Portland, OR, is testing a new approach to combatting homelessness: Paying homeowners to build tiny houses in their backyards and host a homeless family there for five years, Fast Company reported. A project of the Multnomah County government, the pilot aims to provide a space for homeless residents outside of shelters while they await permanent housing.
A Place for You will start with four accessory dwelling units (ADUs) by this summer, and will expand to more if the initial efforts prove successful. One part of the evaluation for a larger rollout will be to determine if costs can be brought down: The first houses will cost $75,000 each, a figure that could be reduced if the homes are produced in greater numbers.
Along with providing housing, program organizers also believe the integration of families experiencing homelessness throughout the community will help build empathy and understanding while allowing children to remain in their schools.
Oregon’s homeless population is over 13,000, with six in 10 of those individuals living unsheltered, according to a report this past fall from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which uses a point-in-time in time assessment to gauge homelessness rates nationwide.
Portland recently passed a $258.4 million bond measure for 1,300 affordable housing units aimed at putting a small dent in the city’s current shortage of 23,000 affordable rentals. However, those new units will not be available for two years, Fast Company noted, so the tiny house solution aims to provide more immediate relief.
Portland has potentially more than 116,600 lots that could accommodate ADUs, according to a Multnomah County report, but only about 1,800 currently have them.
Three hours north, Seattle also has turned to tiny houses as a housing solution for homeless families, opening several village-like clusters on city property that provide stability and security for up to 160 people at a time. Social workers at each one help residents access resources for permanent housing, jobs and education. Denver is also embarking on a tiny home-village pilot program.
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