San Jose unveils tiny house prototype as vote on pilot program nears

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018
San Jose unveiling tiny house prototype as vote on pilot program nears
Tiny homes could soon be a temporary housing option for some of San Jose's working homeless population.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Tiny homes could soon be a temporary housing option for some of San Jose's homeless population.

On Monday, city leaders and community partners unveiled the Emergency Sleeping Cabin (ESC) prototype, also referred to as tiny homes. These living structures will be used for proposed Bridge Housing Communities (BHC) at two sites in San Jose.

A full-size prototype will be on display in the City Hall Plaza over three days.

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The 80-square-foot sleeping cabin would come equipped with a privacy lock, electrical heater, a light, at least one power outlet and other amenities.

Unlike Oakland's modified Tuff Shed village, San Jose's Housing Department Director, Jacky Morales-Ferrand told ABC7 News, "They're insulated. They're really suitable for people to actually be living in."

Communities across the country have taken on unconventional housing for the homeless for years.

San Jose's BHC are expected to give temporary housing opportunities to employed, homeless adults. The goal is to provide the population with a safe, private, and secure environment.

If everything goes as planned, there should be 80 tiny homes built between two sites, by summer.

The two sites that have already been identified and evaluated for BHC include the VTA construction staging site at Mabury Road, and a Caltrans site located at the South West Quadrant of State Highways 101 and 680, adjacent to Felipe Avenue.

A memorandum released December 7 explained the selected sites would be able to support the development and ongoing operation for this type of temporary housing development, with no significant impacts to the environment.

If approved, each site would accommodate 40 cabins, and other community support facilities like bathrooms, showers, laundry, common kitchen and other community space for residents.

Rent between the two sites is expected to be up to $30,000 through 2022. Lease agreements should be finalized in early 2019.

"What happens is people go into these types of facilities and then they cycle back out to homelessness," Morales-Ferrand said. "For us, that would not be considered a success."

Instead, the projected goal is to have 60-percent, or 240 people, leave the temporary housing community for permanent housing within six months or less.

RELATED: Homeless encampment filled with women and children torn down in Oakland

To encourage people to move-on within six months, they will be asked to pay 10-percent of their income or $20 if they're not employed, for the first six months. Rent would go up by 10-percent every six-months to follow, with a cap of 30-percent.

Habitat for Humanity will develop the Bridge Housing Communities, and once complete, Home-First will operate. The city expects each sleeping cabin to cost about $6,500.

"I think we're going to be able to show everyone in San Jose and throughout the world that we could do this right," Mayor Sam Liccardo said.

"Our homeless are already in our neighborhoods, so we're not bringing homeless into anyone's neighborhood," Mayor Liccardo continued. The question is whether or not we're going to house them. This gives us the ability to house those that are already part of our community, in our neighborhoods."

A release by the City of San Jose's Housing Department read, "Through an array of onsite supportive services, community engagement, and direct contributions to the BHC, residents will be empowered to build stability and self-sufficiency while bridging from homelessness to permanent housing."

The previously mentioned memorandum included numbers from the 2017 San Jose Homeless Census and Survey. It found 4,350 homeless people were counted on the mornings of January 24 and 25, 2017. Of that number, 74-percent, or 3,231 of San Jose's homeless population did not have shelter, including 643 people living in encampment areas.

The County Office of Supportive Housing identified 684 year-round emergency shelter beds in San Jose, which equated to 92-percent of the emergency beds in the County.

The memorandum explains homeless people and advocates have testified there are insufficient shelter beds to house all those living outside. The same groups say homeless people are at risk of injury and harm because of exposure to outdoor conditions.

The San Jose City Council will vote on the proposed BHC pilot on Tuesday, December 18.