UPDATE: Oregon Reach Code for Tiny Houses

Two years ago, Oregon tiny house advocates were embroiled in a fight with the Oregon Building Codes Division (BCD). The BCD director was actively working to stymie the governor’s directive to create a building code for tiny houses that would draw from the International Residential Code (IRC) Appendix Q. What’s more, he made changes to existing RV rules with the malicious intent of blocking any acceptance of movable tiny houses. For two years, dedicated advocates rallied tremendous local municipal and state-level support to reverse the BCD’s undermining. The results were tremendously positive. HUGE kudos to dedicated folks behind Tiny House Build, SquareOne Villages, and the Oregon Chapter of the American Tiny House Association!

Read my post from February 2018 for a better understanding of the past Oregon tiny house legislation struggle.

 

In a win for tiny house enthusiasts, dwellers and builders in Oregon, the State of Oregon Building Codes Division has adopted a tiny-friendly 2018 Reach Code. Effective September 20, 2018, the new Reach Code includes a tiny house section that provides a pathway for legalization for fixed foundation and movable tiny houses.

American Tiny House Association

The new Oregon Reach Code is a voluntary set of standards with a section dedicated to tiny houses. These are can be utilized in place of state building codes, by a DIYer or pro-builder. It requires building officials to accept structures built to it. The Reach Code includes an option for following the 2018 IRC Tiny House Appendix Q, for tiny houses built on foundation, which allows for lower ceiling height limits and sleeping loft access by ladder. It also includes a section for movable tiny houses, aka tiny houses on wheels, allowing for temporary RV-type utility connections. Perhaps the best bit of the new code is this: local building officials have the authority to waive or reduce some of the requirements, when deemed reasonable and when there is no imminent threat to public safety. They are not allowed to impose additional requirements beyond what is included in the Reach Code. Though cities can opt out, and it exempts any municipalities that have previously adopted zoning codes that exclude tiny houses.

Many thanks to TH advocate Sen. James Manning for stopping by for a TH tour! I want to thank Michael Johnson of 121 Tiny…

Posted by Sarah Stebbins on Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Reach Code tiny house definitions, in a nutshell:

  • Group R-3: A permanent one-family dwelling of 400 sq. ft. or less that will be permanently anchored to the ground. These structures are able to follow the 2018 IRC with Appendix Q, which allows for ladder access to sleeping lofts and reduced ceiling height limits. It requires permanent utility connections and fixtures as defined by standard plumbing and electrical code.

Currently in use in the Emerald Village tiny homes in Eugene—created by SquareOne Villages.

Emerald Village

Come check us out tomorrow at our Open House starting @ 2pm at 25 N. Polk St… https://www.facebook.com/events/1722168847891145/

Posted by SquareOne Villages on Thursday, June 28, 2018

 

  • Group R-5: A wheeled residential or recreational structure 400 sq. ft. or less. These structures must be built on a trailer and have temporary RV-type electrical and plumbing connections, and are limited to temporary living quarters for seasonal or emergency use, or as allowed by the building official.

The duration of stay may be determined by local ordinance, except for those located in RV, manufactured housing, or transitional housing parks. In which case, they may not be limited in use or period of stay, unless otherwise addressed in local land use and planning. It also allows for R-5 wheeled structures to be converted to R-3 on foundation structures, if the structure is permanently anchored to the ground, as well as standard plumbing and electrical connections. For more specifics, see the full Reach Code.

Read the Complete 2018 Oregon Reach Code

 

While the Oregon Reach Code is a game changer for tiny living in Oregon, it doesn’t solve all the issues for tiny house placement. For instance, the case for movable tiny houses as accessory dwelling units (ADUs) still needs to be made city by city, county by county. On the upside, tiny houses are now legitimized in the eyes of the state. The land use and zoning process should be extremely expedited because of the new building guidelines, especially in comparison to states with no available statewide tiny house code. Hopefully, that will be the case in Bend, OR, where a young family was recently told they had a mere ten days to vacate their tiny house on wheels. Most likely a complaint was made by a neighbor because this is how most code enforcement happens. Any complaint means action. You can read more about the story from the local newspaper here.

The family built a beautiful tiny home and parked it behind a small house that they purchased in Bend, where they lived peacefully for a year. They rented rooms out of that foundation-based house at affordable rates for veterans. The father, Steve Bryant, is a veteran himself.  His family has been providing a much-needed service for their community, as Bend’s housing stock is limited, especially affordable units. After the city code enforcers told the Bryant family to vacate their THOW or face daily fines, they crammed into one room in the foundation house. The family is determined to fight the eviction, and just yesterday, they attended a city council meeting to discuss their situation.

Council meeting seemed like it went well tonight. I would like to thank the council, mayor pro-temp, and mayor for listening and trying to fit the issue into their busy schedule. They didn’t like hearing no due process or official eviction notice. Thank you all for your support, and I will keep you updated. Code change will take discussion and time, but they are having the conversation!

Steve Bryant, the tiny homeowner

While the process will take time, I hope the city considers granting the family a temporary allowance to stay in their tiny home, while they work towards a longer-term, city-wide solution. I recently wrote about a similar situation in Boulder, where a college student was evicted but was able to return to his THOW.

Are you in the process of building a tiny house to the Oregon Reach Code?

 

-Alexis Stephens, Tiny House Blog contributor


My partner, Christian and I are traveling tiny house dwellers. Together we’ve been on the road three and a half years for our documentary and community education 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 to experience this inspiring movement in such an intimate way and to be able to share our exploration with all of you.

 

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