San Jose Is Creating Tiny Home Communities for Its Homeless Residents

In a new and innovative move, 80 tiny homes are being prepared as part of the city’s attempt to aid the homeless population. These hard-sided cabins with offer either 80 square feet of interior space or 120 square feet for those with mobility challenges. They are set to include a bed, storage areas, a sitting area, heating and cooling, and three windows.

The head of the city’s Housing Department, Jacky Marales- Ferrand, recommended that the 80 tiny homes be divided into two communities with 40 located at the Valley Transportation Authority staging site on Mabury Road bear Coyote Creek, and the other 40 to sit on a Caltrans site in the southwest quadrant of the intersection of Highways 680 and 101.

Residents of the tiny home communities will share common areas that offer bathrooms, showers, laundry facilities, kitchen space, and computer labs with internet access and job boards. For at least the first year, there will be 24/7 security within the enclosed area of the community and visitors will be limited with quiet hours enforced. Additionally, the nonprofit running the communities, HomeFirst, will offer a range of services including budgeting tips, career advice and healthcare resources.

To live in the tiny homes, residents must be employed or able to work. The homes are intended to be temporary solutions to offer stability to people living on the streets while they find more permanent housing.  To encourage residents to move on within six months, residents will be asked to pay 10 percent of their income or $20 if they’re not employed for the first six months. After that, the rent would go up by 10 percent every six months with a cap of 30 percent.

Mayor Sam Liccardo told the Mercury News that the homes will fill a “critical missing link” in homeless services. At the present, it can take people who have already received vouchers to subsidize their rent payments months to find an apartment, and people can find themselves back out on the street. “It’s the place where innovation meets compassion,” the mayor said.

These tiny homes are expected to cost as little as $6,500 each to build. Currently a prototype of the home is displayed outside of City Hall. This tiny home pilot program is expected to run through January 2022 at a minimum with the program extended to other parts of San Jose if the currently planned program is successful and the state extends the law that allows for tiny homes.

The first site projected for Mabury Road is expected to open in early June with the following 40 opening on the second site by late August.

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