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Tiny Homes for the Homeless

The recession of 2008 caused a steep rise in the number of homeless people, and the recovering real estate market has made it difficult for those with few resources to get back into a home of their own. One response is the homeless village, spontaneous communities of displaced people who band together. We reported on one, Dignity Village, several years ago. Since then, the village has grown into a “tiny home” community, along with many other such settlements that have arisen in the Western U.S.  

Tiny-home villages for the homeless have retained the idea of everyone having their own tiny structure to sleep and find privacy in, but have, for the most part, consolidated bathroom, kitchen, and recreational space into one or two communal buildings with some combination of plumbing, electricity, and heat. In many ways, they are a multi-roof version of the old-fashioned urban SRO (single-room occupancy) hotel or boarding house, with separate bedrooms but shared baths and kitchen, that provided the working and nonworking poor with affordable living options in so many cities before gentrification turned those properties into boutique hotels or market-rate apartments.


In this regard, they may be solutions that not only alleviate homelessness, but also prevent it by creating more affordable housing. They provide an option below the lowest rungs of market rent, which in cities such as Portland and Eugene can start around $700. In the gap between such rents and low-income units (such as those subsidized by the federal Section 8 program), for which there are often long waits, homeless people often have no options except for shelters — which afford no privacy and, more vexingly, usually kick people out between early morning and late afternoon — or the streets.

Read an interesting article about the rise of the tiny home movement for the homeless, and see different examples of how they look and work, at Buzzfeed.

(Image credit: Leah Nash for BuzzFeed)

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That's the case in too many places. Zoning laws exist for a reason, and waivers should be hard to get for those who want to make a buck at the expense of the community. However, there should be a way to get waivers and exceptions for projects that improve the community and help its most vulnerable citizens.
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Interesting... Around here the homeless have gathered around a strip of the river that is closest to town, living mostly in tents, or a few slightly better off in old trailers or vans. A huge mess with no sanitation, an explosion of crime with ridiculous numbers of calls to police, and a new fire to fight every few weeks.

All efforts to give them somewhere else to go have been summarily shot-down by zoning regulations. I believe the minimum is one home per 8,000sqft lot, and local advocates don't have the resources for a legal battle to challenge the zoning regs.
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