Los Angeles is the latest city to experiment with micro homes, which provide secure accommodation for homeless people while they find their feet
Small but perfectly formed houses in white, yellow, blue and pink sit in short rows, while geometric blocks of red, green and blue cover the asphalt that separates them. But this new neighbourhood in Los Angeles is more than a colourful design statement, it’s a bid to house some of the city’s homeless population.
Lehrer Architects, a firm with the philosophy ‘no throwaway spaces’, has unveiled two vibrant villages of micro homes this year, using space that would be passed over by other developers for its size, shape or lack of infrastructure.
The Chandler Street Tiny Home Village opened in February, featuring 39 prefabricated ‘pallet shelters’ on an awkwardly shaped, leftover site. The Alexandria Park Tiny Home Village – capable of housing 200 residents in 103 one- or two-person units – followed in April. Two more villages are under construction in the city, and will offer 374 additional beds.
“With the two bridge home facilities we already have, and with the two additional cabin villages we’re building right now, we will have enough capacity to shelter every single unhoused person who is currently living on a sidewalk in my district this year,” said Paul Krekorian, a member of the LA city council (second district).
Both villages were built in 13 and 15 weeks respectively. The homes are designed to provide quick-to-construct, safe and healthy ‘bridge’ shelter en route to permanent housing.
The dwellings do not have private bathrooms, but there are shared facilities on site. The villages also include space for collective dining, areas for washing clothes, pet playgrounds and secure storage.
So, what are they like to live in? “I don’t see any improvements I could make,” Stephen Smith, who moved off the street and into one of the Chandler Street homes, told the Washington Post. Though he admitted that the village could do with more bathrooms.
Los Angeles isn’t the only city using micro homes as bridge housing. Last year, a development of six such dwellings was launched in Cambridge, England, where in the shadows of the famous university many people are sleeping rough.
Plans are also afoot to drop prefabricated micro homes into tight spaces in Bristol, England, in a bid to provide much-needed affordable housing.
The homes allow people to regroup and start living again, instead of just surviving
However, with a homeless population of more than 66,400 people, Los Angeles County is under more pressure than most to house rough sleepers.
“If we’re going to sit and wait until affordable housing is built, the homeless problem is going to keep growing,” said Ken Craft, CEO of Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, which runs the Chandler Street village. “We have to be able to get people off the streets and get them into interim housing, while we’re addressing the issue of affordable and permanent housing.”
He added: “A ‘tiny home’ gives people a real sense of independence and security. To me, it allows all people — but especially women — to take a deep breath, regroup, and start living again, instead of just surviving.”
Main image: Lehrer Architects