San Jose Unveils ‘Tiny Homes’ Prototype Ahead of Vote on Pilot Homeless Shelter Program

After years of delays, borderline prohibitive cost estimates and fierce backlash from residents worried about property values, San Jose expects to have 80 tiny sleeping cabins built by summertime to house homeless people until they find a long-term place to stay.

The proposal seems to have considerably more public support compared to its initial rollout last year. And instead of running up a tab of more than $18,000 a cabin, the Gensler-designed models will cost the city about $6,500 apiece.

“These communities are where innovation meets compassion, and offer us another tool to get more San Joseans off the streets, our of creeks and into housing,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said Monday as officials unveiled a prototype of the so-called “tiny homes.”

A beige-and-white model of the 80-square-foot cabins, some of which will have up to 120 square feet of space, will be on display through Wednesday outside City Hall. The one on unveiled for public viewing this week features a twin bed over drawers opposite a bench. It also has windows, a light, a smoke detector, lockable door and a power outlet.

In a memo to the City Council, San Jose Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand recommends putting 40 such cabins on Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority land off of Mabury Road and another 40 on a Caltrans site at interstates 680 and 101.

District 4 Councilman Lan Diep, who represents the northern part of the city where the tiny homes are slated to go, invited the public to join him on Thursday for a community meeting about the so-called “bridge housing.”

The proposal, which would house up to 320 people, comes up for council approval on Dec. 18. If approved, the city would run the pilot program through 2022, when the state law authorizing the homes is set to expire.

To incentivize tiny home dwellers to find permanent housing within six months, the city will charge them rent equivalent to about 10 percent of their income or $20 if they have no job. After six months, the rent would tick up by 10 percent every six months to a max increase of 30 percent.

The city anticipates spending $30,000 to lease both tiny homes sites through 2022. Development and construction costs will amount to roughly $4.3 million. HomeFirst, the nonprofit manager of the project, will get $1.3 million to prepare homeless people for move-in, and another $1.3 million to run the two sites.

Donations are encouraged to offset costs of the project, and volunteers are needed to help build the cabins. For more information about how to lend a hand, click here.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

18 Comments

  1. Not gonna hold my breath on this.

    Seattle tried the tiny homes approach, and like many other feel good programs it failed and there are plans to close it in March 2019.

    https://komonews.com/news/local/seattle-to-close-controversial-low-barrier-homeless-camp-in-march

    Here’s the problem. Nothing changes with these folks except they have a warm place to sleep. They still panhandle and steal to support their drug habits. The severely mentally ill ones still act deranged. The tiny villages end up becoming drug dens.

    I’ve been advocating bus tickets. Maybe build some tiny homes well outside of city limits. Not sure why a small minority of folks take issue with this. We have no issue outsourcing to cheaper places for damn near everything. We need to start taking the same approach with this.

    Agnews was in the middle of nowhere when it started out.

    • > I’ve been advocating bus tickets. Maybe build some tiny homes well outside of city limits. Not sure why a small minority of folks take issue with this. We have no issue outsourcing to cheaper places for damn near everything. We need to start taking the same approach with this.

      Huzzah! You da man!

      And, why not call the “community” of tiny homes well outside the city limits a “reservation”?

      We’re on the same page.

      > Not sure why a small minority of folks take issue with this.

      HINT: Where would the “homeless” in their “tiny homes’ be registered to vote, and would the “ballot harvesters” be able to find them?

      • >HINT: Where would the “homeless” in their “tiny homes’ be registered to vote, and would the “ballot harvesters” be able to find them?

        I had never even thought of that. As usual I am in awe of your genius.

  2. I can see how this could be a cost-effective, temporary housing solution and a good use of scrap public land that’s not serving any useful purpose. But I’m not sure I get the #s: 80 units at $6300 per doesn’t sound bad at all: That’s about $600,000 total. But the article says it will cost the city $4.3m to develop and construct the units. Not seeing how that works out: we’ve gone from $6300 per unit to $53,000 per unit. And are the Housing First charges ($1.3m prep, $1.3m annual management) included in the city’s $4.3 or on top of it? Maybe I’m misreading. Thanks, Jennifer, for clarifying.

    • Just wait. In a few years, long after the Tiny Home experiment has failed miserably, the cost will continue to rise as we pay the pensions of the now retired public employees who once were involved in this hopeless exercise in futility.

    • I can see now Mr. Escher you will never get any where in government if you show them you can do 6th grade math.

  3. If you can’t afford to live here then MOVE.

    If that sounds simplistic then well life is sometimes that simple.

  4. I have some pretty strong opinions on this but here is a number that we should all concentrate on.

    (Monies allocated for homeless programs in the total)/(number of homeless people).

    While the denominator should probably be number of homeless persons that are actually helped, I will be generous and use a number like 10,000 which (I hope) is an upper bound on the number of homeless in Santa Clara

    What the numerator is anybody’s guess, Cisco alone is coughing up $50 Million but that I believe is over 10 years, The county is getting $11 Million in a one shot emergency funding.

    All of this money is going to be spent by the government and the homeless problem will only get worse.

    • Thanks, hoapres. It would be useful to know what the per individual spend is per year. I have a sinking feeling that most of it is going toward pricey, often-abandoned new, individual shelter creation when the $ would be hugely better spent on the creation of in-care services for many of these folks.

  5. Can anyone identify ANY way in which the government homeless industrial complex is accountable for anything?

    They virtue signal constantly, get gobs of money to spend, and things only get worse.

    WHAT’S THE POINT?

    Better to just get a six pack of beer, sit on your sofa, and watch Colin Kaepernick and the Niners on TV.

  6. Maybe we should just dissolve the city of San Jose and let Google run it. We can call it Googleville.

  7. “if you build it, they will come…”
    Another leftist, communist ideology project in progress.
    What is the source of FUNDs for this incredibly stupid idea?
    My sincerest condolences for the San Jose Police and Fire Departments increased workloads to accommodate the predictable “problems” arising from concentrating this element in San Jose.
    San Jose is a festering slum with absolutely “No relief” from the inundation of subsidized vermin and their contagions.
    David S. Wall

  8. The 80 units built will not make a dent in the thousands of homeless people in San Jose. The homelessness epidemic should be declared a federal emergency and we should use all of the abandoned army barracks. The money can be used to bus people to and from the barracks.
    We need a solution to the homeless-especially because of the litter and sewage in our water. Tiny homes is not a realistic solution.

  9. After 6 months the city will increase rent by 10% and another 10% every 6 months for a year and a half, and then what, soft headed liberals with kick them back out in the street?

    Doesn’t that violate the city’s own rent control laws. OMG they will find lawyers and sue the hell out of us.

    Who’s collecting the rent and evicting these people when they smoke the rent money on legalized recreational pot. How about the infrastructure [ I just love the application of that word ] toilets, showers, electricity, kitchens, food, public health care, you know Infrastructure.

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