Tiny Houses for Homeless in Back Yards, Really!

As noted by New Geography.

An excerpt.

Here’s an incredibly stupid idea to deal with Portland’s housing affordability problems: Multnomah County proposes to build tiny houses in people’s backyard. The people will get to keep the houses on the condition that they allow homeless people to live in them for five years.

That’s supposed to be an incentive. For five years, you have to share your yard with a homeless person who may be suffering from a variety of problems, after which you get to keep whatever is left of the tiny home. But as one Portland neighborhood activist points out, what homeless people need is healthcare and social work, not to be warehoused in someone else’s backyard.

I suspect homeowners are going to be wary of this offer because they will have little control who lives in their yard. Not only would the homeowners be required to maintain the tiny houses while the homeless person or people lived in them, Portland is making it increasing difficult for landlords to evict unwanted tenants.

Update: Despite my pessimism, 580 homeowners have “inquired about hosting a homeless family in their backyards.” Initially, the county will build four, and if it can raise the funds, it will build as many as 300 more.

More important, this plan is stupidly expensive. The county estimates that each 220-square-foot tiny house will cost $75,000. That’s $341 per square foot! There are an estimated 3,800 homeless people in Portland, so housing them all this way would cost $285 million. That assumes one person per tiny house; some may house two, but housing people in tiny homes will also attract more homeless people into the area.

There’s also a not-so-hidden agenda here: “creating a denser, more affordable city.” At least, that’s the plan. The reality is density doesn’t make cities more affordable. In fact, the densest cities tend to be least affordable.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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