Let’s permit Cottage Clusters outright in Eugene.

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. t. 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.

Cottage Clusters- Current Conditions:

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.  This would involve:

  • Adding a definition of “Cottage Clusters” to the definitions section of the code.
  • Adding “Cottage Clusters” to the permitted use table (link) indicating that they are allowed  in all residential zones.  Cottage Clusters would still need to comply with the underlying density restrictions of the zone. For example, no more than 14 units/acre in R-1, , no more than 28 units/acre in R-2, etc.  
  • Adding additional criteria for the construction of cottage clusters, if desired, to ensure compatibility and functionality.  These might include regulations involving parking minimums, open space requirements, maximum size of units, etc.  

What would this do?

With these changes, building a small group of Cluster Cottages would be just like building a single-family home.  You would purchase the land, develop a plan for the cottages and common space, and submit your plan to the Building Permit Office. They would review it to ensure that it meets all applicable building and development code standards, and then issue a permit so you could begin construction.  This would save time, money and headaches for the developer, and ultimate reduce the cost to rent or own a cottage for future residents.   

Get Involved!

If you want to see more Cottage Clusters in Eugene, get involved!