Multnomah Co. re-works tax bills for tiny houses

State told the county to recalculate the tax

A tiny house -- officially an Accessory Dweling Unit (ADU) -- in Portland, 2015 (KOIN, file)
A tiny house -- officially an Accessory Dweling Unit (ADU) -- in Portland, 2015 (KOIN, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Walt Raney recently converted his garage into a 700-square foot Granny Flat in North Portland, but that decision is now putting a pinch in his pocketbook.

When his property tax bill showed up, it jumped from just under $1500 last year to nearly $6400.

“I’ve lived here all my life, and so I’m being kind of financially pushed out,” Raney said.

A person sit on a bunk in a tiny house -- an Accessory Dwelling Unit -- in Portland, Nov. 7, 2015 (KOIN)
A person sit on a bunk in a tiny house — an Accessory Dwelling Unit — in Portland, Nov. 7, 2015 (KOIN)

Officially these Granny Flats or Tiny House are known as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), and Multnomah County now attributes the jump in tax in part to an old zoning change made by Portland City Hall that was just recognized this year.

“We don’t think a design change equates to a change of use or rezoning which is what the law states,” said Ross Kevlin, who is building a tiny house without a kitchen. “We think that’s a faulty read of the rule.”

On November 20, the Oregon State Department of Revenue sent a letter to Multnomah County asking the county to recalculate only the value of the land and new construction of the ADU — but keep the value of the original home untouched.

Until this year, Multnomah County increased taxes only based on the added value of the new detached units.

People like Raney and Brian Zoeller built ADUs with encouragement and thousands of dollars of financial incentives from the city of Portland.

On this day, Raney got his adjusted tax notice. It’s $1500 less, but still tags him for around $4900.

“I don’t know. This is a complete surprise to me,” Raney told KOIN 6 News. “I don’t know if I’m going to have to adjust my life or what we’re going to do here.”

Kevlin said, “Here’s the county wanting to raise everybody’s property taxes forver, by large amounts. Sort of flies in the face of what the city is doing.”

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