Michelle Boyle is willing to wait to move into her retirement home. Time is not the only factor, even though the Sherwood resident is only 48 years old and she plans to work until she’s 65.
The real snag is her house. It’s tiny. The entire indoor living area, including a sleeping loft, is about the size of a one-car garage. And it’s on a trailer.
As of now, it’s illegal for her to live in this type of dwelling on wheels in a residential neighborhood.
She had to transport it twice before it was even finished.
The first move was ordered by the owner of the Sherwood rental house Boyle shares with her college-age kids. The landlord worried that building the tiny house in the driveway would prevent egress and cause problems.
The second move was from land neighbors temporarily allowed Boyle to use while she finished the build.
“They considered being ‘legal’ and putting in utilities,” says Boyle about her neighbors. “They researched codes with the county but in the end could not justify the risk or the money to do so.”
So Boyle rented a tow truck again and moved her still-unfinished tiny house outside of the city.
It’s legal for Boyle to haul the tiny house on wheels if it meets the building and safety standards necessary to be licensed, registered and insured like a recreational vehicle.
But just like accessory recreational vehicles, it’s not an allowed housing type in single dwelling zones and multi-dwelling zones, says Mike Liefeld, enforcement program manager with Portland’s Bureau of Development Services.
The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability would have to amend the zoning code to allow this type of housing, he adds.
A documentary called “Living Tiny, Legally” is being shot by filmmakers Alexis Stephens and Christian Parsons that hopes to advise cities on how to write laws to accommodate the popular bitty abodes.
UPDATE: Jennifer Kuiper of the Sherwood City Council said Monday that tiny houses may find a way into the city’s “long-overdue” update of its comprehensive plan.
“I am confident that city staff will be considering ways to include in its planning how to incorporate these novel ways to live,” she says, adding that the Council and city staff could always review interim measures before a comprehensive plan is completed in two or three years.