Portland’s Tiny Homes Housing & Training Program Gets Grant

Tiny homes like this one are being looked at for affordable housing and a solution to homelessness.
Image: PhotoPin

The $300K in funding will support plans to help address a homelessness epidemic in Portland, Ore., with tiny homes.

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. — Wells Fargo announced a $300,000 2016 CommunityWINS grant to the city of Portland, Ore., at the 84th U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) annual meeting in Indianapolis. According to the company, the award recognizes the leadership of Mayor Charlie Hales and the city’s “The Homeless Build a Home” program, a tiny homes initiative.

It’s to be a carpentry training program that helps homeless men in addiction recovery learn the skills of designing and building tiny homes. The plan is to build a number of tiny houses, which will serve the city’s growing demand for housing alternatives for the homeless.

Portland is a mecca of tiny homes forward momentum. There is the Tiny House Hotel as well as the Mt. Hood Village Resort, and myriad developers are working on tiny homes designs, like this revolving home, a new tiny homes subdivision in East Portland and the Street of Dreams showroom.

Mayor Hales administration is hoping to get the Portland Bureau of Development Services to sign off on a tiny homes design, according to the Portland Mercury. If pre-approved by city code enforcers, the Build a Home program could produce tiny homes in number without the need for building permits. The city has been grappling with a number of tented encampments and launched a safe sleep pro-camping policy in February, and was then sued in April over it. But the city has been working on a tiny homes housing alternative since 2014 to address a homelessness epidemic and state of emergency.

The whole idea is to mass produce,” says Josh Alpert, chief of staff to Mayor Hales. “Clearly there is a demand for camps and it’s not going to end any time soon.”

Whether they refer to these tiny homes as sleeping pods, hard tents or disaster relief pods, city officials want to make sure they fit with Portland’s zoning code. To come up with a design, the administration involved the freshmen Tech Geometry class at Benson Polytechnic High School where students have built four prototypes. It’s proved to be a very engaging program for the students, according to a May story by Fox12 Oregon.

The administration has also been working with Village Coalition, a group comprised of organized encampments and affordable housing advocates along with representatives from nonprofits and neighborhoods. The Coalition asked Mayor Hales to help find a warehouse where the tiny homes could be made in order to establish the job training program.

CommunityWINS grants help nonprofits and cities to pursue neighborhood revitalization, economic development and job creation efforts. The 2016 grants round also recognized:

  • Newton, Mass., and Mayor Setti Warren with a $150,000 grant for the creation of the Newton Innovation Center. The space supports the growth of small businesses and non-profits. It’s also designed to give high school students access to internships and resources.
  • Huntington, W. Va., and Mayor Steve Williams with a $150,000 grant for the West Edge Factory Solar Training Institute in a distressed neighborhood of the city. The institute will train dislocated coal- and other workers in solar-roof installations.
  • Jacksonville, Fla., and Mayor Lenny Curry with a $75,000 grant to Family Foundations.
  • Chattanooga, Tenn., and Mayor Andy Berke with a $50,000 grant for the TechTown Foundation.
  • Kinston, N.C., and Mayor BJ Murphy with a $50,000 grant for Kinston Teens, Inc.


Read the CommunityWINS 2016 official announcement.

Read more about Tiny Houses as potential affordable housing solutions.

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of EfficientGov.com and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.