Portland Housing Stupidity Grows

Here’s an incredibly stupid idea to deal with Portland’s housing affordability problems: Multnomah County proposes to build tiny houses in people’s backyard. The people will get to keep the houses on the condition that they allow homeless people to live in them for five years.

That’s supposed to be an incentive. For five years, you have to share your yard with a homeless person who may be suffering from a variety of problems, after which you get to keep whatever is left of the tiny home. But as one Portland neighborhood activist points out, what homeless people need is healthcare and social work, not to be warehoused in someone else’s backyard.

I suspect homeowners are going to be wary of this offer because they will have little control who lives in their yard. Not only would the homeowners be required to maintain the tiny houses while the homeless person or people lived in them, Portland is making it increasing difficult for landlords to evict unwanted tenants.

Update: Despite my pessimism, 580 homeowners have “inquired about hosting a homeless family in their backyards.” Initially, the county will build four, and if it can raise the funds, it will build as many as 300 more.

More important, this plan is stupidly expensive. The county estimates that each 220-square-foot tiny house will cost $75,000. That’s $341 per square foot! There are an estimated 3,800 homeless people in Portland, so housing them all this way would cost $285 million. That assumes one person per tiny house; some may house two, but housing people in tiny homes will also attract more homeless people into the area.

There’s also a not-so-hidden agenda here: “creating a denser, more affordable city.” At least, that’s the plan. The reality is density doesn’t make cities more affordable. In fact, the densest cities tend to be least affordable.

In Portland, people who build tiny houses in their yards face a huge increase in property taxes. That’s because, under Oregon law, their existing home is taxed at its 1996 value, plus a small annual increase for inflation, while new construction is taxed at today’s value. Thus, a new, 220-square-foot tiny house may be taxed more than the 2,000-square-foot house it shares a lot with.

Multnomah County says it will “try” to waive property taxes for people willing to accept tiny houses for homeless people in their yards, at least for the five years that homeless people live in them. How generous! Mercy, thy name is Multnomah County! Except really, it’s name is Stupid.


5 thoughts on “Portland Housing Stupidity Grows

  1. Sandy Teal

    Jolin expects most of the families will want to move on quickly from the tiny houses, which would be about 200 square feet, with bunkbeds for the kids and water, sanitation and plumbing. If they move out before the five-year contract is up, a new family will move in.

    Who doesn’t want a family of four living in their backyard in a space of 4.75 king size mattresses with a toilet, sink, shower, stove, and refrigerator?

  2. Frank

    Yet another reason I’m glad I no longer live in Portland.

    Also: $75k for a tiny house? But them a real house and a plane ticket to Detroit for far less.

  3. LazyReader

    I hope they keep track of this program, I can already see the future news reports coming out of Portlands alternative press:
    12 Months out – Officials baffled by rise in property crimes but offer no rationale as to why it is just in neighborhoods with homeless residents.
    15 Months out – Officials baffled by the rise in rise in Police calls in residential neighborhoods
    18 Months out – Officials baffled by rise in assaults.
    24 Months Out – Portland mandating that homeowners host homeless individuals in their back yard and allow them to use bathroom and kitchen facilities.
    36 Months Out – Officials baffled by rise in drug use and drug related deaths.
    This Progressive scheme has the stench of Obama all over it. He said he wanted to bring the poor out of the cities into the suburbs. If the Portland “experiment” is successful in the Progressives eyes, Obama’s plan to “fundamentally change America” marches on. They get a free ride into the suburbs meanwhile we have to pick up the needles before mowing the lawn.

  4. JOHN1000

    $75,000.00!. Without land costs.

    If the Portland government decides to provide homeless people smart cars, they would pay $50,000.00 or more for the base model listed at $12K.

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