San Jose Opens First ‘Tiny Homes’ Village for the Homeless

After three years of waiting, San Jose has finally unveiled its first tiny home community.

The sleeping cabins will house 40 homeless individuals on a Mabury Road property owned by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.

The new experimental community, which aims to transition homeless people into long-term housing, stems from a 2016 law authored by former Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose). Dubbed AB 2176, the law suspends building codes through 2021 to help construct more emergency shelters.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Mayor Sam Liccardo called the grand opening a “moment of hope” as the city awaits to build more permanent housing.

“In the meantime, as we’re waiting for projects to get from conception to completion, we have homeless brothers and sisters out on the street,” he said. “And so as we’re building the supportive housing we need transitional housing solutions. We need immediate solutions that we can build quickly and cost-effectively and that is where this bridge housing came into being.”

The tiny homes, which will be overseen by the non-profit HomeFirst, are expected to serve 120 homeless people in the first year, with 40 residents moving on to permanent housing every four months. Since its opening, two formerly unhoused residents have already moved into long-term housing.

Liccardo was joined by a number of city and state leaders, including state Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), who authored a 2018 law that allows San Jose to lease unused Caltrans properties for $1 a month. The city is moving forward with its second tiny home community at a Caltrans site adjacent to Felipe Court and at the intersection of highways 280, 680 and 101.

“We need to have all the available Caltrans property that are possible for these kinds of projects,” Beall said. “We ought to be looking at them all over the state. …We have to have a sustained effort.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has put building more housing at the forefront of his agenda, also showed up for the momentous occasion. The state’s top leader applauded the city for its work in fighting the ballooning homeless population at a local level. “You are in the application of our ideals,” he said. “The state vision to solve this crisis will be realized at the local level. Project by project. …We are resolved to scale programs like this. The idea is this is not permanent supportive housing, this is about transitioning people.”

Besides the 40 tiny homes, the Mabury Road site includes other amenities such as showers, a kitchen, laundry and computers. Residents will also have access to wifi, which is being donated by Comcast, and assistance with finding jobs and permanent housing.

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase.

9 Comments

  1. > Dubbed AB 2176, the law suspends building codes through 2021 to help construct more emergency shelters.

    Wasn’t the purpose of building codes to prevent people from living in vermin infested structurally unstable fire traps with dangerous electrical wiring?

    But, at least it made a great photo op and fake news story,

  2. I hope this actually works and is helpful, but I seriously doubt it will. In fact if i were to bet on it, I would bet that this place will be an emergency services nightmare within six months.

  3. Yeah I don’t know, this article seems more like a fluff piece for politicians than a hard look at how this good intention might be missing the mark.

    So let’s say assumptions of this are true and that the only thing homeless people need is a clean place out of the elements to shower and look for jobs online. How does this address the fact that housing in this area is so expensive that unless somebody has a college degree and works multiple jobs that it’s unlikely they will move on to affording their own place? I’m extremely skeptical that this will serve as a launching pad for breaking the homeless cycle. At best I can see this helping 1 in 10 homeless people, and I’m sorry but a 10% return rate is pretty dismal. (And if you’re one of the 10% I salute you – but what are we gonna do about the other 90%?)

    Also something that is completely overlooked is substance abuse. Many are living on the streets because they have an addiction that prevents them from holding a steady job. An addiction that also caused their families to give up on them and boot them out of the house. Are there rules in place at these tiny homes that forbid alcohol and drugs? If so, who’s enforcing those rules? And what do you do with people that would rather live on the streets than improve themselves by following the rules? Stop in at any homeless shelter and ask about how many walk away because they don’t want to follow the rules.

    I get that we can’t continue to turn a blind eye every time we pull up to a stoplight. But at the same time you can’t help people that don’t want to help themselves. At what point do we take back our streets and tell people they either clean themselves up or we put them in an institution to do it for them?

    Call me a skeptic – I’d love to be proven wrong. As someone mentioned in another comment, it will be interesting to see what these places look like in 6 months.

    • > At what point do we take back our streets and tell people they either clean themselves up or we put them in an institution to do it for them?

      “At what point” you ask.

      When voters stop giving politicians money and permission to waste money on supporting the VERY lucrative “urban micro-squalor industry”.

  4. how much to build just 1 – tiny house? they are getting the land for free – – so its just the cost of the tiny house, utility hookups, furnishings and some paint. am i missing anything? Oh yea- the plush gov’t job of maintaining this project – should be a $200k/yr job – – so what is the true final cost of a single tiny house? – if it is pushing more that a couple of hundred thousand – – then consider putting up the needy at the Fairmont Hotel – – could stay there for years – –

    • > how much to build just 1 – tiny house? they are getting the land for free – – so its just the cost of the tiny house, utility hookups, furnishings and some paint. am i missing anything?

      Excellent catch, Mr. Biquitous.

      It also occurred to me that they didn’t say a peep about costs. Probably, because they’re not paying for them.

      Awhile back I read a news item about academics trying to figure out why there was “inequality”. Long story short, primitive humans lived as hunter gatherers and shared everything. They didn’t have money, which is a consequence of PRODUCING more than someone else and exchanging it.

      Primitive humans were foragers. They didn’t produce anything. They FOUND everything. They never worried about or asked how much anything cost.

      “Non-capitalists”, like Democrats and socialists are also foragers. They simply expect to find things to be consumed. Ten thousand years ago, they went hunting in tribal bands and “found” woolly mammoths. Today, they go hunting in political bands and “find” rich people to tax.

      Dems are like Japanese whalers, or elephant ivory hunters: there’s an unlimited supply of rich people just like there’s an unlimited supply of whales or elephants.

      How much does a whale or an elephant cost? Who cares. What difference does it make. There’s plenty more.

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