Life in Portland Blog

Tiny Homes, Gigantic Hearts: Investigating Portland’s Tiny House Culture

 It Doesn't Have to Be Big to Be Beautiful

It Doesn't Have to Be Big to Be Beautiful

The city of Portland, Oregon gets more than its share of good-natured ribbing. To a certain extent, we make ourselves an easy target, but for all the right reasons. We really are crazy about amazing food. We really do wear our hearts on our sleeves. We’re super-serious about quality of life and sustainability, and we’re a really friendly bunch of people, once you get to know us.

So let them make fun! We’re good with that. We’ll just be out here on the upper-left coast, brewing our own beer, listening to records and learning to knit in our tiny houses.

Because of all that, it should come as no surprise that Portlanders have enthusiastically embraced the tiny house movement. After all, we have so much in common! Let’s take a look at Portland’s burgeoning tiny house culture, and why this is the perfect city for the tiny house movement to really take hold.

A Tiny Lifestyle Is a Sustainable One

Did you know that buildings account for 72% of the electricity use in the United States? It’s true. They also create 38% of carbon monoxide emissions. Residential homes account for 75% of the lumber usage, not to mention 18% of total greenhouse gas emissions.

So why do our homes have such a huge effect on the environment? Well, think about it: how often do you leave a light bulb on when you don’t need to? How much energy do you spend heating rooms you’re not even occupying?

 Another Tiny House Is Born

Another Tiny House Is Born

Tiny houses help us live sustainably because they require less energy to maintain comfortable living conditions, and they’re less resource-intensive to produce, which means more trees get to stay in the forest. Yay!

Tiny Houses Fit Into the Neighborhood

If you’re new to Portland, then you’re probably used to all of those tall skinny houses sandwiched between older homes. They’re a frequent scapegoat of longtime residents, as they seem to change the character of the neighborhood.

Then there’s the rush to build condos in every available lot, not to mention lots that are already occupied. Nothing invokes the ire of old-school Portlanders like seeing charming old homes bulldozed to make way for high-dollar condominiums that probably won’t feature parking spaces.

Here’s the thing: we need infill housing. Portland’s a great place to live, and people are going to keep moving here – that’s just a fact. And further, they are going to need places to live. Without additional housing construction, homes close to the city center are going to become astronomically expensive.

Tiny houses can help our city fulfill the need for affordable housing close-in, without changing the fundamental character of the neighborhoods in which they’re built.

Tiny House, Big Freedom

Even with the infill housing, the cost of living in Portland is projected to rise, and that could make living here expensive for the quirky creative folks who’ve helped make this city such a fun and unique place to be.

 Maximizing Space in an Already Overcrowded World

Maximizing Space in an Already Overcrowded World

If you can afford the mortgage on a full-sized PDX home, then more power to you! But if you’d rather minimize your living expenses so you can spend more time pursuing your creative endeavors, then a tiny house is a great way to go.

Instead of spending all your money on rent or a mortgage payment, divert your spare funds to paying off debt or retirement investments. Tiny houses offer a budget-friendly path to financial independence, something we’re sure Portland’s abundance of creatives can get behind.

Get Involved In Portland’s Tiny House Movement

Okay, so if you’re considering transitioning to the tiny house lifestyle, where do you start? Thankfully, there are plenty of people in Portland who are eager to help you get your feet wet.

We might recommend starting off with a stay at Caravan, the tiny house hotel in NE Portland’s awesome Alberta Arts District. That way, you’ll be able to try on tiny house living to see if you think it will be a good fit for you, plus you’ll be in the middle of a fun and entertaining neighborhood that’s full of great eats and lively nighttime hotspots.

 A Novel Way to Deal With Urban Density

A Novel Way to Deal With Urban Density

If you leave the Caravan experience wanting more, then give The Big Tiny by Dee Williams a read. It’s a memoir about Dee’s experience living in a self-built tiny house since 2004, and it’s a must read for aspiring tiny people. Dee also founded PAD, which stands for Portland Alternative Dwellings. At, you can find house plans, ebooks, and a wealth of other useful information.

Maybe you’re into living in your own tiny house, but you’re not so handy with a hammer. No worries. Tiny Heirloom, the company featured on HGTV’s series Tiny Luxury, just so happens to be located in Portland, Oregon. If you’d rather leave the construction to someone else, they’d be more than happy to make your tiny home dream come true!

Urban Nest Realty is proud to be home to agents Liz Getty and Annie Rose Shapero who run Team Tiny, a real estate team devoted to helping real estate clients make their Tiny House dreams come true, whether that's with ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units), small builds, Tiny Homes on Wheels and more! If you want to know more about tiny home opportunities, they are the folks who can help. 

[Photos Via: Tiny Heirloom; Tiny House Living]