It was quite a site this past Friday to see almost 2,000 people come together to learn about and celebrate Tiny Homes, ADU’s, Green Building, and to workshop and learn about how we move ahead as a society to provide for our ever expanding housing needs here in Oregon and beyond.
The Build Small Live Large conference 2015 brought together many of the best minds in this arena to speak and teach about the various issues with living and building smaller. Smaller meaning living with less square footage and a smaller foot print. But many of the homes on display and concepts being discussed were anything but small! It was an amazing event that started with two key not speakers who nailed the topics we all learned that day.
Alan Durning of theSightline Institute is a leader in the area of looking at policies and laws and why we do not allow these small homes anywhere as well as concepts we need to get our hands around so we can find ways to develop better options..
Durning laid down the lessons as follows:
1) 36% of all Bedrooms in the NW will be empty tonight
2) building small is greener
3) small is more affordable to build, rent, and live in
4) small is illegal in most cities as the small housing market was criminalized over the years by cities and counties for various reasons giving the power to the wealthy and forcing homes in the NW to average 1,000 SF plus per person.
4a) occupancy zoning laws stop people from sharing homes and allowing them to become affordable
5) 32,000 homes in Portland are 4 plus bedrooms and yet can not be shared by families in need
6) there is no legitimate basis for these rules
7) many of these laws are against Federal Statutes
8) occupancy caps restrict us having in law apartments and ADU homes
9) 100 years ago rooming and boarding houses made up 25% of the housing market – now they are all but illegal. Seattle is now allowing micro-housing in the form of new style rooming houses and they are taking off big time but are being choked back by wealthy home owners and Home Owner Association groups now fighting back.
10) Accessory Dwelling Homes and backyard cottage homes are on the rise in Portland. System Development charges were waived and that led to this sort of housing making up 35% of all new home permits last year in Portland.
11) Tiny Homes are illegal and yet are the darling of all small housing enthusiasts and the media
12) Vancouver BC is leading the Continent in allowing people to have a second unit in each single family home and they allow a cottage and a Mother in law suite in every home. Almost all new homes are suite ready with plumbing and power ready for more housing when needed. 13) If we legalize the solutions we need we will be able to live greener and more affordably – and it can be done for little money and cost nothing to Implement!
Durning had the audience in his grasp and riveted on this words. He believes we need to eliminate laws that limit occupancy and tell people whom and how many people they can live with. He talked about Vancouver BC now allowing outright the use of a second rental inside of each home and another ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) in the back yard of each home. This has reinvented neighborhoods making them more affordable and more vibrant. Vancouver is one of the tightest housing markets in the world right now. Alan believes Portland the the surrounding cities would be wise to open things up- something that would put a sizable dent in the housing shortage over the next few decades. He is an intelligent and well spoken analyst and he connected with this crowd- big time.
Dee Williams – PAD Tiny Homes and Author of the Big Tiny- a best selling book was our second keynote speaker.
What can I say in a short space about someone like Dee WIlliams? Not much because the woman who I would consider a modern day Matriarch of Tiny Living left a big impression on me and the audience. See here in the picture above framing her Tiny Home of 64 square feet a decade or more ago Dee talked about finding her 6 year old self again; a girl who was not afraid to try anything.
That she said was the best part about reinventing herself and her life through this process leaving her big home and yard for this 64 square foot wooden box on wheels! Lessons learned included:
1) This process changed her life after heart and health issues.
2 ) She became the 6 year old girl that could do anything again
3) Building and locating her tiny home she found a Home with people that she needed and they cared for each other
4) The tiny home allowed her to be born again and figure things out for the home and her life
5) Her diet changed as the cooking facilities became smaller and she learned to “graze”
6) This changed her living patterns for the better – she walked more, spent more time outside the home, learned to shower at work or at the gym, and got to know all her neighbors very well
7) She has been living in her 64 SF home for 11 years
8) Her uncertainty going into this led to creativity, change, and innovation.
9) This process made her think about what she wanted to have with her when she died – this was a process for her as she paired things down – for her it is her dog
10) She lost her friend Rita who let her park her tiny home for years in her backyard and she thought she lost it all until she realized she is connected to everyone around her; then she found her new neighbor Oliver who is 4 and who she says is awesome.
11) She gets power from Solar Panels and has no running water but has all she needs
12) She is dreaming about the next home which will be 56 square feet because she has to downsize in her old age
12) She is now thinking about how to help her mom and Dad going forward and may move into their backyard to be with them as they age
14) Dee posed a question to all of us- Why do anything if it does not bring you closer faster to the things you love?
She left us with this – Our vulnerability of getting into new lives and meeting new people is crucial and we have to put ourselves out there to see what we can do in the world-
Hearing Dee’s words and her voice were like my younger self kicking my older selfs butt – time to wake up and get after it even more. Thank you Dee-
Get Dee’s Book the Big Tiny and read about this transformation that happened to her and find out more aboutPAD Tiny Homes and the work they do right here-
That’s me enjoying a nice 1 minute reflection in one of the tiny homes parked in the park blocks during the conference was nice- I could have slept there easily and enjoyed the fire and flat screen TV in the sleeping and living space of the ESCAPE Traveler which was driven out to Portland from Wisconsin for the conference. This gorgeous home is $65,000 and can be financed at 5% for 20 years at $350 per month on approved credit.
The rest of the day I went to 3 classes and we got emersed in the statistics and numbers and the possibilities for tiny homes on wheels and ADU’s and really a whole lot more about where we are headed as a Region and as a Nation.
Bigger questions arose for me. Where will my kids live? Where will my grand-kids live? Where will my wife and I live? With rents and taxes spiraling out of control it is becoming harder and harder to answer these questions. Thus the allure of these new greener housing types and what they could do for us all.
For those of you with space and room to add a second unit at your properties we suggest you look at the options. One speaker who is a lender and an investor here in Portland has 3 or 4 now and he is earning 22.5% Cash On Cash on his ADU units and that is some serious coin!
We are in a position to consult you and help you analyze all of the costs and opportunities- safe to say they are substantial. From a great second or additional income to a back yard retreat or place to move to when your space needs change an ADU is a wise option indeed.
The slide above shows the ADU providing a cottage rental, space for more family, and a second home to move into as we age allowing the big home to be rented out.
For you Tiny Home fanatics and romantics the message was clear from all there. They are a grey area and not allowed in most places- so you need to fly in the face of the laws and do your thing. Or Not. One thing for sure we need to allow them and find a way to make them a legitimate housing type because they are nifty and needed. I’d live in one in a heartbeat.. my wife is a different matter!
More to follow on that-
Call Dirk or Kirra today to let us put our real estate team to work for you! 503-799-8383