San Jose Finds Three Potential ‘Tiny Homes’ Sites for Homeless

San Jose’s housing department proposed three possible locations for so-called bridge housing communities—basically tiny sleeping cabins to shelter the homeless. The announcement earlier this week comes after months of intense debate between homeless advocates and homeowners who say the tiny homes would lower their property values and bring crime and blight to their neighborhoods.

The three locations are:

  • A 1.33-acre in a VTA construction staging area on Mabury Road
  • A 7-acre property owned by the city on Hellyer Avenue
  • A 2-acre Caltrans-owned site by an overpass connecting interstates 280, 680 and 101

Until Caltrans cleared it out earlier this month, that last site housed one of the region’s biggest homeless settlements.

Helen Chapman—policy and legislative advisor for Councilman Sergio Jimenez—the sites are not necessarily ideal, but they fit the criteria housing officials were looking for. Though the locations have been identified, there are still several more hoops to jump through before construction begins.

Each site will still need to undergo an environmental review, for one thing, and the exact budget for each cluster of tiny homes still needs to be hammered out. Current estimates put at $18,000 to $20,000 per cabin.

“Cost hasn’t yet been identified,” Chapman said. “There’s a possibility that the initial cost that we laid out to the community months ago had to come down a little bit.”

The goal is to have people move into these cabins by the end of the year, according to city officials. The houses would most likely be offered to working homeless people living in their cars or rental voucher-holders who are waiting to move into permanent housing.

There isn’t much time to waste. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law in 2016 that allows cities to create tiny homes for the homeless, but it sunsets in 2022. There’s a chance it could get extended, of course. But San Jose has already spent the past year planning and debating, going from a list of 100 potential tiny homes sites to just three—and is still months away from breaking ground.

Robert Aguirre, a homeless man and outspoken activist, said the vitriolic backlash to the tiny homes proposal in San Jose has been disheartening. He said there’s a sense that no one cares about the opinions of the people who would be housed there.

“They all have their pluses and minuses,” Aguirre said of the proposed locations. “But for all the different choices that have been suggested, they really don’t consider involving the homeless people in these decisions.”

In addition, he said, because the three potential locations are in relatively isolated areas there wouldn’t be as many resources available, such as public transportation.

Another issue that concerns Aguirre is the fact that the city is home to about 4,500 or so unsheltered people, but it’s estimated that only 20 to 40 homes would be built. That would house dozens of people at most.

Chapman said Councilman Jimenez has been trying to combat the public backlash to the tiny homes proposal by educating people about the need for transitional housing.

“We as an office put out as much information as possible,” Chapman said. “We’re holding our community meeting on March 1 to make sure we are educating our community about possibly what it’s going to look like, what services will be offered, what type of security will be there.”

The public will have additional chances to weigh in starting at 6pm on Feb. 22 at the Leininger Community Center. A second meeting is scheduled for 6pm on Feb. 26 at the Environmental Innovation Center. The meeting in Jimenez’s jurisdiction, District 2, will take place at 6:30pm on March 1 at the Wyndham Hotel on Silicon Valley Boulevard.


  1. The communist ideologies espoused by the San Jose City Council are getting dumber and dumber by the femtosecond.

    If you cannot afford to live in the Bay Area you have to leave. No “Tiny Homes” No Housing entitlements.

    Dump the Housing Department with extreme prejudice.

    David S. Wall

  2. > A 1.33-acre in a VTA construction staging area on Mabury Road
    > A 7-acre property owned by the city on Hellyer Avenue
    > A 2-acre Caltrans-owned site by an overpass connecting interstates 280, 680 and 101

    Nope. Nope. And nope.

    Looks like there’s no place to build them.

  3. In District 2, in the same neighborhood where they had proposed putting those tiny homes, is a half-way house just around the corner, so that neighborhood would get double whammied.

  4. For Onething They Not Homeless Houseless They Live in Tunnels Cardboard boxes woodencrates Metalcrates Shacks They are all Like Tiny Houses but Tiny Houses Cost Lost of Money Why not Go to Home Depot or Lowe’s U can Get Tiny Houses Sheds Like BJ’s wholesale Have Make them out of Them It’s The Samething but not Trailer no Wheels on them

  5. > 7-acre property owned by the city on Hellyer Avenue

    Wait a minute!

    > Meanwhile, the city’s housing staff whittled a list of 99 possible plots down to three.

    If the city has 99 unused or underutilized pieces of real estate that are possible sites for taxpayer paid housing for nomadic grifters, the city has WAY, WAY too much surplus real estate.

    A 7-acre property ANYWHERE in San Jose likely has a market value in the MILLIONS of dollars.

    Didn’t we just pass a sales tax increase to raise $10 million of see to cover a budget shortfall?

    It looks like the city could have easily covered that shortfall many times over just be selling off UNneeded real estate.

    DITTO for greedy school districts and there deceitful parcel taxes. They are sitting on piles of money that they are hiding from the public.

    The City Counsel should demand that the city prepare a list of ALL surplus or underutilized city owned real estate and publish it ALONG with the estimated market value of that property.

    The city should then auction off ALL surplus property within six months.

    It should use the proceeds to backfill the revenues from the property tax increase, and the City Counsel should RESCIND the sales tax increase.

  6. 20K is absurd. Who in their rightind would pay 20K on a tuff shed.
    What I find interesting is Los Gatos, Palo Alto, Monte Serreno, Sarayoga, and Los Altos, to name a few ARE NOT LOOKING TO INSTALL TINY HOMES. Why is San Jose feel they have to house these low life’s. We had homeless in downtown San Jose since I came here in 1969. I use to watch them be arrested and held accountable. They are breaking the exact laws you and I are expected to obey. Why are they exempt. We need to take out City BACK.

  7. Why not willow glen? Rose Garden? Almaden Valley? Why won’t the white entitled residents do their parT?

  8. > A 1.33-acre in a VTA construction staging area on Mabury Road
    The government signed lots of residential areas and commercial areas within half miles to this place last several years. Now when most of the residential moved in or are ready for moving in , they build homeless shelters right at their new home? Government’s original plan is to let working people get off here, walk to office, take a dinner or shopping when they got off. Now they are going to build a homeless shelter there.

  9. Why no sites in affluent Almaden Valley, Willow Glen, Blossom Valley ? Why are they all in East San Jose?

    • If the city is footing the bill (tax payer money of course) then those who would offer to bid on building those tiny homes would most certainly raise their prices to the maximum amount allowed because they can. I found this to be the case when a grant was awarded to low-income to repair or replace windows on homes, and when the contractor list was submitted to said owner to contact for bids, companies came out and gave their bids to the maximum amount of the grant. City officials were aware of this practice, but did nothing to take these companies of their list for taking advantage of grant monies. I believe the same practice would occur with wasting tax payer money.
      On above comment from “San Jose Outside the Bubble,” you nailed it! I vote on you to be elected.

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