A local manufacturer of tiny houses is beginning an expansion to double its floorspace and allow it to meet a growing demand for its travel trailer-mounted residences.
Tru Form Tiny, which has built more than 300 tiny homes in Eugene since 2015, recently acquired some more room to grow near its Tyinn Street shop. The homebuilders expect the new space and hiring new employees will let them build 42% more tiny homes a year.
"There's been more interest, so it's safer to expand," co-owner Malia Schultheis said. "It's been hard to operate in this space. It's too small. We just had to stretch out more."
Tru Form Tiny standard models homes range between 128 square feet and 400 square feet with another 150 square feet of loft space, all built atop custom-made travel trailers.
Co-owner Jen Carroll, whose background is in home construction, said each tiny house is built in eight to 12 weeks. Those quick turnarounds allowed his team to innovate over the years.
"You can try things, and the stuff that works really well you just apply to the next one, and then you try some more," he said. "You develop really interesting, different models."
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Schultheis, who among other roles is the company's design executive, said building their business was challenging at the start. There was little professional guidance and it was difficult for buyer to secure bank loans, but she and Carroll were hooked on tiny homes.
"They're fun to design and fun to build, and they're just kind of magical," Schultheis said.
The company sells mostly to West Coast customers, but has shipped tiny homes as far away as Hawaii and Florida.
Many of the homes are custom built with the input of future residents, and final prices can range between $69,000 and $200,000.
Their homes are classified as RVs, and local rules about where they're allowed vary.
"People will call us up and say, 'Give us the largest tiny house that you build,' " Carroll said. "We use to build a lot of 22-footers or 24-footers, and two years ago that's what you'd have seen on the floor. Now it's 36-footers and they're 10 feet wide."
Though small homes have had a place throughout U.S. history, modern tiny houses grew in popularity during the Great Recession of 2007-09. The houses were and are only a small part of the market, but they helped Americans re-imagine home ownership.
Tiny homes have been presented as pieces of the solution to the housing crisis, such as at communities in Lane County developed by SquareOne Villages. They are often used for accessory dwelling units in residential backyards, allowing for greater urban density.
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Tiny homes are also popular investments for people leasing to short-term renters.
The tiny home industry over time has both grown and bankers have been more willing to offer loans, Schultheis said.
As the number of manufacturers grows and the tiny house movement finds its footing in the wider market, their business is now ready to grow with it.
Tru Form Tiny now has acquired another 16,000 square feet of production space. On Saturday and Sunday, they'll host a showcase for customers and potential employees.
The company currently has about 55 employees. They hope to add a lead production carpenter, a roofing expert, electricians, plumbing technicians and general laborers.
Carroll said they hope new workers will mean faster builds and more happy customers.
"We build a durable, efficient product, the best we possibly can," Carroll said.
The showcase runs from noon to 4 p.m. at their headquarters at 1030 Tyinn St. More information at truformtiny.com.
Contact reporter Adam Duvernay at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @DuvernayOR. Want more stories like this? Subscribe to get unlimited access and support local journalism.