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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Tiny Homes in Southern Oregon

Tiny Homes in Southern Oregon

Big returns for compact living

Story by Valerie Coulman


For two Oregon business owners, a desire for a simpler lifestyle has made tiny homes a natural and exciting space for their vision to grow. They are enthusiastic about the trends they’ve seen in the tiny home industry as people are embracing its efficient and economical lifestyle.

Sean Moroni, co-owner and Head of Design for Southern Oregon Tiny Homes in Central Point, began in the construction industry, but quickly saw an opportunity for change. “I was doing million dollar housing and was pretty disillusioned,” he recalls, both with the wasted resources and the environmental impact of standard building practices. Along with co-owner Cole Smith (COO) and another friend, Moroni began to address those issues in a back alley project that has since grown into a four-year company recently featured on HGTV’s Tiny House Big Living.

Todd Miller, founder of Oregon Cottage Company in Eugene, also began with an interest in living smaller. “It was my love and interest for the outdoors and my love of alternative building,” says Miller, which first interested him in tiny home living about 10 years ago. “It was an experiment for me,” he adds. He started blogging his tiny home experiment and received so much interest that he began building tiny homes first in Cottage Grove, then moving to Eugene to be strategic in staying close to suppliers.

Tiny homes, for Moroni and Miller, fit the gap in terms of providing economically and environmentally responsible housing options that can be locally sourced and reduce their carbon footprint both in supply and in use. “I like to keep all of our money local,” Moroni says, sourcing all the materials for their tiny homes, except the custom trailers, locally.

It’s not just financial economy, says Miller, but economy of space as well. “Every square inch of these tiny houses has been carefully thought out.” It’s a creative challenge that both builders are enthusiastic about as they work with their customers to create the ideal, and individualized, compact home.

“It’s so customizable,” Moroni adds. “It can be really luxurious and exactly what you want—just on a smaller scale. Plus,” he adds with a laugh, “you can move your home when it gets smoky.”

Moroni’s experience has been that “the [tiny house] market is younger because of the high cost of living,” whether that be as a first-time home option, or as a transitional home during a larger construction project.

Interestingly, Miller has seen more interest in an older demographic. “Seventy percent of my clients are single women over sixty,” shares Miller. “They want their own place or are thinking of retiring, but are choosing not to maintain property or land.” A tiny home’s combination of independent living with low maintenance costs lets them be close to family but flexible about where exactly that will be. 

Miller has watched the journey of tiny homes not just through public opinion but through more official channels too. From the very first tiny home in Oregon that Miller presented to the Department of Business and Consumer Services over a decade ago, tiny homes were classed and inspected as RVs. That changed in 2016 when state recognition of the RVIA certification program was pulled. “Oregon currently does not allow full-time living in a tiny home,” reminds Miller, although they are still popular as vacation homes or rentals.

“Being an architect, I respect their fire and life-safety concerns,” says Miller, but also sees in tiny homes a compelling way to address housing issues nationwide. “It’s a changing environment in the tiny house movement,” says Miller, as other industries also begin to trend towards more compact living.

“It’s potentially the wave of the future,” agrees Moroni. Especially for first-time homeowners, the relatively low expense of building and running a tiny home are becoming more compelling as the housing market continues to inflate.

For all his customers, Miller notes, it’s not just a housing decision, it’s a lifestyle change, one that he feels uniquely qualified to facilitate both as an architect, a designer, and as a natural living enthusiast. “It’s about healthy and affordable and appropriate living, not living beyond your means.” For first-time homeowners, adds Moroni, “You’re not really downsizing. You’re just living. We love to hear it feels bigger than it looks.”

While the state decides where tiny homes fit as longer-term housing, both Miller and Moroni still meet the high building codes they’ve always followed, using licensed contractors for the various systems in each tiny home, and knowing their customers can have complete confidence in their tiny homes.

Whether for a second home or vacation home setting, or as a possible alternate housing option, tiny homes offer big return for compact living. “Check them out,” encourages Moroni. “Explore the option.”


Southern Oregon Tiny Homes

6463 Crater Lake Hwy, Central Point




Oregon Cottage Company

831 Snell St., Eugene






Hope Village

Housing big dreams in small spaces

Story by Valerie Coulman


Tiny homes are giving the homeless new hope in southern Oregon through Hope Village, a gated community of fourteen tiny houses in Medford that provide transitional housing and community support to those that have found themselves homeless.

The reasons for homelessness vary widely, points out Chad McComas, Executive Director of Rogue Retreat, a local non-profit that sponsors Hope Village and provides case management to its residents. From seniors on fixed incomes that lose their housing, to traumatic events or loss of family support, “Something happens and you lose it all,” he reminds. Including hope.

Hope Village opened to its first resident in October 2017. The tiny homes are not deluxe, McComas points out, but they provide a roof overhead and a place of safety for the residents that share community kitchen and garden, and maintain responsibilities around the grounds. Of their residents, he adds, “I think almost all of them are working [or in school]. That’s exciting to me.”

Despite some initial objections to the project, McComas is excited about the success they’ve had in their first year. “It looks nice. It’s well maintained. It’s quiet. It’s everything we said it would be,” he says. “It’s working.”

Working so well, in fact, that in July 2018 the City of Medford approved the expansion of Home Village by sixteen more tiny homes. Rogue Retreat is currently fundraising to complete those homes as quickly as possible.


Rogue Retreat

711 E. Main St. #25, Medford



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