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There are two things that we know to be certain about homelessness:
- Someone who has a home is not homeless.
- The United States has a major affordable housing crisis.
While homelessness programs continue to do the heroic and creative work to connect people with the housing they need, two more realities remain: there simply is not enough housing for everyone who needs it, and the 7-million-unit gap is not going to be filled with new construction anytime soon due to high costs, neighborhood opposition, and inadequate financing.
With that in mind, there has been a rising chorus from countless communities anxious to explore Tiny Homes as a solution. Tiny Homes – and the “village” structure that is commonly proposed for siting them – appear to be an affordable option that can be put up quickly and added to a community’s inventory of affordable housing. In fact, many a local elected official has eagerly proposed Tiny Homes as a virtual panacea for ending homelessness in their communities – the missing piece to make housing affordable and get people off the streets.
Of course, like so many things in our work, it’s not that simple.
Yes, we absolutely need creative housing solutions – not only as part of every community’s response to homelessness, but to broadly meet housing needs everywhere. And, yes, anything that reduces the timeline and the costs of supplying housing is critically important. Tiny Homes and Tiny Home villages do hold some potential to help serve these severely unmet needs.
But the challenge lies in the details. While Tiny Homes have potential to create housing stability for people who are unhoused, any consideration of them must be part of a community’s broader strategy to provide permanent, affordable housing. Below are questions that every community needs to answer when considering this strategy.
- What kind of Tiny Home is being proposed?
- Are the structures safe, dignified, and livable?
- Is the design informed by people with lived experience of homelessness?
- Where is the Tiny Home village being sited?
- How will the Tiny Home village operate?
- Who is being prioritized for Tiny Homes, and will the appropriate services be offered to them?
- What’s the real cost?
Read the full article about tiny homes by Tom Murphy at National Alliance to End Homelessness.