Why Tiny Houses Aren’t the Best Homeless Housing (IMO)

Macy M89 comments17511 views

*There is a follow up to this post located HERE*

This is going to be a whole string of opinions and you may not like me as much at the end.  I’m okay with that, I think these are thoughts that need to be aired.  This is in regards to tiny houses on wheels.

There is a system to integrating codes.  There are categories.  There are ways in and there are ways out.  I am worried about one of the methods being used to get tiny houses legalized.  That is as a solution to homelessness.  There are a few reasons this makes me nervous, the first being that tiny houses are not the best answer for this.  They are not ‘cheap housing’.  Tiny houses are really for the middle class.  Even if you build it yourself on any sort of a reasonable timeline they will run you about $25,000 (yes you can do it cheaper as per the example of my house @ ~$11,500, it extends your timeline).  Say you have a 150 s.f. house at 25K, that is 166 dollars a square foot.  That is astronomical!  That is almost 100 dollars a square foot more than the average in this country right now (census), and that is a very cheap tiny house!  Aside from that it wouldn’t be smart growth, it would be poding together a bunch of tiny houses, not the most efficient model.

The best way to use tiny houses in a city is [in my opinion] is as a series of infill homes, aka increasing densities by adding another structure to an existing home lot.  Similar to the example being set in parts of Portland. To increase density, not decrease homelessness.  To decrease homelessness is a noble cause and should be sought but I am leery of developments wanting to use a tiny house model as a solution, I fear it may have negative consequences on the tiny house community as a whole.

To address homeless housing I believe the solution is building up (vertical), not out.  We currently do this with many examples across the country such as the apartment building model.  The shared walls are a cost savings.   Not only that, you can take a one acre lot zoned R-40 lets say, on that lot you could legally park 40 tiny houses but logistically maybe only 25-30 could fit.  You can take that same lot and feasibly build ten two-story fourplexes capitalizing on the entire lot and provide MORE housing than tiny houses would allow.  My bet is it would be much more cost effective too to provide those ten fourplexes than 25 tiny houses.  You are doing more with less money an providing a solution to more people, it’s far more efficient.

(Side note) To me, shipping containers seem to make much more sense, there are a lot of people out there trying to make apartment complexes out of shipping containers, homes can be built off site and shipped, making them cost effective, the best part is that they can be easily stacked and use less space, similar to this:

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They can be attractive, they can be durable, they can be made inexpensively, they can be stacked and they can work.  Tiny houses don’t fit the bill as well [in my opinion], I digress.

Furthermore, I feel we are doing tiny houses a disservice to call them ‘homeless housing’.  I don’t like that it does, but calling them homeless housing DOES put a bit of a stigma to a tiny house.  They are thought to be ‘less’ than ‘normal housing’.  The fact is that they take money to construct, either in dollars or in time and location costs.  If you are paying for one to be constructed they won’t be as cheap as the ones you see online a good portion of the time.  My house is a great example, I paid $11,416.16 cents to build my house.  I spend A LOT of time finding and conditioning reused materials.  If I had to buy things new it would have cost about 22-25k I estimate.  I have family with land i could build on, i didnt need to rent that space. They also had tools to use that i didn’t need to purchase and store. If I were to hire it built it would have cost 50-55k I estimate.  That gets less and less feasible and wise (I am sure that that is the reason this is largely a DIY movement).  Tiny houses are another option for the middle class and not the best solution to low income or ‘homeless housing’.  But calling them low income housing makes them less appealing to some who could greatly benefit from them.

On that same note and perhaps the most scary part for me, we would be doing tiny houses a disservice to get them legalized as ‘homeless housing’.  Codes would then be making exceptions to legalize in a specific category (similar to section 9 housing).  Tiny houses would only become feasible if you are homeless or financially strapped, putting tiny houses out of reach for the standard person.  Personally I want to live in a tiny house and still be able to make decent money, if they were legalized as low income/homeless housing I would not be able to.  I fear that we are going to get them legalized that way and, without knowing it, put them into a category that is out of reach for many people.

IF they were going to need to be categorized under any special category I would much rather see them come in as 55+ housing.   They make much more sense in THAT category (to me).  They can be paid for by the sale of a larger, family home.  They can enable seniors to stay independent.  They are very fitting of empty nesters and singles.  Retirees are a good portion of the audience who are interested.  They would be a solution to get people out of feeling the need for a reverse mortgage (which I have a personal vendetta against).  They offer a much needed alternative to standard retirement communities and enable people to truly enjoy their ‘golden years’.  With the state of the nation it is doubtful the retirees in the future are going into retirement with much of a savings or pension, tiny houses offer a solution to all of that.   I would MUCH rather see that code ‘category’ pursued.  It may not seem as ‘noble’ but it makes SO much more sense in my opinion.

I DO like the models which are being built by homeless individuals as a way to give them a skill, enabling them to then get employed but I also believe that that model can be applied to other, more logical types of housing.

In conclusion, I feel that tiny houses are a luxury of the middle/upper class, I feel there are better solutions to cure homelessness, I am fearful that tiny houses will be put into the category of ‘low income housing’, putting them out of reach for the average person.

I know that there are going to be differing opinions on this and I would LOVE for you to state your opinion below in the comments!

*There is a follow up to this post located HERE*

And… just some quotes I liked:

 

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89 Comments

  1. Some great thoughts, Macy! I agree, tiny houses are not really the right fit for the homeless.

    The shipping container idea makes much more sense. I live in a major port city and we have hundreds of wasted acres of empty storage containers, piled as many as 10 or 15 high (I can’t see well enough across the fields of them to count!). The city mentioned possibly using them for the homeless several years ago, before it was a “thing” – though I suspect they were talking more along the lines of cutting a door in one and calling it “shelter” rather than a true home.

    The storage container complex as in the images you’ve shown make great sense, turning tiny homes into homeless shelter doesn’t for all of the reasons you’ve mentioned here. I agree that it would cheapen the concept if they are tried to use that way. And because so many details in a tiny home have to be very customized for it to be comfortable, that indeed brings up the cost. True, there are some that are very rustic, and for some people that carries its own appeal. But most of us prefer to have little details planned out in ways that make us happy and befit our individuality.

    Nice article. Thanks for being bold enough to speak up about it 🙂

  2. Great article! I appreciate your candor and willingness to discuss a complex and challenging issue that effects every community.
    I, too, believe that tiny houses are not a best solution for the overall homelessness crisis in this country. I also agree that it is one of many good solutions for the over 55 demographic.
    However, I do not think there is a one size fits all solution for any demographic nor do I believe that tiny houses are a luxury for the middle/upper class. For some that may be the case but there are quite a few examples of people who would definitely fall into the bracket of low income in this nation who have built tiny houses and are able to free themselves from that distinction or at least begin to enjoy some of the freedoms that only the middle or upper classes can enjoy (organic/artisinal foods, traveling, leisure time, etc to name a few) now that they do not have the burdens that come with the trappings/societal expectations that come with being in those classes.
    Personally, my passion and interest in tiny houses (they represent many different things to different people) is that they provide a sense of freedom and opportunity to redefine how we live our lives and where. Tiny houses have also brought many wonderful and creative people from all walks of life together in a great example of crowd sourced innovation that is to me very inspiring.
    I also agree that using tiny houses in specific contexts as job/skill training and providing housing can be a good solution for some homeless individuals. However, due to the recent economical circumstances we have all faced and the reflection this has brought for many people that helped really grow the DIY movement in general that the process of building a tiny house has and is a great opportunity for many first time builders to gain skills that are valuable beyond the actual initial build. These are skills that many of our forefathers had that have been lost but I believe give an individual a different kind of relationship with their communities and the world around them. A different appreciation for what “work” is and for our capacities to literally create the lives we want.

    Thanks!

    1. I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve stated, I am going to change a sentence or two because it think its not really stating what I want it to. Thank you for your perspectives!

    2. Well said Benjamin! And I too appreciate Macy having the courage to bring this topic out for discussion. I also feel that the younger generations, who have possibly watched the money “traps” that their parents/grandparents fell into, are trying not to make those same mistakes. I just read an article that the younger generations are not buying homes because of the difficulty of getting a loan, tight overcrowded job market, student debt, etc. Tiny/small homes can become an affordable solution for those who still want to own their home but not be a slave to the roof over their head. Not everyone wants to live in an apartment complex! This is where working to change local zoning laws to allow more ADU’s and homes with lower square footage come in.

      1. I’m currently staying in an apartment and I hate it. I lived in a house in a small town all my life till two years ago. All my life I loved the outdoors, gardening providing food, swimming, nature its who I was. I feel like I’m not myself anymore since moving. I feel so restricted more like I’m living in a cage now. I’m hardly ever outside at all anymore cause there’s no privacy or anything that comes with simply having a yard.

        My health has been deteriating my blood pressures skyrocketed and I’m getting colds and flues constantly and feel physically and mentally broken down like I’ve never been in my life.

        I’m very depressed and have been looking into tiny houses as the only real way to live again rather than exist. I am on a low income and have health problems that have been accelerating since the move. I hate to think all that there is in life for us on low incomes are appartments and multiplexes etc…

        Before I found tiny houses every night I went to bed wishing I wouldn’t wake up the next day cause I no longer enjoy life since being in an apartment and in a city and theres no affordable options that give you a yard, privacy or your own life. Tiny houses can offer just that. I’m planning to meet with a tiny house company this spring for a new lease on life.

        So I really wish more people could see its more than just economics. Its quality of life and our health. To me its not about the size of the home, its about the outdoor space. Something government housing in both our countries seems to ignore.

  3. All I can say is, “Brilliant, Macy!” I didn’t think it through, thought every news release of tiny housing was a good thing for raising awareness and acceptance, but you’ve taken this to a more realistic debate and you’ve convinced me! And it makes sense, so I don’t feel guilty about it and I hope you don’t either. Thanks for being brave and putting it out there!

    1. Love your sarcasm here, b. In my opinion, this article represents a worldview that is classist and judgmental. The notion of who is “deserving” of a tiny house is BS. Stacking people on top of one other in aparment high rises may be more efficient but it brings a whole host of other problems and it perpetuates the ostricization and “other”-ness of the poor which in turn perpetuates public opinion and influences people to write articles like this one.

        1. lol, I have no idea of what bc was trying to say, but I addressed some of the other problems with stackable housing and apartment complexes in my post above. I’m of course not saying tiny houses are the solution for those who choose to live in large centers such as toronto or new york city!!

          However for those with low or fixed income who feel more comfortable in a smaller city or town and can’t afford a place with a little outdoor space tiny houses are a real relieving solution. Its about who you are or were or where you want to be.

      1. Classist and judgmental? Is that a joke? How about caring yet logical? She wants to help the homeless, but understands it is complex and expensive. How can we help resolve a problem while on a budget? Sounds caring, educated and trying to think outside the box.
        It is easy to tear down and criticize, but I don’t see you making any suggestions.
        I applaud Macy for the post and creative ideas.

  4. This crossed my facebook “news feed ” with this sentence “To decrease homelessness is a noble cause and should be sought but I am leery of those wanting to use a tiny house model as a solution, I fear it may have negative consequences on the tiny house community as a whole.” representing the title. It was very misleading.This is not at all what I had imagined the article to be. In fact, you have really blown me away. So well written and informative. The amount of time and research carefully crafted and broken down into easily understood pieces. Bravo

  5. I think tiny houses offer a second-best solution, not as cost-efficient or comprehensive as a large building that integrates social support services with housing (a la Salvation Army), but better than temporary and less comfortable arrangements like sleeping in church basements, etc.

    Container homes tend to be at least as expensive to complete as traditional stick-built homes and often provide less value.

    But I think that as tiny housers, we should support humanitarian initiatives that lift up those in need, even if it brings us middle income folks down a bit or puts challenges in our path.

  6. you make a lot of great points, it also depends on what type of homeless housing that you’re building. Transitional? for people on fixed incomes who can’t afford other housing, for the mentally ill who need housing, for the addicted who need treatment etc… Tiny house pods for those on fixed incomes who can’t afford other housing could be a good deal, especially if they can buy their homes and move them when they are ready to. Housing for those needing services would likely be more efficient and affordable like you said with an apartment building. I feel though that we shouldn’t cram in too many people together when they need services, that there should be a small reasonable group where there’s enough staff to look after all the needs. For true treatment of homelessness I’ve always been impressed with a voucher system that allows a homeless person to rent a normal apartment where they’ll be houses with the average person. Where instead of an entire building of section 8 housing, a building owner can claim good tax benefits of setting aside a few units for affordable housing vouchers. But it all seems to be an all or nothing venture here in the US. Mega plex of homeless housing or nothing.

    1. I agree. Sticking all homeless/low income in one place really helps to perpetuate the problem. Integrating them amoung others helps them to learn other ways to live. It also balance neighborhoods for a better social economic standing. I see kids all the time place judgement on others because they live “over there”. It places a stigma that becomes very difficult for a person to remove or get away from.

  7. They are thought to be ‘less’ than ‘normal housing’. Yeah, that one is a total myth. Most Tiny Homes have very special features that are perfect for their owners. They tend to be design carefully to fit your personal lifestyle. They are special. Even the cabin-y ones are special to their owner/builders, as they should be.

    There are enough empty homes already built to house our homeless. No more need to be built, no more materials need to be used. But the way our society and economy are set up, these homes are unavailable, instead standing empty, getting broken into, being neglected, many (most?) by banks who’ve repossessed them. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but they aren’t hard to find.

    It’s a good thing to express your ideas, Macy. Conversations can get started, ideas can flow, disagreements can turn to solutions. You are sort of amazing, :). Personally, I talk in my blog a bit about my “issues” with my mental health. I don’t get comments or many readers. But it’s important to me to show a bit of who I am so that others can see me as a real person and not just a “crazy”. I hate that.

    Keep talking, please, I’ll keep reading.

    Parker

  8. Oh, sorry for double posting but I want to add this: I think Tiiny Homes are not only built by the owners due to wanting cost savings and to reuse materials which contractors wouldn’t do ~ I believe people are taking some control back over our lives. We live in an ever-increasing rule-bound society which is making it harder and harder to do for ourselves. Hence this movement, and the front yard gardening movement, and the urban chicken or rabbit movement ~ all those urban homesteading movements.

    Phew, long sentence!
    Parker

  9. Tiny houses or tiny house parks for the homeless would have the same problems as trailer parks for low income people. I read about a project in Texas, the Community First! Village http://mlf.org/community-first/ which is raising money to open a tiny house/tee-pee/RV type village for the homeless with medical, psychological, educational services and a community co-op setting. This will take dedicated oversight and continuous management. It will be interesting to see if they can make this model work. They have already housed some homeless in RV trailers around the city so they do have some experience with transitioning people to living in a home. I believe the support system is the key no matter what the housing type.

      1. Let is know what you find, I’m basing my feelings off of my urban planning classes, my knowledge dealing with planning departments daily and my tiny house build, I’m very open to other peoples ideas but like I say, I am afraid we are going to accidentally push tiny houses through as one thing and make them instantly unattainable for many. Its not that I don’t like them as housing for any one group, its that I know codes well enough to know we could be doing a disservice…

        1. Yes, I’ll get back to you, Macy. It will be interesting to read the author’s perspective – I’m hopeful he’ll address some of the questions/concerns I have about tiny houses as homeless shelters.

  10. IMO….

    building dense, vertical housing for the house-less might make more economic sense, but the social trade-offs of creating more “housing projects” outweigh the savings. I have observed first hand the kind of quality of life (or lack of) that this creates. Inhabitants live amongst crime, drug-use, and other challenging aspects of life they are often attempting to escape. For me, it makes more sense to allow these people a chance to live in “regular neighborhoods”, so they can benefit from the assistance, positive models, and connection one often experiences in those ‘hoods’.

    Also, the overall cost of construction should be evaluated more thoroughly. Our ‘one-of-a-kind’ custom build homes would definitely fall in to the upper end of the spectrum. However, the costs would decrease drastically if small homes could be easily reproduced. One thing Nikki and I were also considering was the sense of accomplishment/investment one is able to feel from having a hand in the construction process. We believe small housing is an excellent opportunity for people to experience that by building their own (with assistance).

    Lastly, I am not at all worried about tiny houses being locked in to the category of “low income” housing (and destroying it for others). Please check out the work of Lina Menard, and the different projects happening in Portland (Caravan, etc.). The fact that zoning laws don’t currently exist makes things challenging, but doesn’t exclude those who are interested in living their ‘tiny dreams’.

    For me, tiny housing is proof that their is enough to go around, and we don’t need to exclude others in order to get what we need.

    1. Bravo! Too often decisions are made from a reactive, fears based space. As a society, we are continually told that there is not enough to go around and that we need to get ours before someone else does but the reality is that when we look honestly at the resources that are available in each community there is abundance when we are wise in how we utilize our resources. Earthships are an extreme example of resource use.
      Also, the risk of tiny homes being locked into one category does not seem likely. One of their unique features that I believe draw people to them is the degree of freedom that individuals have in how they use them and are defined by their tiny home.

    2. My concern with locking them in is yet to be true, codes being written MAY lock them into a category, I think we need to be mindful of that as things go forward. Whether it will happen is yet to be known but it is a possibility to be aware of as things move forward. I don’t mean in the mental aspect of diminishing the precieved value and therefore audience I mean it the real code ‘what is and is not allowed’ way. I agree with you otherwiae !

  11. Lots of ideas/opinions in this article; I had to comment on the notion that the poor should be concentrated in apts built upwards. This may be financially a good idea—but, Oh My God what a negative thing it is in reality! I was born/lived in Chicago till I was eight, near the infamous Cabrini-Green; that was a nightmare example of how NOT to deal with poor and homeless housing.

  12. All very clear eyed and grounded in good pragmatic analysis. My house burned down in a wild fire and me very nearly with it. I probably will find the ashes will never leave the place I have loved for the last 25 years. I need to be able to know I can simply hitch up and move if I cant get the fire out of my dreams. I also need something to do with my hands till my soul can settle down. Fortunately your view – which is absolutely correct is that for most Tiny Homes are a middle class lifestyle choice for most builders.

  13. Hmmm, well, I agree with some of the things you are saying but for me, I hope they never become a luxury for the middle/upper class. If that happens, then I’ll certainly never see my dream of having one. I was kind of seeing them as my biggest shot to be able to own my home one day. At this rate, by the time I’m able to afford it, I might not be able to afford it, if that makes any sense. Maybe this wasn’t your meaning in that paragraph but that’s how I read that.

  14. I’m glad some thought provoking articles are getting out of course their are two sides- but this article encourages the conversation!
    Yes tiny houses are expensive and to make them safe and better quality it takes$$$!!

  15. If you are on the ground working with the chronically homeless, in a city with no shelter for most of the unhoused, even having safe and legal places to put up a tent is problematic. Even finding places to put tiny houses for those who are homeless can be a real struggle, but one that is worth it. Tiny houses offer something all people who are homeless want: a door that locks and a secure place to keep their belongings 24/7. They can be the next step up after tents, be transitional and a sanctuary for folks needing health care or looking for decent jobs, and for most they are a stabilizing step toward more permanent housing. Opportunity Village Eugene (http://www.opportunityvillageeugene.org) is a tremendous success story (it’s described in the Tent City Urbanism book). I would love to see evidence that such a project reflects badly on tiny houses for the middle class that cost many thousands more. I’d like to see the author stand in front of a group of homeless and unsheltered people, many of them physically or mentally ill, disabled, or substance addicted, and explain to them why their living in tiny houses will demean or stigmatize them for everyone. Explain this stigmatization process to homeless college students, veterans, mothers fleeing domestic violence, families who lost homes through foreclosures or unemployment or catastrophic medical expenses, youths thrown out of their homes because they are gay or transgender, elders who cannot meeting rising rents. What evidence is there that providing tiny houses for homeless people such as those mentioned above hurt those members of the middle class aspiring to live tiny? And should those of us who are trying to save the lives of people who are homeless–who on average live 20 years less than housed people–even care?

    1. I think you’ve misunderstood. The issue is that people think tiny houses are inexpensive. I could house twice as many people for half as much money in the same amount of space using smarter housing solutions, same quality of structure even, build one wall use it twice, it’s a simple concept. That is the intent of this read. Not to say that housing homeless people is wrong like many people seem to think I mean… Quite the opposite but there are MUCH better ways than in tiny houses, people think they are cheap because they are small, they aren’t. There are better ways to build quality housing and they include more efficient uses of materials. For the same budget I would rather find 100 homes for homeless people than 50 tiny houses. There ARE better ways. Tiny houses cost more and therefore are not the best solution to homelessness. I think a lot of people here are assuming that because I don’t agree with you particular solution that I don’t want to tell ‘your’ cause which is simply not true. I do not believe tiny houses are the best solution to homelessness, housing, yes, tiny houses, no…

      1. Your concept of “build one wall use it twice” is nonsensical in this scenario. Multi-family buildings have loads of infrastructure requirements that drive up the cost. In comparison building an extra wall means very little.

        Please find me an example of the alternative you are proposing that costs less than $25k per unit.

        1. Really, are you serious? The added walls are minimal? Perhaps in one dwelling the added cost of ‘a wall’ (which really is 4) is minimal but if you are looking at the cost of providing several dwellings those ‘minimal’ costs add up to quite a bit and quickly make it less desirable as a solution… I am positive I could design a multilevel and compact example for WAY less than the same number of tiny houses. You have not only the materials in the wall but also the labor to build it, cutting down on both of those is a very considerable savings. $25,000 doesn’t include any labor on the part of the tiny house typically… I am not saying they are out there, I don’t know that, housing the homeless is not a passion of mine but don’t buy into the building rates you see listed, they are inflated.

          1. Yes, I’m saying that the cost savings of framing and sheathing extra walls is minimal when compared to the required utility infrastructure costs of a multi-family building. Also the walls of a multi-story building would likely come at a higher cost that the walls of a tiny house.

            Your right that building costs are inflated. That is why the tiny house village model is so crucial. It puts home building back within the capacity of the average person. The small scale with standard building materials allows for the inclusion of residents and volunteers in the process.

        2. Its not only nonsensical it lacks critical understanding of construction techniques or project costing, planning and developing on a large scale- or on the flip side – the recorded history of Federal Programs for Addressing Low-Income Housing Needs. Yes, the added walls are minimal in comparative cost and you realize not the added costs in construct of larger buildings with structural load requirements or the added cost in blocking and firewall regulations just to name a few. Its absurd to suggest you know what you clearly know not, about these complex designs and further profess them advantageous over tiny house solution. The problems alone from such high density of occupants has been categorized by every major study to be considerable health concern and now deemed a great failure in retrospect. We just don’t aspire to build great high rise slums or overlook what we have learned. Open spaces and intentional pocket neighborhoods are the alternative value for affordable housing we see in action today – that means tiny houses do fit the application.

  16. It’s not an either/or proposition.Tiny houses on wheels are the Airstream trailers of the 50s, or the converted school buses of the 70’s, or the fabulous palatial custom RVs of the 90s, or anything in between or beyond, or whatever. They fill a need for people of all incomes and types. For unhoused and very low income people, such as elders and people with disabilities (who are a large and growing segment of the homeless population) they provide a step in the direction of permanent housing and a potential livelihood, all rolled into one.

      1. They can be cheap. There are many different ways to build a tiny house (including utilization of shared kitchen/bath in a community setting). But even with your minimum cost of $25k… Conventional low-income housing construction, such as the alternative you propose, costs upwards of $200,000 per unit.

        Your other alternative is shipping containers. Retrofitting a corrugated metal box for comfortable human habitation is neither simple nor cheap.

        1. 1. I am not proposing conventional and 2. there are an awful lot of opportunities with shipping containers. If you want alternative methods those make a lot more sense. Really, the best solution to all is in the comment thread, we already have empty houses, integrated in neighborhoods, lets use those… but that will never happen either….

          1. we have acres and acres and acres of abandoned housing in many areas, to find a way to use that instead of building new and using up new resources would be very useful.

      2. Understanding the basics of how these buildings are subsidized is crucial in understanding how they are not affordable to you or me. Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) provide an up-front subsidy to developers of rental housing (or their equity investors) in return for a commitment to charge below-market rent levels. The buildings of which you speak are highly ‘for-profit’ developments primarily provided by predatory banking industry. Many people who are unfamiliar with federal housing programs find their complexity, high cost, and uneven performance daunting, and they may conclude that more should be done to address the limitations of existing programs, improve outcomes for households already served, or expand housing help to a larger share of needy families.

        Historically, policies focused on producing affordable
        rental housing have paid little attention to environmental
        impacts. However, the clustering of affordable
        rental housing in central cities contributes to sprawling
        development patterns on the fringes of many American metropolitan areas, as middle- and upper income
        households—seeking to distance themselves from poverty and distress—move to the outer suburbs
        and beyond, thus fueling new residential development
        on the urban fringe. These sprawling patterns
        of development yield a host of adverse environmental
        and community consequences. Chris Hedges wrote about them as ‘sacrifice zones’. We have come to recognize additional limitations including resulting ‘food deserts’.

        Yes there are more effective ways – alternative and innovative ways that many, including the tiny house community can relate. Tiny houses can be cheap, houses can be cheap. Those are the facts.

      3. Why? Is it the trailer? I don’t really want a tiny house on a trailer. I want to build a tiny house in a neighborhood of people but the city codes don’t allow for such a thing. A latter to a sleeping loft would not even come close to meeting code. They build modular homes very affordably for the square footage they provide. Why does a tiny home (on wheels) have to cost 3 times that of a economy home per square foot? We build them on wheels, for the most part, to get around building codes. So that we can build what we want, how we want. If the government gets involved with codes the cost will further increase because they feel the need to tell me what kind of footage I need for a particular area. I agree with building standards of safety for safety ie: electrical, and weight bearing issues. Beyond that quit trying to save me. If I’m stupid, I’m stupid. If I don’t want a railing on my sleeping loft and I fall off, it’s my own fault. Period! Tiny houses COULD BE a viable homeless option and when building for a particular purpose should be built to a particular standard. Building codes and covenants are extremely confining when it comes to building a tiny home, therefore, we build them on wheels. Rant over, sorry.

  17. Opportunity Village Eugene is housing people in Conestoga Huts (https://sites.google.com/site/conestogahuts/the-conestoga-hut) that cost between $250-500 to build (http://www.opportunityvillageeugene.org/2012/12/the-conestoga-hut.html) and in mini-houses that cost far less than the $11,000 plus you spent. Safe, protective, comfortable, and efficient shelter can be provided to people who are homeless at a very low cost. The biggest problem in finding places to put such structures is NIMBY, due to the way the unhoused are stereotypically maligned and stigmatized. People have a human right to housing, as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights endorsed by the US. Shelter is not housing, but it can keep people safe and secure until more permanent housing can be found.
    This more permanent housing can be in the form of tiny houses, as OVE’s plans for Emerald Village envision. And again, the costs won’t look like anything you forecast due to the reuse of recycled materials and the critical mass of volunteer labor eager to be available for such projects.

    1. I respect your opinion but I disagree still. I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one, I have a lot of design/construction and urban planning that is informing my opinions, yes there are these new developments that are working for now by all appearances. I think ultimately they are not the best option though, for the reasons stated and you think they are. That is OK, but don’t sensationalize it and make it sound like ‘the writer’ just doesn’t want to help homeless people because that simply isn’t true. I think we owe it to everyone to do that in smart, efficient and most of all effective ways… We disagree on what those are. That is OK.

      1. Wonderful discussions regarding your article, Macy. I just ran an internet search and came up with the Annual 2013 Characteristics of New Housing on the US census bureau site. Average Square Food Price for single family houses for 2013 was $93.70. I have also noticed that people don’t always count the sweat equity that goes into repurposing/recycling building materials.

        Since we are discussing the growing homeless population I also wanted to point out an article I just read (sorry do not remember where, possibly WND.com), stating that recently the Los Angeles city council voted to round up their homeless people by offering them shelter and food and medical attention and then ship them off to a FEMA camp. It was stated that if the homeless person does not agree to come of their free will, they will be drugged and sent to the camp anyway. It was also stated that they will not be allowed to leave. The council feels that the public will go along with their idea because of the problems their homeless population causes. My own political bias will show here, as I do not believe the government keeps any of its promises and feel this is a morally wrong solution and I do not believe for a moment that these human beings (including those who are veterans) will get the help they need.

  18. Well, your statements of class bias and status anxiety are certainly shameful. But maybe a more effective argument to make is that they are unwarranted. I think I can keep that relatively brief. You state:

    “On that same note and perhaps the most scary part for me, we would be doing tiny houses a disservice to get them legalized as ‘homeless housing’. Codes would then be making exceptions to legalize in a specific category (similar to section 9 housing). Tiny houses would only become feasible if you are homeless or financially strapped, putting tiny houses out of reach for the standard person.”

    First, I think all of us on this page can agree that changing building codes and zoning regulations to allow for the legal development of tiny houses is a good thing. Where I lose you, is how changing building codes has any attachment to income level, or for that matter, whether or not you are homeless?

    You cite Section 9 housing. I assume you mean Section 8 housing. People with Section 8 housing live in all sorts of different forms of housing including apartment buildings. Very rich people also live in apartment buildings. The same can be true with tiny houses.

    The issue of homelessness may first encourage the adoption of a pilot project and conditional uses, but that is only going to set precedent for the others wanting to do it as well. This is happening right now in Eugene, OR. These “homeless projects” are laying the groundwork for changing codes and regulations for everyone, and for that you should be thanking them.

    1. Shameful? Really? Expressing an opinion, and one that is educated is now something to shame? I hope it works out like you say but, like I say, I fear otherwise. There is nothing shameful in that. My gosh people, and yes, I mean section 8, my bad. Though I think Section 9 still applies! 😉

      1. Well, saying you think such an affordable housing form should be reserved for middle/upper class people… yeah I think that’s shameful. In several instance your blog highlights the reduced living costs that come with living in a tiny house. Why deny this option to low-income people?

        On a side note, what is Section 9 housing?

        1. I am not saying they SHOULD be, I am saying they are. The fact is that they take space to build on, tools to build with and capital to build from makes them inaccessible and misleading to the public. Those are not something homeless people generally have access to. With programs and assistance and generous people they CAN happen. Those people could also put those efforts into other situations that I would argue to be more effective. Perhaps I should change that verbiage.

        2. Ahhhh! I see where all these are coming from! Opportunity Village just found this… gottcha, ok, I am very open to hearing all the points coming my way, please, change my mind if you can, I swear, I am open to it, it just can’t make sense to me with what I know.

          1. I don’t think I’m going to change your mind. Plus this is getting away from the main point… How exactly are these “homeless projects” jeopardizing the legalization of tiny houses for the middle/upper class rather than catalyzing it?

          2. While I was going to school I needed a place downtown near my job to live so I could work and go to school. I went to every single property manager and very single (not joking) apartment complex at the time was for Section 8 housing. Developers get a discount for building section 8 because it’s written into their ‘rules’ so only section 8 apartments got built. What happens is things don’t always get looked at collectively and errors happen. In this case what happened was every single apartment complex was 80% empty and we had a WHOLE bunch of people who couldn’t find housing, it was a real problem caused by special circumstances, it has since changed but it was an issue for years. Someone made an oversight, or series of them, it happens all the time. This is not a apples to apples situation but hopefully enough to show a bit of the concerns I have.

            To put it briefly, to classify tiny houses into one category MAY take them out of others unintentionally. When dealing with codes and zoning a lot comes down to the people factor and how good of a day someone is having. If they get ‘okayed’ as a special sort of housing they will be taken out of the realm of being a precedence for other areas and could possibly work against the forward motion of the movement. The rules behind ‘special codes’ limit things to circumstances and finding any way into legal territory is not always the best way. I am not saying it can’t be done, I’m not even saying it will or won’t be done, I am saying these are concerns of mine.

            I think I also understand a little bit of the harshness of the post that set some people off, admittedly it sounded kind of heartless, for that I do apologize, I am certainly not heartless. I am a realist (I also tend write at night, usually after very long days and this one had the influences of a young baby as well, not an excuse, I should be more careful, just true). I have tried to correct it to be less harsh but like I say it is opinions and worries that I do have and I haven’t been shown that I have nothing to worry about in this field yet so they remain on my list of worries about this lifestyle and future progress of it.
            Furthermore, I seriously do applaud the efforts going on all around the country, there is some great stuff happening, I hope it continues but these ARE legit concerns (and a dose of personal opinion) that I hope we think about (collectively) as we go forward in this movement.

            It sounds like we are all on the same page, we want tiny houses to be a option for EVERYONE. We want fully functioning housing options for EVERYONE. I don’t want to take tiny houses out of reach for ANYONE.

          3. It is also sounding like this is more ‘low income housing’ to provide homes for people who are currently homeless rather than homeless housing? These are being paid for by the occupants and are owned by the occupants in this situation, not state/federal funds/facilities?

          4. Macy, I think we are finally getting to the pre-eminent benefit of the tiny house model over multi-family housing (at least at this point in time). Before we were talking about capital costs, and sure we can agree to disagree on that. But the reduced operating and maintenance cost with a tiny house makes your question of government assistance vs. occupant payment less relevant than it has been in the past.

            Section 8 housing requires a resident to pay 30% of their income toward rent, and government subsidy picks up whatever is left of the market rate rent.

            Problem: subsidies are underfunded to adequately meet this demand.

            Solution: build a form of housing that is not dependent on Section 8 subsidies

            I believe “homeless housing” is an oxymoron. The whole point of the tiny house movement is that there is very little to pay for once you have it, right? A home free from rent and debt. That is assuming you can find a free place to put it. So these projects you are referring to can be done WITHOUT government subsidy AND WITHOUT residents paying rent BECAUSE of the low cost nature of the tiny house model. Costs the taxpayer nothing, only those who want to contribute.

            If you can figure out a way to do something similar with denser, multi-family housing that would be beyond cool. Because your right in that density is good, and the tiny house village would not necessarily be a good fit for a place like say NYC. But currently, it’s not possible. Tiny houses are a lot less complex, a lot more human scale, and that has allowed average people to wrap there minds around it and find ways around more stringent requirements in other types of development

          5. There is an awful lot of info here, I appreciate all of the discussion, whether I am convinced is yet to be determined. Andrew, are these subsidized projects?

          6. Andrew, in all your efforts are you aware of any ‘exceptions’ in the changing codes, as written now or in the future, that would limit a tiny house to be a special circumstance allowed for low income individuals only and not the general public?

  19. I built 24 bungalows for 1700 dollars each (850 materials and 850 labor) over the last year with 6000 hours of volunteer labor-twelve distinct variations on four specific designs which were pre-approved by the state of Oregon and the city of Eugene for housing the homeless at Opportunity Village. All these structures can have used doors and windows, and they all meet the uniform minimum structural and the specialty structural code. I was given a waiver on the energy code, due to their small size of 64 and 80 square feet, but no break on the electrical code, so they’re not heated. They now house thirty people on less than an acre of land. I also designed and built a kitchen and bath house, for $6,000 and $8,000. I am now designing a next iteration of tiny houses for the Affordable Village called Emerald Village Eugene. These will be twice the size, and have heat, engineered in a single standard “Ultra Panel” I hope to get pre approved by the state.

    Alex Daniell
    Backyard Bungalows, LLC
    CCB #203421

    1. I think that’s great Alex, and very commendable. The impression I get is that these do not function the same as the tiny houses you see all over right now. More like shelters, non-heated, not meant for full time living etc. I think that is great but not really what I am trying to address in this particular post… I think THAT model is a much better solution personally but I still think there are affordable ways to get full time housing that is heated with modern amenities.

      1. There’s no reason they can’t function like the tiny houses you see all over right now. They just need to be bigger, have heat, and water. Rather than have each one custom designed, use various pre approved interchangeable wall and roof systems, used doors and windows, and volunteer labor. Use the need for human shelter to allow for the building of small villages, and when enough of them are up, do a detailed study of their embedded costs, their monetary costs, and their running costs. Study their air flow and condensation issues, proving scientifically that they meet the intention of the code only through other means. Why shouldn’t homeless villages be an means to an end of affordable villages, next to a bike path, where someone can live with dignity for $250 a month?

        1. And the bigger, adding heat and water parts is where they become more expensive and less logical (IMO), those are not small expense. And those expenses, I do not believe, are as scalable as other alternative models. I commend the efforts and I am glad it is working for you but I don’t see it as a cost effective solution holistically. There are models of construction that are more logical when dealing with a full time residence with power/heat/water. As a one by one situation built with volunteer time/tools/space, and with no heat/water they can make sense (AKA a shelter, not necessarily a home), but when you add in all the other systems the model starts to fall apart when compared to a modular system that can be built off site and shipped anywhere in large or small numbers (personal opinions are ok to have!). Personally I think it would be better to provide a home for full time use and occupancy at a cost effective rate which is what I think you want too, I like getting the most bang for my buck and small independant houses don’t seem to be it (IMO), I stand by my feelings overall… I’m sorry that my opinions offend though. I am most certainly not saying to not house the homeless…

        2. ALSO… I think we are talking about different things, if someone is paying a mortgage or rent of $250 bucks a month I don’t think they are homeless… If someone is living somewhere and not paying that is homeless housing (am I wrong on this, I could definitely be). To me what you stated is something like low income housing, its simply providing a lower income option but the inhabitant is paying for it. That is not the same as providing shelter from the weather for free… AND paid for with taxpayer dollars. When we as a community pay for things then I would hope that money would be used wisely. If someone wants affordable housing in a tiny house that is an entirely different thing in my eyes, perhaps I am completely ignorant and getting an education with you all coming at me tonight? Are these stories of ‘housing the homeless in tiny house’ popping up all over right now actually justs providing low income options to be able to get people off the streets and into a situation they can afford, where the inhabitant is actually paying for it or are they provided by some state/federal fund?

          1. I’m sorry, but you appear to speak from rose colored glasses – more then half of all federal housing dollars benefit households of income above $100,000.

            The artificial distinction between tax expenditures (credits, deductions, and other tax breaks) and spending programs “make[s] it harder to gauge the impact of the federal budget on such crucial activities as housing,” a recent New York Times story explains, noting that the mortgage interest deduction — which mostly helps high-income people — costs far more than spending programs to help low- or moderate-income people afford housing. The story continues:

            “If someone said, ‘Let’s have a voucher program on the spending side, giving high-income families vouchers to subsidize their mortgages,’ ” said Glenn Hubbard, the dean of Columbia Business School and a prominent Republican economist, referring to the home mortgage interest deduction, “I don’t think that would get through Congress.” More than half of federal dollars for housing benefit households with incomes above $100,000 (see chart for yourself).

          2. this is what I was saying in my post, what sort of homeless housing? Transitional? permanent? low income? completely charitable etc… As homelessness has many causes, there must be many types of housing ie services included with that housing or in conjunction with that housing. And you bring up a good point of ‘who’s paying for it?’ The old voucher system ended up becoming a ‘system’ that was worked and abused. Any type of housing system can be abused. The biggest problem about getting things through congress to help people is that everyone wants a slice of the pie. People in congress want their friends and relatives to benefit from it, the business people want to benefit from it, politicians want to be bribed for their votes on the project by being given special monies for their pet projects etc… This leaves it up to individual groups to find solutions for these problems. I think Macy was trying to say, “hey tiny houses are not a ‘one size fits all solution’ to homeless housing. And I agree. I am going to read the article posted tonight and see about the new projects that are happening. One of the big problems in the US is that everyone is always trying to force a ‘one size fits all’ project through. People think it’s more efficient and more effective to do so but it doesn’t usually end up working out any better. If you want to see what one group is doing look into CPAH. They are a private group that has been slowly buying up apartment buildings and is now building their own. Their goal is to provide affordable housing to keep people from becoming homeless and to help people coming out of homelessness get housing. So it comes back to, what type of housing are you talking about? Shelter for the permanently homeless? Shelter for those with mental illness who are homeless, shelter for those who have just become homelss? It’s all different. See http://cpahinc.org/

  20. I live in a tiny house that i built for about $3,000 and it’s not a yuppie project. I live here because i can afford to live in the city and pay a lot less rent than i would for an apartment. I also love life in a tiny house more than in a big house.

    I live in Boston. I commend Opportunity Village’s work, and just yesterday i bumped into the Commissioner of Homeless Services whom i know through my time at Occupy Boston. I told him i’ve been thinking a lot about tiny houses as a means for housing homeless people. He was receptive and wants to talk more about it.

    I could built a heated bungalow for $3k in materials plus volunteer labor.

    I really don’t care about “code” even though i have been a licensed carpenter and i know code. I care about safety and soundness in the design.

    I really don’t care about what “pathway to legalization” tiny houses will take. I don’t think they’ll ever be truly legal, and if they are legal but you have to go through tons of hoops that only middle- and upper-class people can afford, i’d rather have them simply remain illegal. I don’t care at all if tiny houses have a “reputation” as low-income housing or as yuppie millionaire writing-studio accessories. I’d actually prefer them to be homeless housing.

    Boston pays about $90 per night to house a homeless person in undignified shelter housing. It’s not a trivial problem to house homeless people, because many people have issues that make it about much more than providing a bed and warm room. But tiny houses can be a very good part of the solution, for the cost and for the quality of the housing. More than overnight, more than a single-night shelter. A place where you can keep your belongings, and start to feel a bit like “home”.

    Boston is UNABLE to provide housing for all people who ask for shelter in the Winter. Boston is shipping homeless people to far-flung motels 2 hours away and paying $90 per night for the room fees.

    Many people who are homeless don’t WANT to go to a shelter for reasons that others may not understand, but are very real. One is dignity — the desire to have a bit of privacy and respect. Another is that couples cannot usually stay together in a shelter. Another is that there are curfews and controls on coming and going that many people find unreasonable, and i fully understand.

    I have been homeless myself (car-sleeping and treehouse-sleeping) and i met many homeless people at Occupy Boston and afterward. I have to say there is no uniform “the homeless” but a myriad of people with their individual stories, and their own reasons why shelters don’t work for most of them most of the time. And among homeless people, a lot of interest in tiny houses.

    If a tiny house can spark a change in life, an enthusiasm for a house that is within reach, a desire to learn to build, and allow a person a moment to breathe and improve their life, then i am for it.

  21. You should read Tent City Urbanism, and learn more about affordable housing communities.

    Your premise that Tiny Houses are for one socio economic class and not another is – pardon the phrase – full of BS. I will make every attempt to be brief in rebuttal, while I do not agree with your opinion you deserve respect for your effort and honesty. As a contractor and affordable housing advocate I’d like to redress your original assertions because you’ve shared several “thoughts that need to be aired”.

    Your fears are unfounded and careless to suggest negative consequences on the community “as a whole” for including tiny houses as a homeless solution. Bare in mind part of that same community you opinionate objects to being excluded and demands recognition in the tradition sense from the housing community. The fact you are preaching exclusion to another underclass speaks volumes to the hypocrisy. Your nervousness, worries and discomfort are apparent in your deeper sense of privilege not that fact you object to some moral connotation of cheap housing. Tiny houses can in fact be built cheaply as an affordable DIY project. We, as citizen architects have proven this throughout the many stories that abound. Tiny houses are not just for the middle class. You point out yourself the cost of your own build under 12K, which I point out, within reasonable reach of low income housing. I refer you to ‘Rural Studio 20K project’, the celebrated undergraduate program of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture at Auburn University, that has been educating citizen architects since it was founded in 1993.

    The 20K House, or even a tiny house on a trailer for everybody and everyone is reasonable. We chose $20,000 because it would be the most expensive mortgage a person receiving today’s median Social Security check of $758 a month can realistically repay. A $108 monthly mortgage payment is doable if you consider real-life examples of monthly expenditures. Calculations are based on a single house owner, because a large percentage of below-poverty households are made up of people living alone. That translates to a potential market of millions of people in our country.

    As others have rightfully pointed out, dense low income housing stacked upon one another has its distractions and our major cities can attest to these planning failures explicit of our war on poverty. Your solution indicates a sense of naivety and lack of historical perspective in homeless and poverty planning that I won’t address, but I feel you honestly meant well despite it. If you wish to read more about the housing discrimination carried out against the poor I’d recommend you visit our FB site (DownSized) where we discuss the critical issues. I’d recommend some sympathetic reading like “No Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities” produced by The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. The shortage of affordable housing is particularly difficult for extremely low-income renters who, in the wake of the foreclosure crisis, are competing for fewer and fewer affordable units.

    This brings me to my next point about the opinions you shared; I admit you’re not the only individual in the tiny house community uncomfortable with the superficial stigmatism you think affordable housing might bring. While the debate has gone on long before the movement coined the phrase ‘tiny house’, some in your movement work against collaborative efforts to address common issues of building codes, zoning and ordinances. City planning officials have a model to adopted existing policy to limited mobile or manufactured homes to specified zoned areas to keep them from springing up randomly in higher income neighborhoods who feel an undersized house would devalue their property. In my honest opinion its misinformed attitudes and unfounded fears like your own that limit progress on all fronts. Regardless of our groups individual identities, be it minimalist, survivalist or homeless we can not afford to be exclusive. If we don’t see the value in unity of organization to seek practical action for change, we will have a long and protracted struggle to effect real progress.

    Many of us come to this same place for many different reasons, some reasoned to break free of debt bondage, others seek a sustainable lifestyle but we all have a common interest in changing the archaic and outdated laws that ban our choices to live in smaller spaces. Downsizing is a growing trend across the country as a result of a wide variety of reasons including lifestyle preferences, economic influences, and social change among people who don’t necessarily buy into the McManison.

    I’d like to end where we started – with Andrew Heben timely release of ‘Tent City Urbanism’. Andrew is an urban planner, writer, and tiny house builder based in Eugene, Oregon and co-founder of Opportunity Village Eugene, a non-profit organization that puts many of the ideas within his book into action. He visited over a dozen cities and tiny house villages throughout the country before his innovative model emerged to inspire projects in Madison, Austin, and Ithaca, and is at present being pursued by advocacy groups throughout the country. What benefit would the tiny house movement gain by turning its back on any practical guide for putting innovative housing models into action. Don’t manage your prejudices to get the desired result – open your mind to critical thinking that “exemplifies self-management, direct democracy, tolerance, mutual aid, and resourceful strategies for living with less”. The rewards will benefit us all.

    Mark Wark
    Affordable Housing Activist
    DownSized https://www.facebook.com/DownsizeLifestyle

    1. You guys are hard to reply to when you all come at me at once. Regardless, thanks for your opinions on the matter, that’s about as much as I can muster at this point.

      1. My apologies you feel outnumbered, speaking for myself, I mean no disrespect. Your comments are systematic of a larger issue – which borders on discrimination – an opinion apparently matched closely by other TH bloggers in your community who admittedly share “concerns about tiny houses as homeless shelters”. I don’t think you profess to speak as a leader in the community no more then I would as an expert, but its in the absence of critical leadership such misinformed opinion not only exists but takes center stage. You have heard opinion directly from an expert and professional Andrew Heben himself – a leader in the homeless community and respected author. Where are the Jay Shafers, the Derek “Deek” Diedricksen’s, the Dee Williams who could add value and represent the tiny house community? Do they also think such an affordable housing form should be reserved for middle/upper class people? Do tiny house leaders feel “homeless projects” jeopardize the legalization of tiny houses?

        I don’t ask this in haste, but concern for a community that appears to have gone astray. This is not the first on-line discussion I’ve come across of such selfish nature. This is not the first time I’ve felt compelled to defend the homeless against discriminatory comments or exclusion from inside the tiny house community. Where is your leadership, your voice of reason?

        1. I don’t think that the current leaders in the tiny house movement have expertise in homeless shelters or provision of very low cost housing. The movement began more as a way to express creativity and gain personal freedom from debt & overconsumption. I think many of us want to learn more about how tiny houses and tiny house villages might be a good solution for some folks in need but it does seem to be a complex issue. I know I’ve learned a lot just from reading this thread. Thanks to all for sharing your thoughts.

          1. And I do support the existing villages (you can that see on my website, places page) and I have started reading reading Andrew’s book. Keep advocating – I think the tide is beginning to turn in favor of tiny homes for all, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to shift attitudes & regulations.

          2. I am pleased with your last reply. My initial posting was in response to the classism embedded in your article, in which you seemed to suggest that providing tiny houses for people who are homeless would somehow label and devalue them for more affluent people. I feel strongly that tiny houses are for everyone, as you also acknowledged in a later posting, although their functions and meaning to the occupants may differ. I hope you read Andrew Heben’s book, visit a village serving folks who are homeless, and help us educate the housed.

          3. One does not necessarily need expertise in affordable housing or homelessness to address discrimination in your ranks. A movement born of economic freedom styled on housing choices bridges our mutual concerns. TH leadership can and should speak to complex issues that unite a common bond as well address non-productive divisions that politicize our differences.

        2. I think you have misunderstood some of my points and taken a defensive stance, I will take credit for that as writing is not my best trick but please do try to see the underlying message. I’m not sure where you are getting the discrimination issue from, that is certainly not my intent. I don’t have concerns about tiny houses as shelters for homeless people, I know they will work great. I have concerns about tiny houses being legalized and subsidized ONLY for as homes for struggling individuals which is some of the slants put on the media articles I’ve read.
          The affordable housing is much different than homeless housing which may just be the preferred name by the media and not actually the situation occurring (god knows I know how the media can get out of hand). It may get down to semantics here, but when its being called one thing when really it is another (affordable housing) that is also a problem, albeit an easier one to navigate. I can tell from some comments that this is particular community is not provided for and by the government. If it were it would be required to be ‘by code’ (with electric/plumbing/heat etc. To be a ‘dwelling’) and thereby not be as economical as other models (furthermore I completely agree with the community aspect of this model over others being healthier) I am ALL in favor of ‘affordable housing’ and tiny houses are a great tool for making that happen. Which sounds a lot like the battle everyone else in the tiny house community is facing… Obviously you have rallied a lot of support and have an organized group of like minded individuals going forward, that’s awesome, especially since it sounds like its no different than every other person wanting to legally be in a tiny house. If the inhabitants are paying for their house that does not sound like homeless housing to me…
          The problems come when I have been approached by several developers though who want to capitalize on this homeless housing credit as well because they hear about these developments which are actually just affordable housing and they want to use tiny houses, it doesn’t pencil out.

          I most certainly do not believe nor did I say that tiny houses should be reserved for the upper/middle class. Merely that they are more costly than people seem to expect when built to codes (either in time or money) and therefore not a scalable solution for government subsidized housing.
          I do consider myself as one of those tiny house leaders, though I am no Dee or Jay. I stand by my concerned voice though it has shifted to the media for their portrayal of these projects.
          We are on the same team, no one has gone astray that wasn’t lead there by the media. It is clear that Opportunity Village is not the model of housing being addressed in this post. I don’t see this post as selfish by any means but instead as concerned, I am certainly not anti homeless person but I am pro tiny house. I respect your opinion though and am sorry to have offended you.

  22. Can I summarize the main point of the article as “Current efforts to get legal issues settled for projects like Opportunity Village may make it hard for those who just want to live in a small house to do so.”?

    That’s a valid concern. But it’s also a symptom of a larger issue. Frankly, if I own the land I (or my renters) am building on, then I should be able to build (or park) what I want (of course, within reason… It can get complicated.) If zoning laws say I can’t do what I want on my land, then those laws need to be changed.

    So, rather than try and stop the homeless housing aspect, I’d suggest focusing on making sure what laws need changing get changed, and what laws get created, are written correctly. (If that was your intent, then good. But your article didn’t really demonstrate that.)

    Also, I think there’s an aspect to the Opportunity Village style project that you may have missed. It’s not just the cost of housing. The social/mental/emotional aspect. By building a small community in the form of a small village (instead of just a stack of cheap apartments) a real community is created. That is a very important mental/emotional aspect that is essential to getting out of homelessness.

    Or, at least, that’s what I think. I remember my Dad (as a pastor) working with some homeless people who stayed homeless because they were unwilling to get out of it. Opportunity Village gives those who are willing the boost needed to get out of homelessness. And, when they are not willing, and they get kicked out, that might just be the wake up call they need to get out of it. I remember one story about a person kicked out of Opportunity Village who went the Eugene Mission and got his life back together there. Because he was kicked out. I think the article was in the Register Guard.

      1. Hello Ken,
        I hope it’s OK for me to pipe up again, as I feel I am singularly qualified to address this issue. I am about to share something I haven’t before, due to the stigma and embarrassment it could cause me.

        I was homeless and am on disability because of an overwhelming mental health issue: Major Depressive Disorder, Anxiety, and Borderline Personality Disorder. Yeah, I was/am the “crazy homeless person” that everyone is so afraid of and feels a strong NIMBY attitude towards. I AM the stereotype. I would still be homeless but for my elderly mother allowing me to stay on her 2+ acres while I get myself together and build my own Tiny Home, Oliver’s Nest. I do my best to help her out in return.

        I held a job(s) for most of my life, starting when I was 13. I’m almost 50 now. Things got to a point for me where I couldn’t hold a job any longer and here I am. Since I paid into the Social Security system for so many years, I get a bit more than the average person on Disability, but it isn’t a lot, and it’s nothing to brag about. I’m not proud of having troubles that keep me down, but it’s my reality.

        So. Do I think that Tiny Homes are the answer to our terrible Homeless problem? Not really. Or, perhaps I should say, not entirely. As I stated in these comments before, there are many more ALREADY EMPTY (not shouting, merely giving emphasis) homes than there are homeless:

        http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389×7725336

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-skip-bronson/post_733_b_692546.html

        Now of course, easy to dream about, hard (in our economic culture, perhaps impossible):

        http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-why-we-cant-just-put-homeless-families-in-foreclosed-homes-2012-6

        In my dreams I think about such things as (legalities aside, I’m no lawyer) each empty home that is in good repair housing a *manager* of sorts, who gets very low cost housing in return for their oversight and work with a group of Tiny Homes on the main home’s property. Each group of Tiny Homes is built in part or entirety by their owners, who are subsidized in part or entirety by the fees from the main home’s rent. These people can all share a common kitchen and bath building (made-over shipping containers?) so as to give over more room in their individual homes for living space.

        To help offset the cost of building these Tiny Homes, abandoned/foreclosed homes that are not in good repair are, instead of being bulldozed, taken down with care to allow the materials salvaged to be used in the building of the new, Tiny ones. There is no reason (in my mind) why this wouldn’t help not only house the homeless, but help the environment as well.

        In addition to the small groups of Tiny Homes, shipping containers can also be stacked and made-over in attractive ways for the folks who can’t live by themselves, on the sites of the homes that had to be taken down and are now empty and idle. These lots can also be developed, I would think quite inexpensively, as neighborhood parks. Some locations would make sense to have laundry facilities or additional bath and kitchen areas.

        Sigh. I know it would require a DRASTIC change in laws and our culture. If only people could see that not all homeless, in fact, not all “crazy people” are bad or undesirable as neighbors and even friends. Sure this model wouldn’t be appropriate for every homeless person out there. I believe the number of homeless jumped dramatically in the early 70s, when a great many mentally ill people were de-institutionalized. There are mentally ill who need a different model than Tiny Homes or regular group living homes. But that’s a whole ‘nother, ugly issue.

        I’m sure I will be laughed with this, or shunned even. But hey, I might be crazy, but I’m not dumb, and I know that this nation needs to get creative to fix our overwhelming economic and cultural woes.

        Parker

        1. If only everyone would think the same way as you Parker. If only people would be solution oriented. I read all these articles online and in the comments everyone is “they should have done this, they should have done that.” But what they did is water under the bridge, what needs to be done is find a way to fix it now but they obsess over ‘shoulds and shouldn’ts’ while nothing at all gets done but finger pointing and shouting. There are individual groups who are doing as you’ve suggested and as I’ve suggested but there’s no one group, no one movement and certainly no collective agreement. Here’s to spreading awareness, you are at least starting some where. And the Tiny House movement is helping spread awareness. it’s small start, but a start.

        2. Parker, I find your ideas to be creative and visionary. And I am glad to hear you have been able to stabilize your situation with a small income and the prospects of living in a tiny house yourself.

          I don’t think there is any one-size-fits all solution to homelessness. The diversity of that population is hidden by phrases like “the homeless.” Here in Eugene we rank #5 in the nation in the proportion of homeless that are unsheltered. There is limited shelter space, most homeless services come from the County and not the City, and so community people in Eugene are using their imaginations to create safe and legal places for people who are unhoused to be. The City has offered some cooperation with these endeavors, allocating City property for Opportunity Village Eugene in which some 30 people live in very simple tiny houses and innovative Conestoga huts. It has allocated City land for two rest stops for temporary tent campers, about 15 in each; has endorsed a car camping program with sites established for people to stay in their cars, tents, or movable structures, which shelters another 60-80 people. Opportunity Village Eugene provides transitional shelter, and plans to establish another site to be called Emerald Village for more permanent tiny houses twice the size of those at OVE, which will bring shelter to another 30-45 people. A local donor has given $400,000 for community housing advocates to purchase land for the establishment of Nightingale Health Community, which will eventually provide Conestoga huts and tiny houses for 30-40 of the chronically homeless who have physical or mental illnesses, disabilities, or substance addition problems. All the villages and rest stops are self-governing by the residents with supervision from local non-profits and large numbers of community volunteers.

          Your ideas, Parker, enlarge the vision of what might be done by communities and encourage people to not sit back and wait for something to happen with government, which I think is wise. Homelessness will not be eliminated without the support of federal and state entities, and local governments are either limited in what they can do given their resources or are resistant to taking the problem on. So for the moment the movement to shelter and house people is coming largely from the bottom up, at the same time as pressure is being applied to government at all levels to apply the resources needed to end homelessness once and for all. People have a human right to housing, and if we can end violations of this right it will be to everyone’s benefit.

          I thank you for your honesty about your personal life, wish you healing and good health, and believe you possess a thoughtful set of ideas that can and should become part of the multi-faceted solutions being considered by those not afraid to step out of the box. Please voice your views without fear of ridicule.

          Ken

  23. my thought is to make them duplexes, a shared bath in the middle with locking doors, 24 or 28 ft long makes the cost per person 1/2, not perfect but helps, better skip the trailer and build who developments with the shop on site build and take out of shop and plce in development

  24. Instead of classifying the extremes e.g. tiny houses communities for the homeless or ghetto stack containers for the homeless. (Note: homeless is the trigger word), why not build tiny communities with emphasis on integrating income levels. Some low. Some affordable. Some medium priced, and some high end. Choose people who are willing to want to work in a community to breakdown class barriers. Maybe it could work out as a model that other communities could follow.

  25. I know this is an older post, but after reading I really wanted to reply with something I never saw directly mentioned.

    Building codes, in general are in place for the safety and well being for their occupants and the community they are in. Concerning safety oriented building codes: if something is not safe for the average community, then why should their be any exceptions for low income and homeless targeted buildings? Do they secretly WANT them to burn or fall down and take the occupants with them? If it’s not safe for someone who makes six figures, its not safe for anyone. The homeless shouldn’t be confined to more dangerous conditions simply because of their wealth status or lack of it.

    As for other building codes. The remaining building codes are almost completely aesthetic oriented. They are about making sure one community or zone doesn’t become “contaminated” by buildings or occupants that don’t fit in, or will “devalue” the surrounding property. By keeping the homeless and low income out of specific communities or building types(such as tiny houses), people are basically saying that those people and what little the own is worth less than they themselves are.

    Is your value determined by what you own? If you downsize and move into a tiny home are you suddenly worth less? No.

    Something else to keep in mind. Many homeless people do have income, its just not enough to pay the standard living costs. In the case of tiny houses, which are specifically built to use less resource and cost less in monthly expenses, people who cannot afford standard shelter could afford the monthly cost of living and careing for a tiny house. Then the government no longer has to pay monthly upkeep for that person. The person that society has classified as a failure, is now a success with an address and a home. The initial expedenture might be quite high per person, but the money saved over time is far greater. Also with some assistance if a person found a job, their home could be moved to a location that would allow them to get there with very little need for daily transport.

    First and foremost homeless people are people. By restricting them to certain home types or locations, we devalue them. The USA truely is a society that believes your value is based on what you own. This is the REAL problem. Tiny home owners, even more than most people should be able to see that your value isn’t based on how much you own. You could put billions of dollars into solving homelessness, but until people stop assigning values to other people the problem will continue to exist. Instead of throwing them out like trash, or saying they are only worth x amount of my time, money or effort, getting them the help THEY need, be it shelter, healthcare, jobs, or community is what will solve the issue. Until they stop being devalued they will most likely not receive those things. They will be shunned, told they “aren’t the right fit” for jobs, turned away or given the absolute minimum in healthcare, be it physical or mental and stuffled from place to place because they aren’t worth the communities time or money.

  26. Your ideas Aside, to say that Becouse you cant affore things, you should not have a tiny home. Wtf really? Here ill EDUCATE you. If you build/buy/have a big home, you have to pay more in every way, when you size down you have less bills. A child knows this. Now is someone with low income can borrow save, or get 8k they can buy a kit for 5k land for 1k and 2k for evey thing else, only have to pay 35-100$ a year on land tax, and 200 mo for water trash n sw. A small income of 700 mo and a low income person who looks can have a Better life them most Rich do. Oh n generally speaking shipping containers are not structurally sound to build them up so they are cost more funds. So the general ones are not safe FYI

    1. Slow your roll… what you’re referring to is ‘affordable housing’. Tiny houses are GREAT affordable housing options. ‘Homeless housing’ refers to those solutions being subsidized by the government to provide housing to the chronically homeless population. Tiny houses are NOT the most efficient (monetarily) type of housing available. Im suggesting the housing is less important than rehab services and therefore the housing used should be efficient (monetarily) so that more subsities can be put into rehab programs (ie substance abuse, education and mental health care). Those are a much bigger contributer to homelessness than simply not having a roof. Were on the same side of this debate here… I live in a tiny house BECAUSE its affordable, id like others to be able to too.

  27. Your “opinion” reflects much thought and wisdom. I sometimes feel we want a solution and go for the quick fix and do a dis service in the long run. It is prudent to be penny wise and I totally get the long overdue action to address/relieve the mass homelessness that is growing rapidly. Responsable communial living can be achieved when we unify as people and pool our sometimes meger finances along with our diverse skill setsand abit of effort. I believe each of us has something to throw in the pot (or at least stir it). With God all things are possible, much Love!

  28. Ok but tiny homes for homeless are being built for 2000 not 25 or 11 thouaand.The cities dont do much besides talking about ending homelessness and tiny houses are something your organization doesnt have to be rich or huge to tackle. Also having shared bathrooms and kitchens saves tons of money and it brings people togethee for unity and support.

  29. So tiny can be very basic initially but people can figure out how to make them nicer on thier own and add personal touchrs to them

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