Cottage cluster

From HousingWiki
Ross Chapin Architects' Greenwood Avenue Cottages, in Shoreline, WA


from WE CAN (Walkable Eugene Citizens Advisory Network):

      "A Cottage Cluster is a group of small, detached homes clustered around a central outdoor common space. Typically, some of the homes face the common space, while others face the street.
      "The cottages in the cluster are small-- usually less than 1000 square feet. Each cottage has its own small yard and covered porch, and they share a central outdoor common space. A variety of rental and ownership options are possible.
      "Cottages are ideal for individuals and couples who don't want a big house, but would still enjoy some private outdoor space, a small garden or a patio. They can make ideal 'starter homes', or good options for busy working families who are able to live with less space and are short of time for maintaining a large home.
      "The 'cluster' nature of Cottage Clusters can add connectedness to our lives.  Older single people often enjoy the social contacts and security of living close to neighbors.  Cluster cottages are also ideal for intentional communities—such as communities for downsizing retirees or cooperative living groups."



Seattle Zoning Comission Poster, 1920s

in Eugene, Oregon

from: WE CAN (Walkable Eugene Citizens Advisory Network). "Cottage Clusters": 

Under existing code, there are two options for building Cluster Cottages: one would apply for a permit as either (1) a “Multiple Family Dwelling” or (2) a “Cluster Subdivision”.  Both approaches can be cumbersome, expensive, and frustrating for builders and occupants alike.


A Cottage Cluster applying for a permit as a “Multiple Family Dwelling” faces the following restrictions:

  • In Low-Density (R-1) Neighborhoods, Multiple-Family Dwellings are allowed only as part of a planned unit development (PUD).  The PUD process is much more time-consuming and expensive than the ordinary single-family home process.
  • In other residential zones, the code requires elements such as setbacks, street frontage, and parking, that were written with larger multi-unit buildings in mind.  Adjusting them into something appropriate for Cottage Clusters costs time and money.   

A Cottage Cluster applying for a “Cluster Subdivision” permit faces additional complicating factors.

  • Cluster Subdivisions must involve six or more units.  Smaller clusters are not allowed.
  • The Cluster Subdivision process is a “Type II land-use application process”.  It requires notification of neighbors, opportunities for public comment, the potential for appeals, and thousands of dollars of additional fees over and above the building permit fees and system development charges.
  • The Subdivision criteria were designed for subdivisions involving dozens or even hundreds of homes, spread out over many acres. They are unnecessarily burdensome for a cluster of a half-dozen small homes on a single acre.  In either case, obtaining a permit for a “Cottage Cluster” development is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

How do we fix this?

Eugene should recognize cottage cluster developments as a permitted development type under our zoning code.


Milwaukie Cottage Cluster Analysis Report


Milwaukie (Oregon) Cottage Cluster Code and 2019 study

Milkwaukie, Oregon is a city of about 20,000, bordering on parts of SW and SE Portland to the south, with territory in Clackamas and Multnomah counties,.

The following is a summary of the key elements of the Milwaukie Cottage Cluster Code Audit Final Report [Milwaukie 2019], developed by the City in consultation with Cascadia Partners, Opticos, Orange Splot, and ACG: 

  • Regulate form rather than density.
  • No restrictions on site or lot size.
  • Restrictions on the individual footprint and overall floor areas of the home in addition to a restriction on average floor area in a cluster development to ensure affordable outcomes and creating diversity in housing sizes.
  • Flexible design requirements for bicycle and pedestrian pathway connections through the site.
  • Reduced off-street parking requirements in areas well-served by transit.
  • Bicycle parking requirements sufficient to provide for the use of the bicycle as a reasonable everyday transportation solution.
  • Minimum requirements for vegetation on the site between the street and the front of homes, and a maximum amount of allowed impervious area to encourage trees and plantings.
  • Allowance for a common building or other indoor community space
  • Design guidelines specifying orientation and design elements facing common green and public streets.


from Milwaukie Cottage Cluster Analysis Report


from Milwaukie Cottage Cluster Analysis Report