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The Tiny Sweet Home

Updated: Apr 11

Tiny Homes can mean many different things to many different people. Many people believe that a tiny home is on wheels and a chassis, like their affordable predecessor before them, the single wide trailer. Some believe that a tiny home is a house with a footprint no bigger that 200 square feet. In Oregon legislature a "Tiny Home" is a "structures designed to provide low-cost or minimally sized housing options for consumers."

When I worked at the City of Sweet Home, Senate Bill 1051 (SB 1051) passed, which would allow for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU's) to be placed, where a Primary Dwelling Unit already existed, in residential zones. I found a large number of citizens wanted to have some sort of affordable dwelling unit added to their property, be it a shed conversion, RV (recreational vehicle) in their driveway, a camp trailer, or tiny home. It was obvious Sweet Home had an affordable housing need that was not being met. There were temporary permits, that allowed someone to live in a parked RV, if it was on someone's property residential property, for a very short time. The outdated practice of medical hardship permits was also eliminated years before, putting a strain on families in times of need.

Sweet Home is a bedroom community, with an average household income just above the poverty level. Many residents cohabitate with extended family and friends, yet there was still an ever growing need of affordable rentals. With the current economy and health crisis, accessory dwelling units are a more practical solution, and more likely to be constructed by property owners on lots with existing dwellings, rather than new developments.

When SB 1051 came out the City of Sweet Home Planning Commission adjusted the local development code, and in turn, inadvertently somewhat hindered affordable developments of ADU's. They saw Tiny Homes as the new trailer parks, and a potential eye sore, similar to the developments that plagued the aesthetics of the town at that time. The City even went so far as to officially state that Tiny Homes were not allowed inside the city limits on social media, which is not entirely true, then or now.

The City has strict footprint requirements in the different zones, and this is often problematic for development. Most of the time Land Use Codes will regulate the amount of development and open space on a piece of property using two tactics, setbacks and lot coverage. Setbacks allow for a bubble of non-buildable space around the inside perimeter of the property. Structures are not allowed to encroach into this space, thus, you can limit the building size, relative to the property lines. The second is a maximum lot coverage requirement. Most codes do not allow more than 30-60% of a lot to be covered in residential zones. That percentage gets larger with higher density zoning. This limit on what percentage of your property can be covered by structures, naturally limits the size of your dwelling.

Sweet Home, regulates even further, in the opposite direction, controlling the look and feel of the neighborhoods based on the density of the zoning. Lower density zoning must have a larger dwelling, 1000 square feet is the minimum ground floor footprint required. As your density goes up, your dwelling can be smaller. This minimum does not go below 500 square feet, therefor it is eliminating any chance of True Tiny Homes. Not to mention, Tiny Homes on chassis, or trailers cannot be placed at all. If the home is on a trailer, they are considered RV's and are banned from being used as a permanent dwelling at all in the City Code. The only place you can set them, and use them as a residence, is an RV Park, at the end of town. Of course, we can't forget to mention that there are carport or garage requirements and a 20 foot hard surfaced driveway requirement for every new ADU, that can just blow any budget right out of the water.

So, seeing this need for a solution, I created a base model with a few options, that caters to the City Code for any residential zone. It maintains the look and feel of the neighborhoods, and all the aesthetics of the community. It does all this while still coming in at a very small footprint, with minor energy consumption, minor water consumption, and a very affordable price for construction. It is as small as I could make it, while still complying with code and safety regulations.

This home was designed to appeal to the Tiny Home lovers out there, looking for something smaller and affordable. I think it is important to put forth a solution and take baby steps towards meeting that need in a low income community. The Tiny Sweet Home is meant to move the idea of an affordable Accessory Dwelling Unit forward and make it a little more practical.

If you are interested in Accessory Dwelling Units and Tiny Homes contact KLR Design Studios for more information.

For more information on Tiny Homes in Oregon check out the publication:

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