WHY TINY HOUSE COMMUNITIES MIGHT BE THE ANSWER TO ENDING HOMELESSNESS
Our organization is aggressively exploring the possibility of establishing a tiny house community and has established a committee for such exploration and planning. We currently see this as being 2 phases, with the first phase being transitional housing, based on the housing first philosophy.
Housing first means we gives our friends a safe place to sleep, out of the elements, without restrictions. All who are homeless are welcome. Once they are safe and sheltered in their own tiny home, we begin working with them through counseling, rehab, job training, job skill training, social skills, etc. This is done in a community center set up within the Phase I Tiny House Community. The community center would also offer medical help, child care, grooming, and other things necessary to help someone move back toward independent living. For those unable through mental or physical illness or other encumbrances, we assist in locating funding available for housing such individuals.
Phase II of our plan is to help integrate our friends into a mixed use development area, where they would live in a tiny house community designed for both low income and those simply desiring to living in tiny homes, among a community of skilled workers – artists, woodworkers, gardeners, etc. – who can not only teach our friends additional skills, but also assist them in integrating into a society setting.
This plan is good for the community and the city. Studies have found that this type of program reduces crime, need for emergency care, less CPS involvement and reduction in other governmental and community concerns.
We encourage you to contribute to this plan. It is truly to the benefit of all.
fundamental values of the village model ...
BRIDGING THE GAP
Everyone deserves a safe and stable place to call home. However, current practices and funding sources are inadequate to meet the overwhelming demand for affordable housing. The Village Model seeks a radically different solution for bridging the often insurmountable gap between the street and conventional housing options. By restoring a variety of simple, low-cost housing options, we can more adequately respond to people's diverse needs and desires.
Building small is the only practice that reduces both energy usage and material demand—resulting in lower capital, operating, and maintenance costs over the life of a home. Tiny homes are therefore a cost-effective means to create more housing opportunities with the limited resources available. Simple and modular construction techniques can minimize material cost and waste, and accommodate sweat equity and volunteer labor as part of the home building process. By reducing our overall environmental footprint, we can not only address the housing gap, but also put forth a vision for a more sustainable future.
The Village Model goes beyond building individual tiny houses. It emphasizes building communities that respect the autonomy of residents, within a democratic process where each person has a voice in shaping how their community is operated and managed. While each village may require varying levels of outside support depending on its clientele, resources, and goals, preserving opportunities for resident engagement and empowerment should be a primary objective. It is this aspect that creates a foundational sense of ownership on which the village thrives.
The Village Model emphasizes a collaboration between the housed and the unhoused or underserved. A village should be a local community-driven initiative that involves a multitude of—including schools, churches, service providers, professionals, city officials, and other concerned citizens and organizations. This kind of broad collaboration demonstrates what is possible when a community comes together around a common cause. By utilizing the existing resources around us, we can quickly create more housing opportunities for those in need.
six components of a successful village ...
1. TINY HOMES - Individual homes of 400 square feet or less
2. COMMON BUILDING(S) - Shared facilities and resources to supplement tiny homes
3. SELF-GOVERNANCE - Involvement of residents in decision making and management
4. VILLAGE MEETING - Residents meet as a community at least once a month
5. COMMUNITY AGREEMENT - A basic code of conduct that all residents agree to abide by
6. NON-PROFIT SPONSOR - An entity that provides ongoing administration, oversight, and support
why try the village model? ...
There are several advantages to following the Village Model—including economic, social, and environmental benefits.
In comparison to conventional housing options, it can be built and maintained more cost-effectively, it facilitates better connectedness among neighbors, and comes with a far lighter ecological footprint. This meets existing goals of many municipalities—such as providing accessible housing to all income levels, increasing neighborhood livability, and reducing carbon emissions.
The three points presented below provide more specific benefits of the Village Model. To our knowledge, these benefits have held true for any existing village that includes the six components listed above.
1. Cost-effective method to meet basic need
The tiny house allows for simpler construction techniques when compared to an apartment building or single family house, without compromising quality or durability. Using fewer materials means lower construction and maintenance costs. For example, roofing a tiny house is a much more affordable and approachable task. And as a local community-driven initiative, the Village Model has a strong capacity to harness existing local resources like pro bono professional support, sweat equity, volunteer labor, and donated materials and land.
The smaller footprint of a tiny house, along with proper insulation, provides significantly lower structural operating costs. For example, it takes less energy to heat or cool a small space. In fact, a study by Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality found that reducing the size of a home is the single most effective measure for reducing its impact on the environment. This is because a smaller-sized house is the only practice that reduces both energy usage and material demand. Operating costs are also lower with the Village Model, since it emphasizes cooperative resident management that reduces demand for staffing.
While some of the simplest, least expensive examples—such as Opportunity Village—offer living situations that are far from ideal by most standards, they still meet people's basic needs by offering stability, security, privacy, and the ability to stay warm and dry. And until housing is extended to all, this remains to be the responsible thing to do—both morally and fiscally. Failing to do so only results in indirect costs to our courts, hospitals, and jails that far exceed the cost of housing.
2. Preserves individual dignity and autonomy
Village residents have reported that living in a tiny house village makes them feel more independent. Unlike the traditional shelter model, each resident has a small place to call their own. This offers a stark contrast to homelessness, in which people are often forced to live their entire life in the public realm.
People experiencing homelessness are often stigmatized as lazy and dependent, which is ironic since their only legal option is typically a top-down shelter model that demands such dependency. The Village Model provides a viable alternative that promotes individual dignity, autonomy, and responsibility.
It balances both private and common spaces. The tiny houses are supplemented by shared facilities and resources; resulting in a living environment that encourages social engagement. This aspect is best embodied by the village meeting, in which residents come together to discuss issues of common interest. Residents have a voice in decision making and participate in the management of the community in which they live—an opportunity not even extended to your average renter. It's no surprise then that village residents have also reported that living in a tiny house village gives them a sense of belonging and community.
In this regard, the Village Model also offers a viable alternative to traditional low-income housing, which tends to result in social isolation among residents—where people are far less likely to know their neighbors. And when you don't know your neighbors, you're at greater risk of falling back into homelessness.
3. Positive impact on the surrounding community
Conventional wisdom tells us that low-cost shelter without extensive top-down management will result in an increase in crime and violence in the surrounding neighborhood. These fears are voiced virtually every time the Village Model is proposed in a public forum. But in fact, when the six components listed above are in place, these fears have proven to be unwarranted.
Our research and experience has shown that when you give a group of people a sense of social ownership over the place in which they live, they have an interest in making it work—especially when they have nowhere else to go. Unlike in your typical landlord-tenant relationship, a village creates mutual accountability among neighbors.
A Community Agreement lays out a basic code of conduct that all residents must agree to abide by, and residents that fail to uphold those agreements can be evicted. Existing examples have shown that this is a duty that residents take very seriously—because they have an interest in creating a safe and healthy neighborhood, just like anyone else.
Finally, the Village Model provides the surrounding community with an example of a sustainable housing option—where people not constrained by income may be inspired to live in a smaller space. While this TOOLBOX focuses on applications in transitional and affordable housing, tiny house villages can be designed as market rate housing as well. In fact, combining the two provides opportunities for internally subsidizing the affordable housing.