Housing Innovations

We’re an island…but provide NO beach access. Want a view to the Columbia? Forget it. Private developers have put river views on lock-down. Gated access is the rule.


Tear down this wall. Residents of our island community don’t have to be slaves to developers.


We can provide better value for residents…while generating more revenue for private developers. It’s been done. Look no further than Vancouver’s Waterfront development and Portland’s South Waterfront.




The PSU Center for Public Interest Design together with community partners like City Repair, Communitecture, Village Coalition and Catholic Charities are developing innovative solutions.


An empty lot across from Kenton Park is being used to launch a one year pilot program to establish a community of all women that would be operated in collaboration between Catholic Charities and the Joint Office of Homeless Services.


Here are some alternative development plans – that could benefit EVERYONE:



  1. The Mini-mall. The innovative Container City in Las Vegas (images), provides an opportunity for small businesses to thrive. Let people circulate and mix. Bring it down to the river. Everybody wins.


    Small-business space is created using containers. It’s innovative and inexpensive. It creates a vital social mixing area, currently unavailable on the island. It could provide water views and restaurants…even affordable housing.


    The highly successful temporary Re:Start Mall in Christchurch was built out of shipping containers after the earthquake.


    A modular small business park might be located in the burned out remains of the Sundance Marina warehouse (on the East side), the Manheim Auto Auction facility (on the West side) or by the Railroad Bridge on the Columbia River. Federal money could make mixed use commercial and housing space more profitable then hedge-fund financed gated communities and provide a venue for small businesses.


  2. Affordable Housing. Paul Allen is donating $1 million to help a Seattle nonprofit build a new community for homeless people using steel modules.

    The Seattle Times reports that Compass Housing Alliance plans to construct 13 units that come equipped with their own restrooms. It will be the first in the U.S. built with steel modules.


    Seattle based OneBuild is supplying the modules and bought a facility in K-Falls. Compass says the modules will be cheaper than traditional construction and more comfortable for residents, who will have access to on-site support services as well as a communal kitchen and laundry facilities. The community is slated to open in December in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood.


    The June Key Delta Community Center next to Penninsular Park was the recepient of a $70,000 grant from Pacific Power’s Blue Sky renewable energy program. The 18.36-kilowatt solar energy system, installed by Synchro Solar, has 62 solar panels generating enough energy to power all the facility’s electrical needs. The Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s Green Investment Fund also provided a grant of more than $119,000 for using boxcar-sized salvaged cargo containers.


    This Yacht barge might have the equivalent of 4 tiny homes on the top deck. Kitchen and entertainment downstairs. Some 3500 watts of Solar could charge the 13Kwatt/hr Tesla Powerwall. A prototype might cost $500,000 but once designs are finalized and the manufacturing process streamlined, additional units might cost $250,000 – $400,000, depending on options. Maybe there’s free money available to kickstart a project like this.


  3. Tiny homes. The Tiny Home movement has spawned Tiny Home Communities. The best researched book on the phenomena is Andrew Heben’s Tent City Urbanism which explores the intersection of the “tiny house movement” and homeless tent cities. Heben has since helped co-found SquareOne Villages, a non-profit organization in Eugene that puts many of the ideas in his book into action.


    The first 12 homes of Emerald Village in Eugene will each be developed by local architects that are donating their time. Once design and construction documents are done, the teams will solicit material suppliers for donations of building materials, with a $15,000 per house maximum budget. Residents, who help build them, can move in for $200-$300 a month.

    Each team will then make an effort to include residents and community volunteers in the construction process. Religious organizations run the 501(c)3. They make what appears to be a good financial and social case.


    Transition Projects Inc. plans to construct 70 tiny homes on Portland Development Commission land in Kenton. Organizations and entities including Village Coalition, Catholic Charities, Portland State University and the Joint Office of Homeless Services have been working to win over the neighborhood’s support for the tiny home project after the proposal was initially introduced to the neighborhood with little notice. If the neighborhood approves, the Partners On Dwelling (POD) Initiative will be installed by the end of March, reports the Tribune.


  4. Tiny homes on Barges. Portland has lots of containers, barges and tiny homes. Tiny Homes on barges puts it all together. It might enable inexpensive housing to be easily built and moved.


    Vancouver-based Friends of the Carpenter is a non-profit, faith-based facility with a large warehouse full of wood-working equipment, training and expertise. Other faith-based organizations, commercial marine industries, homeless advocates, and communities up and down the river might also benefit from homeless communities on barges.



A Tiny House Street of Dreams on Hayden Island is slated to open on the Fourth of July (UPDATE: delayed a month or so).


The Tiny Home Street of Dreams will feature some 10 tiny homes at Harborside RV & Marine on Hayden Island. The homes will be built in different colors and designs, some with multiple stories, others furnished to reflect different themes. All the homes were designed by Global Green Concept Designs, an Olympia, Wash.-based business that was founded five years ago and sells prefabricated tiny home kits.


Residents on Hayden Island should be in control of our own fate. Developers should not lock out river access. Oregonian’s pride themselves on beach access. We don’t have it.


There are many different ways to open up the river. A mini-mall could open up the river and provide community gathering places. Mixed use facilities could provide both residential and small business opportunities. New businesses, such as building tiny homes on barges might also be floated.


Amazon’s 100 ft tall Biospheres will host more than 300 plant species from around the world. They’re scheduled for completion next year. It includes office space, ground-level retail and public amenities like a public dog park.


Opportunities abound when we open our minds.