The recent temporary rule change and administrative rule change in Oregon that undermine the tiny house industry are definitely a problem; however, I don’t think they represent a long term problem in the end. Before we jump into how to handle the situation, it’s important to know how we got here and who the main players are. I have been working with tiny house codes at the international, national, and state levels since co-authoring the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC) Tiny House Appendix Q in 2016 and am flabbergasted at how the State of Oregon has proceeded to ignore what the people and industry overwhelmingly want: legal tiny houses.
A quick history:
February 2017: Tom Bowerman and his Policy Directive Group author House Bill 2737 (HB2737) in an effort to legalize the construction and use of tiny houses in Oregon. The Bill is sponsored by House Representatives Barreto and Bynum and introduced in the House of Representatives.
May 2017: House Bill 2737, reworked to specifically adopt Appendix Q: “Tiny Houses” of the 2018 IRC passes the House of Representatives and moves to the Senate.
June 2017: Senate passes a version of HB2737; however, changes from the adoption of Appendix Q to empowering BCD with creating a code for houses 600sf or less. Basically hands the entire operation over to a government agency that has already stated that they believe tiny houses to be a problem and something they will never allow in the state. Governor signs HB 2737 into law and directs BCD to create the code no later than December 2017.
July 2017: Mark Long, the head of the Oregon Building Codes Division (BCD) makes two significant administrative code changes to the way RVs are handled in the state. His new administrative rules prohibit wood siding and sloped roofs. This broad reaching rule change, made at the administrative level and without significant public comment, completely undermined the ability of anyone to build a moveable tiny house and register it as an RV in the state. Keep in mind that this is specific to RVs, and although HB2737 includes both site built and prefabricated tiny homes, it is not specific to RVs. As such, this move goes relatively unnoticed by most people familiar with the efforts to legalize tiny houses in Oregon. This is true for me as well as my focus has been 100% on creating legality for tiny houses (used as a primary residence), not tiny house RVs (which are viewed as temporary housing and not permanent residences by almost all housing authorities).
November 2017: I am selected to sit on the state sanctioned commission charged with making official recommendations to BCD for the code creation. We hold two public hearings and unanimously agree to adopt Appendix Q as the foundation for the new code. We make additional recommendations based on testimony from fire marshals, building inspectors, tiny house industry leaders, engineers, environmental agencies and more. We send a very successful, balanced, and safe list of recommendations to BCD.
December 2017: BCD ignores our recommendations and makes a “notice of temporary rules change” that once again drives a knife into the heart of the tiny house community.
It is clear that BCD officials Mark Long and Shane Sumption have no intention of listening to the commission, the governor, the House and Senate, or the will of the people. They are acting on their own and without recourse. Every move they have made has been strategically placed to create confusion, and ultimately failure in the tiny house community. As one person noted, Shane blames the DMV for the problem. I have written testimony from the DMV that their actions are at the request of BCD, i.e Shane, and are in now way changes that they have put into place without that direction.
I’ll be blunt. Mark Long and Shane Sumption from BCD have lied and misdirected this entire process from the start. They need to be held accountable and the only way to do that is to speak up. We need to flood the governor’s office with phone calls. We need to flood Representative Barreto and Bynum with phone calls. After all, their House Bill 2737 was solid, spoke to the will of the people, and created positive change for Oregon. That Bill is NOT being implemented as it should have been. They need to know that their work has been deliberately undermined by Shane and Mark.
The current standing is a temporary rule change. The word temporary is key. We have to be loud, louder than ever before, to make our voices heard. I have worked with Mark and Shane enough to know that their word is not worth anything. They will say one thing to appease and then act in the complete opposite way. I appreciate Dan Fitzpatrick and others getting involved. It will take a village; however, talking to Mark and Shane is a waste of time. We have to go over their heads. BCD is under the banner of the Department of Consumer and Business Services and is required to answer to them. Here are some folks to contact in addition to the others to voice your anger.
Cameron Smith, Acting Director
Nancy Boysen, Deputy Director
Theresa Van Winkle, Senior Policy Advisor
This is about the will of the people being overshadowed by a very small group of people. We need to fight back and we will win this together. It’s important to be professional, polite, and fact based in your communications. Remember that the squeaky wheel gets oiled, but the obnoxious wheel gets thrown out.