Garages Are the New Houses in Portland, OR

Most of the time, homeowners consider work done on the garage to be an asset to the main house (with about 71% of homeowners who recently replaced garage doors believing it improved the value of their property). Not many people see an upgraded garage as a replacement for a home, however.

But that’s exactly the trend in Portland, OR, where a growing number of garages are being upgraded into legal “accessory dwelling units.” Homeowners can rent these out or use them as semi-independent living spaces for senior parents or grown children, but some are choosing to live in their own garages and rent out their main houses, instead.

“Portland residential properties have nice-sized lots,” Holly Huntley told Oregon Live, the online version of The Oregonian, April 28. Huntley owns Environs, a company that specializes in both designing and building small but complete homes. “A new ADU [accessory dwelling unit] uses only a small portion of the lot and a garage conversion doesn’t need any more ground room,” she said, explaining the appeal.

According to Kareen Perkins, the city’s building permitting services manager, applications for such conversions have more than tripled since 2009.

That’s not necessarily because conversions are inexpensive. In fact, the cost per square foot in a garage conversion project can range from $100 to $300, which is more than one would expect to pay if building a detached house.

But Portlanders seem to like the idea regardless. Later this month, there will even be a tour offered of 25 ADUs so interested parties can learn more about the process and get a better idea of how these tiny houses turn out.

The second annual “Build Small, Live Large” tour will take place May 29 through 31, and will also include workshops, presentations, and a party featuring local beer and s’mores. Tickets start at $35, and discounts are being offered until May 23.

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