$130,000 for a ‘tiny home’? Readers have other ideas for homeless housing

RIVERSIDE, CA - NOVEMBER 30, 2020: A resident of the the tiny home village walks to the common shower area on November 30, 2020 in Riverside, California. Los Angeles is embracing the idea of tiny homes to get homeless off the streets, but the buildings are sitting in storage.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
A resident of the tiny home village in Riverside walks to the common shower area. (Los Angeles Times)

Tent cities on golf courses, Quonset hut villages, college dorm-style complexes, repurposed shopping malls and warehouses — these are among the many ideas shared by our readers over the years to alleviate the suffering of people living unhoused in Los Angeles. Now, with $130,000 “tiny houses” in Los Angeles drawing scrutiny, readers are once again brainstorming ways to build more shelter in a region beset by housing scarcity, a looming mass-eviction crisis and bizarrely rising home prices during a pandemic.

The way many of our readers respond to articles on homelessness is not unlike how they react to our coverage on wildfires, another long-term, intensifying problem in Southern California: with ideas, some of them probably not workable, but many worth airing, if only to show how deeply invested in the collective well-being our readers are. And giving these ideas print space might inspire someone in power to decide one or two are worth exploring.

Neil Kaufman of Los Angeles wants funding for granny flats:

When the state of California decided to make accessory dwelling units a solution to the housing crisis, it changed design requirements that had been in force since my days in architecture school in the 1970s.

While these changes allowed more freedom, little else was done to help facilitate the financing of these units. If we as a community want to speed up this kind of construction, perhaps the state could help with financing as it does with so much other housing already.

Gregory Perez of Northridge believes competition might produce a solution:

I agree that the $130,000 price tag for a “tiny home” is stunning. However, rather than asking City Hall for alternatives, I believe Los Angeles would get far more for its money by offering graduate students at local universities a $130,000 prize to come up with the best idea.

Ask them to design “small housing” that is safe, functional, visually pleasing, economical and easy to set up and remove as needed. The winner could be determined by an independent panel of local architects and the city’s building agencies.

Let’s get the best and brightest engaged as soon as possible to help solve one of the most pressing issues of our time.

William K. Solberg of Los Angeles relates what he learned from talking to homeless people:

Cities like Seattle and Riverside build small homes for a fraction of the cost in Los Angeles, with planners being mindful of the advantages of offering residents a collective stake in their community.

In my interactions with homeless residents of Los Angeles, I see many people who seem able to work, some who look like potential leaders and many who take pride in keeping their area clean.

The city of Seattle deserves credit for developing a social model “with residents all performing chores and, at some, taking part in self-governance.” Giving homeless people a stake in the game is a recipe for a successful village of tiny homes.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.