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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Elaine Walker