Community Frameworks, an affordable housing developer featured in NLIHC’s recent report, Aligning Federal Low Income Housing Programs with Housing Need, released a white paper describing their tiny house permanent supportive housing development model. NLIHC’s report identifies affordable housing development models that serve households with incomes at or below 30% of area median income, including Community Framework’s Quixote Village.
Tiny Houses: A Permanent Supportive Housing Model discusses the development of Quixote Village in Olympia, Washington. Quixote Village is composed of 30 tiny cottages around a community building on a two-acre site. Each cottage is 144 square feet, including a half bath. The community building has a large kitchen, laundry facilities, community spaces, and four full bathrooms. Community Frameworks suggests that tiny homes are a model for subsidized permanent supportive housing for single homeless adults because tiny homes reduce the per unit cost of development, allowing limited resources to go toward housing more people, and the small units with shared community space encourage positive community engagement and consistent interaction with peers, volunteers, and staff.
The concept of tiny home communities is gaining publicity and popularity, but many of these communities use non-permanent structures that are not insulated, do not have plumbing, and are not on permanent foundations. Community Frameworks states that in order to be considered a permanent housing option a tiny house must be large enough for a standard-size bed, chair, table, and some storage; have electricity; be heated and insulated; have standard ceiling height; have full bathrooms and cooking facilities nearby; and be sustainably built for long-term use.
All of the residents of Quixote Village are formerly homeless, and many meet HUD’s definition of chronic homelessness. A chronically homeless person is either an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for one year or more, or an unaccompanied individual with a disabling condition who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.
Permanent supportive housing (PSH) is the accepted best practice for addressing chronic homelessness. PSH provides non-time-limited housing and voluntary supportive services tailored to individual needs. However, this model of housing and services can be expensive to develop because of the need for non-housing space to be integrated into overall capital costs. According to the white paper, in some areas it can cost $250,000 or more per unit to build a PSH development.
Each of the homes in Quixote Village cost $102,000 to develop, including the costs of land, site remediation, and proportionate share of the community building. Sources of funding include the State Housing Trust Fund, federal Community Development Block Grant dollars, a grant and donation of land from Thurston County, and additional private grants and donations. Operating and services costs at Quixote Villager are estimated to be $246,850 per year, which are primarily covered by a Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment contract for 25 units and Washington State’s Operating and Maintenance Trust Fund for affordable housing. According to the report, the costs are far less than the cost of a comparable small apartment, or the cost of covering institutional care for a chronically homeless person.
Quixote Village was designed with input from the tenants, who consist of formerly homeless members of a self-governed tent community. Residents provided input on layout, construction, and finish materials. Since the property opened one year ago, one resident has graduated from college and two have enrolled in college programs. In addition, two residents have obtained full time jobs.
Community Frameworks asserts that tiny house villages are a logical extension of tent cities that are springing up across the country and can be a cost-effective permanent supportive housing option for homeless adults.
Tiny Houses: A Permanent Supportive Housing Model, is at http://communityframeworks.org/ws-main/docs/FINAL%20Tiny%20Homes%20White%20Paper%20March%202015.pdf
NLIHC’s report, Aligning Federal Low Income Housing Programs with Housing Need, including a case study of Quixote Village, is at http://nlihc.org/library/research/alignment.