The Oregon House of Representatives approved House Bill 2737, which would amend and enforce adoption of specialty building codes for tiny houses. The codes would apply to prefab and site-built homes of less than 400 square feet, The Oregonian reported.
Lawmakers cited the state’s housing shortage as one of the main motivators for the bill. It would also provide standardization to help reduce the number of illegal projects.
- The state’s building codes administrator voiced his opposition to the bill out of concern for fire safety. Mark Long noted that there is not yet enough research into the ignition and spread of fires in tiny houses and that loft sleeping spaces bring unique safety concerns.
Like many other Western states, Oregon is facing housing shortages as supply there hasn’t kept pace with population growth. It’s a challenge being felt from the coast, where local workers are being priced out of housing near their place of employment, to the mountains, where bidding wars are rampant, and to Portland, which had a shortage of 23,000 affordable housing units as of last November.
Many cities around the country are using or considering tiny house villages as a partial solution to filling a void in the supply of affordable housing. But beyond special approvals for homeless housing, a lack of building code overlap and limited flexibility in municipal zoning has created barriers for broad adoption. Some relief may be in sight: The 2018 International Residential Code is likely to include an appendix addressing tiny houses.
Oregon’s House Bill 2737, which is now with the state Senate, would tackle this issue head-on. The bill would address some of the anomalies of tiny houses, such as their low ceiling heights and use of narrow ladders or stairs.
Recently, Portland green-lighted a pilot program that would provide homeowners with ADUs for their yards in exchange for housing a homeless family there for up to five years. Multnomah County said the city has about 116,000 lots that could accommodate ADUs, but only about 1,800 homes have them.
Astoria, a coastal city in the northwest corner of the state, approved a code change in April that will allow homeowners to build or allocate space toward rental ADUs on their properties. However, the ordinance does not include tiny houses.