While building more permanent supportive housing is key to solving the Bay Area’s homelessness crisis, such development projects typically require a long permitting process. This means that it can take years for people experiencing homelessness to find a lasting solution.
California-based company Connect Homes is now working with cities in the area to fill this gap by building modular tiny homes. Each tiny building consists of four units and is built in roughly a day. And compared to a single unit of permanent supportive housing, which can cost $500,000, a modular bedroom like this costs $20,000.
“When the pandemic hit, we looked around and saw that not only has California had this very long-standing homelessness issue but that maybe this was the right time to provide a new type of solution,” says Gordon Stott, cofounder of Connect Homes. “Ultimately, all of us need good, private, isolated space to call our own.”
The company started making, modular sustainable private homes in 2013, but it realized that its approach could also be used to make shelters for people experiencing homelessness. “Because we’ve streamlined our building processes on an assembly line, we’re able to keep costs low, but more importantly, keep costs predictable,” says Steve Sudeth, a vice president at the company.
A four-unit structure measures 320 square feet and each unit can also be fitted to serve as a stand-alone laundry, bathroom, or kitchen facility. They can function both off-grid, and run off a generator or solar panels, or be connected to the regular grid.
The first homelessness organization to use the modular design is a Bay Area nonprofit called LifeMoves. Connect Homes is providing 88 bedrooms for the semi-permanent installation, 22 of which have been completed since the order was placed in October.
“There’s absolutely a place for permanent supportive housing,” says CEO Greg Leung. “That’s important. But in the meantime, with the hundreds of thousands of people who are without shelter, we can do better than tents on the side of the road as a society.”