What comes to mind when you think of Oregon? For me, it’s tiny houses.
The deep roots of the tiny house movement here can be traced back to 1997 when Portland debuted a progressive ADU (accessory dwelling unit) regulation, allowing homeowners to build them by right. This move helped create a sustainable and small space design culture. Combined with the sharply rising costs of housing and the city’s quirky sensibilities, tiny house living has sky-rocketed in Portland and infected the whole state with the “tiny lovebug.” Not a real medical syndrome but definitely a modern phenomenon that begins on Pinterest and countless hours later, ends with a decision to build a tiny home.
Let’s take a closer look at Oregon is an epicenter of the tiny house movement.
1) Portland’s new stay on tiny house evictions
Breaking news this week from Oregon’s largest city, City Commissioner Chole Eudaly, charged with enforcing city codes, has ordered an immediate stay on RV and tiny house evictions. They are now allowed on private property, residential and nonresidential.
“Housing is a basic need and a human right. “We have failed to keep up with demand for decades,” says City Commissioner.
This stay was inspired by Eugene, OR policy and pushed forward by local advocates, as far back as four years ago and with a recent push from the Leaven Community, an intentional community. They were initially inspired to act after hearing Nicaraguan immigrant Luz Gomez’s story of migration and housing displacement and her opportunity to live in a tiny house. In partnership with Salt and Light Lutheran Church, their Land and Housing Research Action Team is creating a coalition of churches and nonprofits interested in using their properties to contribute to the solution of affordable housing in Portland.
The stay is a temporary measure while work is being done to adopt permanent new city codes. The Commissioner has asked local tiny house dwellers to step up and help create the proposed new regulation.
From Eugene to Portland, now every city in America drowning in shelter and affordable housing crisis has a legit pathway or stop-gap measure to follow. A huge first step toward for more compassionate, common sense policy.
“I’ve invested so much of my heart, soul, energy, time, finances, blood, sweat, and tears into tiny homes over the past several years that it was an enormous relief!”- Lina Menard, Niche Consulting
For more context for the local tiny house community and an insightful review of the stay guidelines set forth by the city, read Lina Menard’s recent blog posts here.
Following months of advocacy, HB2737, an Oregon house bill passed. It directs the Building Codes Division to adopt specific standards for tiny houses that at a minimum will allow for sleeping lofts and the use of ladders or alternative tread devices by no later than January 1, 2018. Oregon advocates, including Andrew Morrison and SquareOne Villages, are pushing for full adoption of the Tiny House Appendix Q for the International Residential Code.
The American Tiny House Association Oregon Chapter is co-hosting an Oregon Tiny House Symposium to educate policymakers on tiny house friendly zoning ordinances. There are a few other advocacy groups across the state, including the very active THTV Eugene group. Follow their work and progress here.
Take a cue from Oregon advocates and get involved. Like them, you can affect significant policy change, but you must make your voice heard!
3) Growing number of tiny house communities
Transitional Tiny Shelter Communities:
- Dignity Village in Portland (democratically self-governed community operating since 2001)
- Opportunity Village in Eugene by SquareOne Villages— several villagers are transitioning into Emerald Village (open since 2013)
- Hazelnut Grove in Portland (formed in 2015)
- Hope Village in Medford (launched in 2016)
- Kenton Women’s Village in Portland (opened summer of 2017).
There are many informal tiny house communities across the state and new developments on the horizon, including Lakeview Tall Town Tiny Village and Cottage Grove. Additionally, there are few tiny house friendly eco-villages and intentional communities across Oregon; search ic.org.
4) Long and flourishing history of ADUs
Portland has been a well-known national trendsetter for ADU policy for the past twenty years. After allowing them by right, they removed other restrictions and offered financial incentives. These forward-thinking policies led to a massive boom in the ADUs across the city (attached, like converted garages and detached small secondary dwellings).
The Build Small Live Large Summit in Portland November 3-5 will be the first-ever national gathering of leaders in ADUs. Leaders in ADU policy, design, and development are gathering to network and share presentations on how these small homes can offer solutions to steeply rising rents and the pollution that is changing our planet’s climate. It includes sessions on how ADUs can help fight displacement, provide age-friendly homes for seniors, and provide transitional housing for the homeless. The event also features tours of local ADUs, professionally built tiny houses, a tour of the Caravan hotel, and a tour of several transitional tiny shelter communities.
Fifteen other Oregon cities have followed Portland’s lead by allowing ADUs. Many, including Eugene, are working to ease financial barriers to building them, like prohibitive permit fees and systems development charges (SDCs). Local advocates are pushing for the acceptance of moveable tiny houses as ADUs (overnight parking of THOWs, RVs, tents, and Conestoga huts currently allowed through the permitted overnight sleeping ordinance— inspiration for new Portland policy). SquareOne Villages is hosting Backyard Housing 101 this Sunday, a workshop on financing, designing and building your own tiny house backyard home.
Springfield has temporarily waived the SDCs (covers transportation, stormwater, and local wastewater) on newly permitted accessory dwelling units for a two year period. To learn more about ADU friendly Oregon cities, visit has temporarily waived the SDCs (covers transportation, stormwater, and local wastewater) on newly permitted accessory dwelling units for a two year period. To learn more about ADU friendly Oregon cities, visit https://accessorydwellings.org.
5) Try it tiny at a rich selection of resorts and hotels
Oregon is brimming with tiny house nightly rental opportunities, from Airbnb rentals to unique hotel experiences.
Portland features the original tiny house hotel, Caravan in the vibrant heart of the Alberta Arts District. It features six charming tinies all built by local builders.
Just southeast of Portland and only a short drive from the areas ski resort is Mt. Hood Tiny House Village. It offers five lovely Tumbleweed tiny houses in an RV resort setting, with amenities such as a pool, golf course, and hiking trails.
6) Tiny housers galore
Why most moveable tiny house dwellers are still living under the radar in Oregon, it is one of the few states you can travel around and almost be guaranteed to spot a tiny house. They’re everywhere! Central Oregon is a prime example; for more, read my post on the Tiny House Community of Bend.
With relaxed rules and more legal progress on the horizon, the Oregon tiny house tribe is set to grow exponentially over the coming years.
Besides tiny houses, Oregon is also well known for its wondrous natural beauty. It has deep forests, a vast coastline, and even high deserts. While Oregon is one of the most geographically diverse states, it is, unfortunately, one of the whitest states too. The ugly racist heritage runs deep; in fact all the way back to 1844 with the creation of the Black Exclusion Law. The effects of this are still being felt today through gentrification and violence.
My sincere hope is that inclusive housing regulations and tiny house community projects will help create healthier, more welcoming and diverse neighborhoods and cities.
Cheers to Oregon for embracing a diversity of housing options, as a healthy step in the right direction!
-Alexis Stephens, Tiny House Blog Contributor
My partner, Christian and I are traveling tiny house dwellers. Together we’ve been on the road two years for our documentary and community outreach project, Tiny House Expedition. We live, breathe, dream the tiny home community every day. This is our life, and our true passion project. We are very grateful to be able experience this inspiring movement in such an intimate way and to be able to share our exploration with all of you.