Recreational vehicles and motorhomes allowed on construction sites, but nowhere else in the city

Chronicle: The real story

When the City of Hillsboro recently adopted Order 6397, allowing companies to house RVs (trailers/caravans/tiny houses/vans) on site during construction, I was interested. This new rule is based on the fact that we don’t have enough housing or short-term accommodation to accommodate the thousands of construction workers who work here. Our companies like INTEL have been pushing for the right to house their workers on site. It makes perfect sense and I’m a big fan of it.

For decades the City of Hillsboro has kept RV parks out of our town. There is no doubt that the perception of a bunch of “Cousin-Eddy” RVs being beaten and squatting on a lot had a lot to do with these long held beliefs. About 15 years ago I had a real estate client who wanted to put up a high end RV park here in town, but was turned down because city codes don’t allow it. No matter how badly someone wanted to make one, there was no way to approach this problem. There still isn’t. Maybe that was fine at the time, but the reality is that we have many reasons why we should embrace this type of lifestyle and life option.

  1. The Washington Post covered in the past that we have well over a million Americans living in RVs full time. Many are upwardly mobile and spend a lot of money. Hillsboro has become a major destination with professional baseball and football, college sports, regional fairs and conferences, and much more. They’re a smart, well-oiled, mobile crowd, and we want them to stay and spend in Hillsboro.
  2. Housing in Hillsboro has become such a problem that people pack in garages and sheds. Our housing market has just been ranked 17th tightest in the country. With all the jobs we’ve captured, we haven’t built homes that anyone above the top 20% can afford. We are becoming a city where most workers drive here in the morning and leave in the evening. Properly managed and hosted motorhomes and motorhomes can be part of this solution.
  3. More options – Portland allows RVs and Tiny Homes to be used as accommodation. This has the effect of increasing the incomes of those who own property that can properly accommodate mobile homes. This brings additional residents to areas near transit and shopping, again increasing the community in several ways.

We see the Hillsboro Elks Lodge providing RV spaces for members, and they are usually full. In fact, the Elks offer thousands of spaces throughout the state and the NW Pacific. They’re always clean, and the vehicles are generally at the higher end of the spectrum. The Washington County Fairgrounds had spaces, and there’s a link to them here (14 spots), but a comprehensive review of the new Westside Commons website, as it’s now called, turned up no apparent site.

The best RV park on Portland’s west side is Roamers Rest, which was built decades ago in a floodplain on HWY 99W in Tualatin/Sherwood. This place is beautiful, well-run with strict rules, and it attracts a large crowd of travelers and those in need of year-round accommodation. Spaces range from $73 a night to $700 a month. Hillsboro could pull off something like this in a number of places around town, and it’s time to do it.

This is one of the most compelling reasons why we need to establish more places for RVs. On Friday last week at Fred Meyers near Hillsboro Stadium, a trailer was parked in the outdoor parking lot and apparently dumped some not-so-nice byproduct into the parking lot. I’ll just let this photo speak for itself.

Hillsboro’s recent code update was a good thing that makes sense. Workers need places to stay, so it makes sense to use the sites they are built on. This should and could be expanded to provide accommodations for our travelers and our residential population. The creation of factories, fabs and facilities in our city creates jobs that attract people and also make housing expensive. So it’s time for everyone to take advantage of this way of life, not just construction workers.

Equity, justice and creativity produce options and a better place to live. Let’s keep up the good work!