Home News Philly’s first tiny house village could open by summer. Is it an answer to homelessness?

Philly’s first tiny house village could open by summer. Is it an answer to homelessness?

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Walking around Seattle these days, you might think that the entire population is obsessed with gardening. Clusters of barn-like structures popped up in dozens of vacant lots, church parking lots, grassy fields with mountain views, and even blocks near Amazon’s global headquarters. It is located next to it and is plugged into the empty space between commercial buildings. These particular huts, however, are not meant to store shovels or rakes.

In normal times, no one would call a building without a kitchen or bathroom a “home.”But as the country’s homeless population soars and people turn to cars and tents for shelter, the Tiny House Movement is a national housing advocate who sees structures as a cheap and quick solution to the growing humanitarian crisis. The bedroom-sized cottage is assembled In the factory, it can be installed on site in one day. It also offers people the dignity of a private space, unlike group shelters.

Tiny homes first started appearing in expensive West Coast cities where affordable housing was in short supply, but now they can be found in a variety of places, including booming Austin, Texas, and rural areas. new field, New York, just outside Ithaca.In the Seattle metropolitan area, housing advocates 900 tiny houses, There is much more in the pipeline. Cottages are usually clustered around a central amenity building with showers, toilets and cooking facilities. It’s like a campground.

But until now, Philadelphia has bucked the tiny house trend. One reason is that the homeless population, according to the city’s latest tally, is 4,300, lower than many large cities. Our shelter system is also more extensive.

And, as Liz Hirsch, who runs the city’s Homeless Services Authority and calls herself a tiny home skeptic, points out, Philadelphia is already its own local version of tiny homes.

But after homeless activists set up protest camps on Parkway in 2020, the Kenny administration agreed try your approach. Now that architects are putting the finishing touches on the design, the city’s first small-house village could open on a grassy lot near the Delaware River in Holmsburg by early summer.

Ironically, these 28 tiny homes may be the first concrete project to emerge from the Parkway protests. national attention was hailed as breakthrough event. Activists have largely focused on transferring his 50 homes from a large vacant lot portfolio to a city-run community-run land trust.the little houses were further down wish list.

but, various setbacksincluding the death of a protest leader Jennifer Benetti slowed the group’s progress over the last two years. The Land Trust has so far received only two vacant homes from the city. in the meantime, mosaic partners, The developer selected to oversee another negotiated project — 12 low-cost tenements on Aspen Street in West Philadelphia — has yet to secure funding, according to a city spokesperson.

it leaves Sanctuary Village, a Hatfield-based group that has never built any type of housing, to save the day.The non-profit organization was founded by Catherine Farrell A Johnson & Johnson executive who first learned about Tiny House from an article in Penn’s Alumni magazine. Farrell, who volunteers with several homeless-focused church groups, first approached the city in 2017 with a small house proposal.

After spending months looking for a suitable location, the city found one just a short walk from the national highway. This place was sandwiched between a prison, a former city nursing home, and Pennypak Park. It’s worth noting that it’s located a few blocks away from the residential area of ​​Holmesburg.Sanctuary Village officially Award The Tiny House contract was signed in February 2021, raising over $700,000 for the project.

Even that may not be enough.

One of the main selling points of tiny houses is their low base cost. The buildings are actually sheds, often purchased directly from gardening companies, but tricked out with cottage-like details. 8½ x 12 in PhiladelphiaTiny House on Feet Designed Pro Bono by Rustin Ohler Hermann Deutsch Ohler Architecture, It has a peaked roof, a 3 foot deep front porch, and windows on both ends.

Sharon Lee built dozens of tiny homes for Seattle’s smash success Low Income Housing Institutetold me that her group would need less than $5,000 in materials to assemble a tiny house in a factory. But that’s just the beginning. You cannot build a small house on a vacant lot.

The site needs to be prepared and connected to the grid, Ohler explained. A structure does not require a deep foundation like a permanent house, but it does need to be raised above some sort of concrete foundation. The seasons change in Philadelphia, so you need to be equipped with insulation and heating and cooling units.

In contrast, Seattle’s climate is so mild that it doesn’t need insulation or air conditioning. Lee’s group was also able to keep construction costs down by using volunteers to set up the homes. But in Philadelphia, union labor is required for all government-sponsored projects.

With all the add-ons here, Sanctuary Village estimates that $700,000 could buy, equip and install just 12 tiny homes. Converting to a detached house is about 6 million yen. Farrell also worries that inflation and a shortage of construction materials will push costs up. It’s a lot of money to be. for about the same price.

Hirsch, who continues to support the Sanctuary Village project, agrees. “If she spends $40,000 on a bedroom, it’s not viable or reproducible,” she said.

Hersh told me he wants Sanctuary Village to cut costs, but it’s not clear how much fat he has to cut. The Sanctuary Village is being built just a few feet from the city’s former nursing home, so the group will use the existing bathroom and kitchen. This eliminates the need to build a separate amenity building. However, Sanctuary Village plans to install heated walkways to allow residents to safely walk from their cottages to the facility when the ground is frozen.

To Dennis P. CulhaneTiny homes seem to be a trend, according to a University of Pennsylvania professor who has studied strategies to reduce homelessness. “Every few years, new architectural solutions to the homeless emerge, which are part of the pattern of his approach to boutiques,” he said. He said the city should use its borrowing capacity to leverage Sanctuary funding for his village. “Then you can get 10 houses for $60,000.”

Hirsch, who was initially hesitant about small houses, thinks the Sanctuary Village project is worth trying. The village targets a long-overlooked group: women over the age of 55, who have been on the streets for over a year. Case Her manager will be on site around the clock for her to help residents access medical services and permanent housing. In other cities, most residents spend less than six months in a tiny house before getting a permanent placement.

It’s also important to understand that the Seattle Tiny House Program is not limited to just tiny houses. Lee’s group, his LiHi, runs several affordable housing options, from subsidized apartments to shelters.

The nonprofit also banks vacant lots for future projects and uses those locations to host small home villages. When LiHi is ready to build an apartment complex, he simply dispatches a forklift to move the tiny house to another location, and the cycle begins again, Lee explained.

With the homeless population in King County, which includes Seattle, reaching 15,000, about half of whom live unprotected on the streets, local government agencies have responded by eliminating zoning differences in small homes. did. This led to cost reduction. Incidentally, Seattle’s homeless population is smaller than Los Angeles, which recently reached 70,000. As Philadelphia’s housing prices skyrocket, Culhane worries that homelessness will skyrocket.

Given that it costs more than $450,000 to build a unit of government-subsidized affordable housing in Philadelphia and the process takes 10 years, even that is not the dominant strategy. As it seems there should be a place for a small house. Addressing homelessness.

no one claims solution To the homeless in Philadelphia. But when Sanctuary Village opens, we’ll see if they’re part of the solution.

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