The Cottage Village Coalition (CVC) is a group of local individuals and organizations in the Cottage Grove area who, in collaboration with Square One Villages, are planning a permanent, affordable village of tiny homes in Cottage Grove, Oregon.
Cottage Grove is a rural under-resourced community, 20 miles south of Eugene. In March, SquareOne received a grant from Meyer Memorial Trust to: "pilot an improved version of the tiny house village model in a small community with fewer local resources, and to promote very basic, extremely low-cost housing through the development of a toolbox and training kit focused on replicating this approach in other Oregon communities.”
The CVC began meeting in February to explore ways to reduce or eliminate homelessness in their community, and partnered with SquareOne in July. From there the group established a vision of advancing self-sufficiency and human dignity by providing safe, stable, well-designed tiny homes in a village setting for those who need them most.
A top priority and initial consideration of the CVC was to involve the larger community in the conversation from the outset. Several meetings were held with various community organizations and leaders, which has resulted in a growing list of local supporters and partners.
SquareOne staff has assisted the Coalition in establishing an effective local organizing group, building the political will in Cottage Grove, identifying potential sites, and developing planning and design goals for their village. We presented the project at a City Council work session on November 14, and at their following meeting on November 28, the Council voted 6-1 to put official support behind the project and agreed to help cover development fees.
At the meeting, Mark (pictured above), expressed his support for the project as a hopeful future resident:
"I'd just like to put a face to the loose ends that have been mentioned. I am an extremely low-income person, I am officially unhoused. I'm very excited by this program. Not only as a possibility for me to maintain a lifestyle that includes dignity. But also because it gives me something to be involved in. It's a community building project in the best possible way."
The CVC is currently trying to secure a site on which to build their tiny house village.
What We've Learned
SquareOne Villages has gained valuable insight by working directly with the Cottage Village Coalition. This experience has affirmed our belief that by providing supportive services to local efforts to create new and innovative housing opportunities, we can make those efforts more effective and efficient.
The experience has also informed us on some of the challenges in working with a rural community, which have fewer local resources to draw upon. We also came up against the challenge of working with lower density limits in smaller cities, which presents a challenge in achieving a certain economy of scale to reduce per unit costs.
While the tiny houses themselves receive a lot of the attention, we believe our most critical innovation is involving new players in the affordable housing development process. Housing development has become a highly specialized endeavor, and non-specialists are often left with few avenues for contributing. But tiny houses offer a more approachable scale, allowing for a diverse range of citizens to engage in the process.
We have found that involving community members and future residents in the process results in a stronger sense of local ownership that has the ability to 1) respond to needs and desires specific to the local community, 2) draw on additional resources and support that exist in the community, and 3) breakdown common stereotypes around homelessness and affordable housing.
Along the way, we have developed several tools for CVC’s use, which are being compiled in a Toolbox as templates for use by others. Since receiving the above mentioned grant, we've also consulted with 10 other cities in Oregon with grassroots initiatives that have coalesced around the tiny house village concept, in addition to several others throughout the U.S. It is our hope that the Toolbox will educate and inform these group’s on how to be more effective in taking a tiny house village from concept to reality.
If each of these citizen-led initiatives could succeed in developing jus one new tiny housing project, in addition to projects being pursued by more traditional developers, we believe this would make a significant contribution to the broader world of affordable housing in Oregon and beyond.