Micro-communities: Solution to homelessness?

There are over 800 tiny homes, or "Accessory Housing Units," in Portland. (KOIN)
There are over 800 tiny homes, or "Accessory Housing Units," in Portland. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Tiny homes have popped up all around Portland, and soon, micro-communities may become a common sight as well.

Just 200 square feet and built for only $12,000 each, these tiny homes would rent for as little as $250 a month.

“These tiny houses are really the wave of the future. That’s how we’re going to answer our question of low-income housing,” said Michael Withey with Micro Community Concepts.

There are over 800 tiny homes, or "Accessory Housing Units," in Portland. (KOIN)
There are over 800 tiny homes, or “Accessory Housing Units,” in Portland. (KOIN)

Withey, a remodeler pushing for the micro-communities, took the idea to Portland City Council. He told KOIN 6 the micro-communities would be for the working, poor people who make less than $21,000 a year, including minimum wage workers who may even be homeless because they can’t afford market rents.

“There’s no one size fits all solutions, but we need a number of different options,” said Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz.

Micro Community Concepts is currently negotiating with the owner of a half-acre property near NE 146th Avenue and NE Burnside Street to put 25 tiny homes there.

Neighbors said they are OK with the concept, depending on how the homes look and who lives there.

“I think it would be interesting to see how it would play out,” said Kyra Butler.

Some questions about the zoning and infrastructure of the site have already been answered with the city’s decision to waive system development charges for individual tiny homes, which are also referred to as accessory dwelling units (ADU).

A community of tiny homes would be a Portland first.

However, questions have been raised about whether the city is in a position of backing the effort either with land or infrastructure.

“Well, the city’s already in the business of subsidizing affordable housing – and we should be – that’s a big part of what we do is to try to provide home ownership and rental housing opportunities for everybody in our community,” said Portland Mayor Charlie Hales.

Even Withey admitted the micro-communities aren’t right for every Portland neighborhood. Concerns about property values and potential criminal activity have been expressed by some.

Regardless, the city council promised to take a serious look at micro-communities, particularly zoning.

Withey said if Micro Community Concepts can secure the land from the private owner and if the city council approves the zoning, construction on the micro-community could begin by early next spring.

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