Although the total number of homeless Americans has slowly decreased over the past decade, homelessness has risen in large cities across the country. Certain spots in these areas are often dubbed “tent cities,” where it’s common for the homeless to live in encampments under highways or parks.
In San Jose, California, officials are temporarily addressing the city’s homeless epidemic with tiny homes. This week, they unveiled two designs for the homes, created pro-bono by Gensler, the world’s largest architecture firm.
The first home, an 80-square-foot design, has a fold-down bed, a locking door, and storage shelves. The other is 140-square feet and features a slanted roof with a bed, a small living space, and large windows. The renderings show residents drinking coffee, having picnics, and riding bikes alongside the villages.
Whichever village design the city chooses will house up to 25 homeless people until January 2022, when AB 2176 – the law that allows the City of San Jose to build tiny homes – ends.
According to the Mercury News, city leaders are considering 37 publicly-and-privately-owned locations for the cabins. They are also recommending the sites be at least 1,320 feet away from schools and 530 feet away from residential homes. The housing nonprofit Habitat for Humanity will build the villages, while homelessness nonprofit HomeFirst will operate them.
The cost of constructing the villages will not be cheap. If San Jose builds 20 homes on a half-acre site, it will cost $1.8 million (or $90,550 per cabin). That price may rise anywhere from $10,075 to $17,450 per home when security, transportation, and meal services are added.
Approximately 4,350 people live on the streets of San Jose proper, according to a 2017 report from Applied Survey Research. The region also has the third-highest percentage of unsheltered homeless and fourth-largest number of chronically homeless, meaning they have lived on the streets for a year or longer.
San Jose is not the first city to look at tiny homes for its homeless. Fresno, California; Austin, Texas; Portland, Oregon; and Eugene, Oregon have already created micro-housing villages as short-term solutions.