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Build Small, Live Large: Oregon Says Yes to Tiny Houses

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Build Small, Live Large - Summit Encourages Oregonians

by Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service

PORTLAND — A bill passed in the Oregon Legislature earlier this year says cities must allow a mix of housing types, referred to as inclusive zoning, rather than the traditional single-family zoning.

A conference next month will explore how tiny homes can be a big part of life. The Build Small Live Large 2019 summit is a biennial event, looking this year at housing affordability.

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Eli Spevak is the founder of Orange Splot, a contracting company that builds clusters of tiny homes and affordable housing units. He’s speaking on several panels about the new landscape for smaller housing.

“A lot of times, single-family zoning encourages new homes to be all 2,600 square-foot – that’s about the average size in Portland,” Spevak said. “And we know that the demographic changes and increasing cost of housing – it’s important to have smaller, less expensive housing options that the market can provide, if the zoning code allows for it.”

Carmel Perez Snyder, director of advocacy and outreach with AARP Oregon, is on a panel delving into the accessibility issue for tiny homes.

She said tiny homes often are associated with young people and include designs, such as a loft you have to climb into, that don’t take into account people with mobility issues. But she noted as the country ages, it’s important to think about incorporating universal designs into these smaller homes.

“Because a lot of older adults are finding that they want to literally downsize to something smaller,” Snyder said. “It works better for them, it’s more affordable, or they just want to have a smaller carbon footprint.”

The first Build Small Live Large summit was held in 2012. Spevak said the driving force behind it was people looking for ways to cut down their carbon footprint. He said a greater mix of smaller housing types in residential areas would help the climate.

“It turns out that almost 80% of the climate impact of a house over its lifespan has to do with conditioning the space and keeping the water, which scale with how big the house is,” he said.

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