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Can tiny homes beat Portland’s affordability crisis?

One experimental community proves it can work

In Portland, Oregon, home prices are increasing faster than wages. As buying a traditional house becomes more difficult, residents are looking to alternative solutions. For some—like the eight people who reside in a tiny home village named Simply Home—that means living in smaller quarters.

Simply Home is a combination of two alternative housing models: tiny homes and communal living. It comprises three tiny houses on the lot of a single-family house. The residents share the land and some space in the larger house, and also operate like an extended family. Everyone is responsible for upkeep, chores, and preparing meals.

They’re opting to live like this partly because they like the shared lifestyle, and partly out of necessity.

“The price of housing in Portland is insane, and having people around helps pay for everything,” Simply Home founder Tony Diethelm says. “That [financial consideration] can’t be ignored; it’s very real.”

Portland has a complicated relationship with tiny houses. While the city embraces alternative housing models—like accessory dwelling units—tiny houses on wheels are technically illegal.

However, in October 2017, the city decided stop enforcing the law, citing the affordability and homeless crisis, and said it would work on policy changes to the zoning code as a path to full legalization. For now, the future of tiny homes in Greater Portland is uncertain, as is that of Simply Home.

Meet Diethelm, his wife Aline, and daughter Zaza, who have formed a true community with fellow residents Karin Parramore, a 53-year-old educator; Jake Antles, a 27-year-old who works at a nonprofit; and Sara Fry, Antles’s girlfriend: