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Can Tiny Homes Help Solve Homelessness

Can Tiny Homes Help Solve Homelessness

By Rise
Apr 18, 2017

Housing First: ‘…a recovery-oriented approach to ending homelessness that enters on quickly moving people experiencing homelessness into independent and permanent housing and then providing additional supports and services as needed’ (The Homeless Hub)

This isn’t anything new, but is still considered by many to be an unorthodox approach to solving an all too common problem faced by cities across North America.

Newfield, NY (18 houses), Olympia, WA (30 houses), Madison, WI (11 houses), Austin, TX (200 residents) - are all examples of cities that have made housing first a part of their mandate. And through the goodness of volunteers and organizations, hundreds, and even thousands of people are now able to live independently and get the support they need.

While many of us think that solving homelessness is purely an act of kindness, empathy, and a way to give back - it’s actually also very much an economics thing. The City of Austin, as an example, has its taxpayers pay over $10 million a year to support the homeless (especially the chronically homeless). So when an ambitious $6M housing first project came along, it may have seemed hard to stomach at first, but it also became a very sound financial decision.

In Denver, CO - a housing first project lowered the cost of public services by over $15,000 per person, per year - a staggering number!

And it only makes sense right? Tiny homes have a small footprint, and cost very little to build. For cities, the undersized lots they own (that can’t otherwise be the setting for a typical home) are perfect candidates for this type of housing. Unfortunately, while many cities are wanting to get in on this wave of building, they are often their own worst enemies. Zoning has become an all too common issue with tiny homes in cities across North America.

Seattle has had difficulty ramping up from their initial plan of building 1000 tiny homes. As of February 2017, they have completed 28. The hope was that 1000 homes would make a serious dent in the city's growing homelessness problem. Possibly the most frustrating issue here is the overwhelming success the 28 units have had with the homeless population lucky enough to have access. Numbers quoted by Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), which operate the camp, show that 95 people either moved into transitional housing or left to join family, while 50 still live in the camp. That's 145 people at different stages of a positive trajectory. The cost of construction was $2,200 each or $62,000 for the entire camp. Inhabitants love the houses, which have 24 hour access and the ability to lock valuables.

Because of this success, the city has committed to building another 120. The pace, however, is deemed slow to some, especially when for $2.2M all 1000 could be created, a cost that is only 5% of what the city spends on homelessness each year.

But hey, progress is happening in different places, that's the important thing! And of course, tiny home popularity only keeps growing. It’s been such an inspirational movement to watch, and we hope to continue seeing more of it!

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2019-05-22T19:47:47+0000

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