair, and conversion of accessory buildings and accessory structures used in conjunction with recreational vehicles and recreational park trailers.


04/20 Letter: City should grandfather in tiny house, allow veteran and family to stay

Brad Fuqua's tiny house in Philomath, OR

Brad Fuqua’s tiny house in Philomath, OR

(Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to the Philomath City Council and also submitted to the Philomath Express as a letter to the editor).

I am writing to urge you to grandfather in the tiny house on 17th Street and allow the young veteran and his family to remain in their home. To do anything less would be unconscionable and force out the very people we hope will help build our community — forward-thinking, service-minded young families with bright futures and a commitment to living within their means.

My husband and I take daily walks around town and marvel at the beauty of Philomath despite its hodgepodge of houses and ram-shackle lots. Some of the houses should be demolished. Others are known drug houses guarded by angry dogs and regularly listed on police blotters yet council doesn’t seem to be evicting these residents.

Some are houses rich in history yet in desperate need of repair. No one is forcing these residents out despite the risk of fire, injury or vermin. Yet, council seems to have zeroed in on this well-built tiny house on a perfectly kept lot, which is privately owned and zoned for a single family home. The only problem is the house isn’t big enough?

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04/05 Ashland, OR allows tiny homes; some discuss ideas for small communities

Sharon Harris' 192-square-foot house

Sharon Harris’ 192-square-foot house on Fifth Street may be palatial compared with some much smaller tiny houses, but it still offers affordability and efficiency. Daily Tidings/ Denise Baratta

…The city of Ashland has rules in place for cottage development, which gives incentives to those who can and want to build homes of less than 500 square feet. Those rules require the houses to be built on permanent foundations, be hooked into city services and that the zoning and lot size are appropriate if more than one house is to placed there.

There are advantages for builders, with less permit expense, reduced parking demands and, since the houses qualify as two-thirds of a home, room for three homes on a site zoned for two full-size homes.

“There is no minimum house size; if you can meet the requirements, it’s fine,” Goldman says…

You cannot reside in a house on wheels, however tiny, unless it is in an RV park. Anything on wheels is not considered year-round housing according to Goldman. It has to be connected to services and be on a foundation to be a legal dwelling.

“You can’t live in something that isn’t attached,” Harris says, “but you can have a small studio or RV.”

Gateway Realtor John Wieczorek agrees with the distinction. He, too, admits to being a fan of tiny houses as long as they are attached to foundations, habitable and durable enough to stand up over time.

“Do it right or don’t do it all,” he says. “People should be able to live in tiny homes and they should have their dignity.”

He believes tiny house villages would create solutions to affordable housing and a lack of housing in Oregon. He expects it to become the next wave in housing: “I see it as a valid business model.”

The city of Medford has recently entered into discussions with a homelessness and affordable housing group and is considering a proposal to set up a tiny house village on city-owned property a few blocks north of downtown.

Wieczorek says he and a few others are looking into creating something like that in Ashland but nothing has been formalized. He points out that Ashland has an affordable housing trust which would allow the development of a tiny house community. The hitch is that the trust must be financially sustainable over time.

He says the city of Ashland has had this trust for years but nothing has come of it. “There hasn’t been a willingness to solve the financial piece,” Wieczorek says.

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03/23 Barriers to tiny houses in Bend, OR

the Hiatus tiny home by Tongue & Groove

the Hiatus tiny home by Tongue & Groove

…Jesse Russell, owner of Tongue & Groove in Bend, is a builder of tiny houses. He says Bend has an affordable housing crisis and that it’s time for action. “We need all the members of the City Council and the Planning Commission to stop talking and start writing code for tiny houses on wheels,” he says. “One thing is clear: the community believes that tiny houses are an immediate answer to the housing crisis.”

Russell thinks that the lack of affordable housing in Bend is driving people away. “It’s driving the wrong people away from Bend: Artists, ski bums, students, bartenders – people who we think make the community richer, not with their money but with their ideals and attitudes. We don’t want to become Aspen.”

One major barrier to building tiny houses in Bend, Russell says, is high system development charges – fees that help pay for roads, sewers, and parks. He says Bend’s SDC’s are $17,000 per unit which is cost- prohibitive for tiny homes. He thinks the city of Portland provides an example that Bend could follow. “Portland dropped their SDC charges for housing to stimulate urban infill, resulting in 12 times the applications for permits.”

Another barrier, he feels, is Bend’s cottage clustering code. Russell says he was excited to hear that the city had written new code to support cottage clusters. He designed a site mapping plan that allowed for four 400 square ft. houses on a standard size city lot, only to learn code for that would require a minimum of one acre—a lot size difficult to find in Bend. “The new cottage clustering code should allow for development on standard lot sizes that are less than one acre,” he says.

Russell is also frustrated with city bureaucracy. He says he met on July 1, 2015, with Assistant City Manager Jon Skidmore and City Engineer Russ Grayson to discuss tiny housing in Bend. He continued to correspond with them through the summer, inviting them to open houses at a tiny house the city allowed to be placed behind the old library building at 514 Broadway, one block from Skidmore’s office. The house was to be featured in the Bend Design Conference. Russell says city officials never accepted the invitation, and last fall he received this email from Skidmore: “Sorry—we’re buried with extremely high permit application volumes and issues such as street maintenance funding, marijuana regulation and some others. Russ and I will get a game plan together and get in touch.” Russell says he hasn’t heard from them since.

“What a bummer that the city is too busy with pot to deal with people not having an affordable place to live,” he says. Zoning changes, construction of traditional affordable housing and the expansion of the urban growth boundary are all viable options, these options take much more time to realize than the building of tiny houses which only take 10-12 weeks.

Tiny Homes: The City’s View

The City of Bend’s Affordable Housing Manager, Jim Long, says tiny homes may be a small component in answering the region’s housing crisis but not the sole answer. He has a nephew living in a tiny home near Ashland, and Long says he’s considering building one himself perhaps to use as a guest cottage. Though saying he’s not “anti-tiny home,” he has major concerns about them.

“Technically they’re an RV,” Long says. “As an RV, they’re going to have to go into an RV park. Most folks that are building them are more or less squatting on land they are being built on, and they’re not really hooked into any kind of sanitary system. That’s not the proper way to do it.”

Long says he has safety concerns about tiny homes, too. “They’re not covered by any kind of building code, and that’s the scariest thing that I find.” RV’s and manufactured homes are state and federally regulated to ensure occupant safety. “Currently there’s no licensing entity tasked with the formal regulation to ensure safety for tiny homes,” he says. “No one is checking them for access or regress.”

Most of the tiny homes he’s seen are of wood construction and use propane for heat. RV sleeping areas, he says, are constructed to have kick-out windows large enough for occupants to escape and to allow entry for a firefighter with a backpack. Long, who has been a volunteer fire fighter, says most tiny homes put their sleeping areas in lofts that “virtually have no way of getting out in case of fire.”

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02/17 Tiny house living situation challenges Philomath, Oregon city council

The tiny house sits on property owned by Mike and Tami Kibble on South 17th Street.

The tiny house sits on property owned by Mike and Tami Kibble on South 17th Street.

Mike and Tami Kibble were surprised when they received a code violation letter from Philomath City Planner Jim Minard.

Despite what they believed had been a positive visit with the city manager the previous week, the longtime Philomath residents were being ordered to remove a “recreational vehicle” from their property within 45 days or be subject “to fines up to $500 per day for each day the violation is allowed to continue.”

This past March, the Philomath City Council unanimously approved an ordinance amendment to clarify code language on the definition of a recreational vehicle. Minard’s letter referenced the ordinance that prohibits such structures to be used as a domicile in residential zones.

Municipal code 9.15.025 defines RVs as a “vehicle that is self-propelled or towed by a motor vehicle and designed for camping, nonpermanent or recreational habitation” and that “no person shall live, cook, sleep or reside in a recreational vehicle or trailer located on a lot or on a public street for more than five consecutive days nor more than 10 days total in a 30-day period.”

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