Soaring real estate prices have led to a recent housing crunch in the city of Eugene and throughout Oregon. As reported Eugene’s Register Guard, home costs in Lane County have gone up 73 percent since 1999, while rental fees have increased by 48 percent. In 2017, Eugene was rated the nation’s second most constrained housing market, next to Seattle.
We might take this just as evidence that people want to live in Eugene. Lucrative industries like technology, finance, and professional and business services are attracting more and more relocatees from out-of-town and out-of-state.
But especially for lower-paying jobs, incomes haven’t risen side-by-side with housing costs. Low-income families and retirees are being priced-out. At the same time, housing options for young professionals are also lacking.
Especially for younger singles and couples, small homes built on the lots of existing properties, or ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) are an attractive option.
The rise of tiny homes marks a cultural shift in our ideas about housing. The excesses of the “greed is good” generation have given way to the age of Marie Kondo and a lifestyle of less-is-more. Tiny homes, with their small environmental footprint, are also for many a response to our impending environmental crisis.
The problem is, there aren’t many tiny homes in Eugene. This certainly isn’t for a lack of interest. Basically, current city regulations present obstacles to their construction. There are signs, though, that the situation is about to change for the better.
Taking the Tiny Homes Fight to City Hall
Several of us at LOHR Real Estate attended a public hearing April 16, 2018. The chief issue on the table concerned city regulations for Accessory Dwelling Units.
More than 50 people spoke with passion and intelligence before Eugene’s mayor and city council. A chorus of about a dozen self-styled “Raging Grannies” broke into song at one point, making for an authentic only-in-Eugene moment. It was awesome to see our local community’s vigorous engagement with the democratic process.
Our own Kip Lohr spoke of his experience as a realtor in Bend, which has seen the construction of tiny homes skyrocket in the past several years. In 2015, the city significantly loosened regulations and provided incentives for homeowners to construct additional dwelling units on their lots. In the past year, 100+ applications were filed in Bend, compared to only a couple in Eugene.
The result has been a more open housing market in Bend, itself a highly constricted market. Read more about the state of ADUs in Bend right here. Bend’s success helped pave the way for state legislation in 2017 requiring cities and towns across Oregon to take concrete steps to encourage tiny homes.
Tiny homes alone won’t solve Eugene’s affordable housing crisis. But the effect seems destined to trickle down. Tiny homes constructed on existing lots can provide an extra income stream for homeowners struggling to meet mortgage payments. And more housing options means a less glutted market and less people willing to pay top-dollar for lower-end rentals.
Many Eugene residents expressed hope that they might be the first step on a much longer path toward innovative housing solutions. Cooperative tiny home communities, for example, are an exciting prospect.
These efforts will require the engagement and cooperation of citizens on all different levels of Eugene’s community. We’re proud to be a part of the conversation and contribute what we can to addressing Eugene’s housing crisis.
Looking to get involved? Take a look at the City Council’s webpage, with information about upcoming meetings and public hearings.
And, if you’re looking for affordable housing yourself in Eugene or Bend, it’s important to have a helping hand. We have some tips for you right here, and you can always contact us to start your home search right away.
Update: Click here for our latest article on Eugene’s Accessory Dwelling Unit saga.