Roughly one year ago we shared the plans of a billionaire real estate developer in San Francisco who wanted to build communities for the homeless in Bay Area neighborhoods using stackable steel shipping containers (see: San Fran Billionaire Luanches Plan To House Homeless In Shipping Containers). Not surprisingly, the efforts were met with some resistance from the liberal elites of Santa Clara who, despite their vocal support of any number of federal subsidy programs for low-income families, would prefer that those low-income families, and their subsidies, stay far away from their posh, suburban, “safe places.”
Alas, as the San Francisco Chronicle points out today, like it or not, the boom in “micro-houses” is just getting started in the Bay Area with nearly 1,000 tiny homes, with less than 200 square feet of living space, currently being planned in San Francisco, San Jose, Richmond, Berkeley, Oakland and Santa Rosa.
Planners say that’s just the beginning. “We’re very excited about micro-homes,” said Lavonna Martin, director of Contra Costa County’s homeless programs. “They could be a big help. They have a lot of promise, and our county is happy to be on the cutting edge of this one. We’re ready.”
Contra Costa has a $750,000 federal homelessness grant to pay for 50 stackable micro-units of supportive housing, and Richmond Mayor Tom Butt would like to see them in his city. Developer Patrick Kennedy brought a prototype of his MicroPad unit to Richmond in November, and county and city leaders say they are leaning toward choosing it.
“They’re very fine, and they make a nice-looking building,” Butt said. “They’d be good for anybody looking for housing.”
The beauty of the tiny units is that they can be built in a fraction of the time it takes to construct typical affordable housing, and at a sliver of the cost, which means a lot of homeless folks can be housed quickly.
The homes have also caught on in San Jose where the City Council just approved $2.4 million to build a village of 40 units to help house the homeless. Of course, just like in Santa Clara, San Jose residents are lashing out at city officials over plans that they say will only serve to increase neighborhood crime.
San Jose resident Sue Halloway told the council she was afraid putting the village near residences would increase “neighborhood crime, neighborhood blight (and) poor sanitation,” and predicted that it would be “a magnet for more homeless.”
City Councilman Raul Peralez said he understands such concerns, but that “there are no facts surrounding these tiny homes and whatever blight or crime they might bring, because we haven’t done them yet.”
“I tell people you really have two options,” said Peralez, who said he wants the village in his downtown district. “You can allow the homeless to live on the streets, or you can provide not only shelter but services in a confined area — with security. In my mind, that’s a way better option for managing this community in an organized way.”
So, what do the stackable units look like? As seen in the video below, prototypes from one manufacturer, MicroPad, come complete with full bathrooms and kitchens and have up to 160-180 square feet of living space…
“These micro-homes may seem small at 160 to 180 square feet, but they’re actually pretty spacious when you’re in them,” she said. “And they go up very fast.”
Kennedy’s MicroPads have showers, beds and kitchens. Individually they resemble shipping containers, but once they’re bolted together with siding and utilities, they look like a regular building.
…which is more or less considered a mansion by struggling New York artist standards.