Skeletons in the Code Closet: Obsolescence & Opportunity in Trailer Home Regulation

Skeletons in the Code Closet: Obsolescence & Opportunity in Trailer Home Regulation

This paper was originally written by Lina Menard of Niche Consulting LLC in June of 2012 as a term paper for a course she took as part of her Masters of Urban and Regional Planning Masters program at Portland State University. The course, USP 510: Planning & The Housing Market, taught by Dr. Lisa Bates, focused on the intersection between planning, regulation, and affordable housing. This version of the paper was updated in January 2015.

Tiny House Eviction Stay Guidelines

Tiny House Eviction Stay Guidelines

Well, that was a nice 48 hours of elation before the details came out about Portland's Declared Stay on Tiny House Evictions! Turns out there's a limit of one tiny house or RV per residence, which means no tiny house communities. Oh, sadness! In a nutshell, while the city is figuring out permanent regulations regarding tiny houses, they won't enforce Title 29.50.050 (which prohibits occupation of recreational vehicles) as long as:

Earth Day Texas Recap

Earth Day Texas Recap

his past weekend I had the opportunity to teach two sessions of the Tiny House Collaborative Tiny House Community & Zoning Workshop at Earth Day Texas (EDTx) in Dallas, Texas. Lee and I co-taught since BA was the coordinator for the tiny house village at the event.

Tiny House 101 in DC (and Beyond!)

Tiny House 101 in DC (and Beyond!)

This past weekend I connected with my colleagues (and friends) BA Norrgard and Lee Pera to teach a Tiny House 101 Workshop in Washington, D.C. Our twenty students joined us from various locales ranging from down the street to Florida to Brazil! I look forward to teaching a Tiny House 101 Workshop again in June in Denver, CO with BA Norrgard. If you'd like to join us, please register now so we know you're coming! 

Why Tiny House Workshops Are Worth The Investment

Why Tiny House Workshops Are Worth The Investment

People often tell me that they'd love to taken one of our tiny house workshops but they can't afford it. I respond by telling them that if they're serious about building a tiny house they really can't afford NOT to come to a workshop. The few hundred dollars they invest in the workshop will save them significant time, money, and heartache since they'll gather information and learn from other's mistakes. Fortunately, my friend and colleague Alek recently wrote this post about the benefits of taking one of our Tiny House Collaborative workshops. So in case you're not on the Tiny House Collaborative mailing list, I am cross-posting it here. Enjoy and feel free to respond in the comments. Thanks!"

Picking Up Our Tiny House Trailer

Ready to drive off with our tiny house trailer! Here we go again!

On Friday Isha and I rented a truck from one of our landies at Simply Home Community and drove over to Iron Eagle Trailers to pick up our trailer. For those of you who haven't yet built a tiny house, this is the equivalent of a groundbreaking. It's a big deal because getting the trailer to the build site is the very first thing we do to make the build real.

Lina & the new tiny house trailer

When we arrived at Iron Eagle we were amazed to see how many tiny house trailers there are in the yard right now! Dozens of folks have ordered their trailers and will be picking them up shortly, so it looks like Isha and I will be in good company with our build this summer! Iron Eagle has gotten so backlogged on tiny house trailer orders the past couple years that this winter they actually built a few extra so they'd have them in stock when tiny house build season began. Right now they have a handful of 20' trailers, 24' trailers, and 28' trailers available, so you could pick up a tiny house trailer tomorrow! (Tell Rob I sent ya to get a discount, too!)

From a 4 Prong to 7 Blade

We gave our 24' long, 8'5' wide PAD series tiny house trailer the once-over and then signed our paperwork with Mary in the office. Rob helped us get the trailer connected to the truck but we then discovered The Hiccup. (See A Tiny Move for My Tiny House for more about discovering The Hiccup): we realized that we had a 4 prog light connection on the truck and a 7 blade RV style connection on the trailer.

Rob Connecting Trailer LightsFortunately, there's a hardware store just a few blocks away that sells the adapter. Unfortunately, they were sold out of have the adapter we needed. Fortunately, Isha was able to figure out which parts we could use to piece it together and when he handed them to Rob, Rob said "Okay, just give me a moment!" Rob came back less than 5 minutes later with a Frankensteined contraption that worked perfectly to connect the truck lights to the trailer lights.

And we were off! We swung by Winroc SPI (AKA Paragon Pacific) to pick up the insulation for our floor system. It was raining by then (of course! thank you, Murphy!) but we managed to get our insulation strapped down to the trailer (and our eyes peeled for rainbows!)

Then Isha and I parted ways for a couple hours. I dashed off to do an on-site consultation for a family exploring the possibility of putting an ADU on their property. Despite the rain, we had a great time talking through their options.

Tiny Houses under construction at Green Anchors

Meanwhile, Isha drove our tiny house trailer down to our build site, Green Anchors, where Matt helped him get oriented to the tiny house cluster. There are 7 tiny houses under construction at Green Anchors right now and one other bare trailer besides ours. Matt says there are at least five more coming. It's so cool to see this exponential growth! The year before I built The Lucky Penny at Green Anchors, there was one tiny house (Nicholette and Mitchell's tiny). The next summer my build buddy Laura Klement and I built our tiny homes side-by-side. Last summer there were a handful of tinies constructed at Green Anchors. And this year there will likely be a couple dozen. Woohoo!

Lina & Isha's Trailer DeliveryFriday evening Isha and I reconnected at Green Anchors to tarp our trailer and get me oriented to site. We celebrated our trailer delivery - and date night - with dinner at Proper Eats. Today we'll be getting ourselves set up on site in preparation for tomorrow's T42 Build Blitz.

And so it begins! (If you'd like to help out with our build, please let us know when you can join us!)

Living on the Green Side


It was a pleasure to have a chat a couple months ago with Sierra Dickey '15, a fellow graduate of Whitman College who wanted to write a story about me and my little house, The Lucky Penny, for an upcoming edition of the Whitman Magazine. Even more exciting, my old friend Matt Zimmerman Banderas '04 who is a very talented photographer, was assigned the job of coming to my tiny house community, Simply Home Community to take photos for the story. The story, called Living on the Green Side, just went live and I'd love to share it with you. Thank you, Sierra and Matt, for helping me share my story and thank you Whitman for the people and experiences you provided that have helped me live this happy little life!

Read Living on the Green Side by clicking this link!

a story about me and my lil' house in the Whitman Magazine!

Small Developer Bootcamp in Portland


INCDEV_Logo-17Yesterday, on a gorgeous spring morning, my landie Jake and I rode our bikes down to the Native American Center at PSU to attend the Small Scale Developer Bootcamp hosted by Eli Spevak of Orange Splot, LLC and John and Jim from Incremental Development Alliance. These three incredible people teamed up after meeting at an event last year. Eli told Jim and John that Portland has lots of people eager to make our neighborhoods better places through creative, community-oriented small scale projects. They scheduled a one-day bootcamp for the summer of 2016. But as more and more people contacted Eli with questions over the winter, he realized the demand for this information was even greater than anticipated, so he convinced John and Jim to bump the training up. They agreed and had the opportunity to present to a sold-out crowd of more than 100 people yesterday! orange_splot_logoThe event actually kicked off on Tuesday evening with a set of presentations by small scale developers at The Zipper, a fun new food court with local independent restaurants created by Kevin Kavanaugh of Guerrilla Development. It was fascinating hearing about all the small-scale residential, live-work, incubator, and mixed-use spaces that have been created. A special focus of the bootcamp was missing middle housing, a term coined by Daniel Parolek to describe the mid-density housing that most American cities quit building many years ago and now sorely lack. Daniel was there for the bootcamp to describe missing middle housing - you know, like fourplexes, garden apartments, rowhomes - and its role in our urban fabric.

Yesterday the ten sessions included topics like:

  • Financing Your First Deal
  • Site Selection & Buying Property
  • Deal Structures & Money Sources
  • Understanding Pro Formas
  • Due Diligence & Acquisition
  • Understanding Condominiums
  • Property & Asset Management

It was heartening to see so many people in Portland eager to learn about how they can play a part in making better neighborhoods by filling the gaps in our urban fabric with missing middle housing and small mixed-use projects. It was also fun to recognize so many faces in the room and meet new people. I'm glad I was able to participate and I look forward to seeing what happens in Portland over the next couple years as a result of the Small Developer Bootcamp!

Biz503 Radio Show re: The Future of Green Building

Later today I'll be one of the guests for a radio show on Biz503 (a segment about business in Portland on the Portland Radio Project station). This particular episode is focused on the future of sustainable building and I am honored to be one of the panelists, along with fine folks from Sustainable Northwest Wood - which provided most of the lumber for The Breathe BuildingEarth Advantage which is the standard the Breathe Building was built to, People's Food Co-op - where I'm a member, and several more! I look forward to sharing a bit about Simply Home Community and I imagine we may also discuss The Breathe Building, the ADU Case Studies Project, the Space-Efficient Housing Working Group, and other sustainable building projects I've been part of here in Portland. Read on for the blog post Biz503 wrote to preview the show and tune in if you can!


Biz503 Sustainable BuildingSustainable building is on the rise – in Portland and across the world. The global green building market has surpassed $260 billion, and client demand is expected to keep pushing that number higher.

People are turning towards architecture that’s harmonious with nature for many reasons: economics, health, energy reduction and an overall awareness that the spaces where we live and work can be more than toxic boxes. From tiny houses to sustainable wood, to living buildings and urban forest canopies, there’s a movement to build green.

Join us Friday, Jan. 22, at 1:00 p.m. for a live broadcast of Biz503 as we talk to industry experts about the in-and-outs of the sustainable building movement. Mark Grimes of NedSpace and Cindy Tortorici from The Link will lead a discussion about the designs, ideas and visions of those who are pushing the borders of what it means to “build green.”

Our show guests include:

Less Is More 2016 Wrap Up

our Less is More students made us a card entitled Dave visits Lina (my co-instructor Dave is as crazy about bikes and little houses as I am!) It was great fun Kicking Off 2016 with Small Home Design by teaching Less Is More at Yestermorrow. Monday and Tuesday we went on field trips to small houses in the Mad River Valley and Montpelier. We got to see five little houses this year, ranging in size from about 120 square feet to 1700 square feet. All five of these houses were owner-built, which was neat because we had the opportunity to talk to the homeowners about their challenges and successes. I had been to each of these small homes before, but I learn something new each time I visit, so that was great!

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday Dave and I presented slideshows to share building basics and design tricks for small spaces. We asked the students what else they wanted to learn and ended up doing a crash course in building science, a presentation on toilet options, considerations for construction and finish materials, and sharing net zero energy information. We also introduced design exercises and drafting techniques.

One of our activities was designing a tiny house together by taping it out on the floor. I was impressed by how many different considerations came up as the students deliberated the merits of putting the door in one location or another and selecting a roof style. They were excellent at weighing their options and thinking things through. It was fun to see students design exercises morph into their individual projects as their understanding and design skills evolved. (Photos forthcoming.)

Card from Less Is More

On Thursday the students worked away the day designing their own small home projects, ranging in scale from a 200 SF tiny house on wheels to a 1800 ski house that can sleep 12. They presented their work on Friday to the class and our jurors, Paul Hanke and Kathy Meyer.

Other projects included:

  • a small home with a movement studio for dance and aikido
  • a little house inspired by medieval timber frame construction
  • a Texan live-work space with a double roof for shading
  • a small lakehouse to retire to
  • a cabin in the woods with an impressive roof
  • a round house with pop-outs
  • a multi-generational home with a turret suite

It was fun to see students design exercises morph into their individual projects as their understanding and design skills evolved. And, of course, it was great to be back in Vermont and at Yestermorrow. This was my eleventh trip out there and it looks like I may have good reason to go back again this summer to help out with a Build Blitz. One of the students in the class is excited to build a tiny house on wheels and several other students are eager to help out. Stay tuned for more about that possibility!

Meanwhile, I’m scheming my next tiny house design workshop, which will be in Asheville, NC right after the Tiny House Conference. If you’re noodling through your tiny house design, mark your calendar for April 3-8th and Contact Me to be added to the list for more information!