Could ‘Micropads' help solve San Francisco's homelessness problem?

Some are calling it the wave of the future when it comes to housing the homeless. Micropads are tiny pre-fab modules that can be stacked together into apartment buildings.

This morning, KTVU's Tara Moriarty received a tour of one of these unique spaces from the San Francisco developer who came up with the idea as a way to help solve the city's homeless crisis.

"The homeless situation has gotten so bad in San Francisco that we decided to focus all our efforts on trying to design something that could be built en masse for the homeless in San Francisco and Los Angeles," said Patrick Kennedy, the CEO of Panoramic Interests.

With an estimated 6,500 homeless sleeping on city sidewalks, Kennedy said he is trying to revolutionize the way the city houses its homeless with what he calls the micropad. The micropad is a 160 square foot pre-fab steel modular apartment that comes with a kitchen, mudroom, bed, desk area, and bathroom.

He pointed out the unit's micro-closet, which can store twice as many clothes as a conventional closet. There is an oven/microwave that can cook a ten pound turkey, and a special light under the bed to ward off bed bugs.

"They're beautiful and we brought a bunch of our tenants down and they all would like to move in tomorrow if they could get a room," said Randy Shaw, Director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. "We are the largest housing provider of homeless single adults and basically we're running out of space- we've leased so many hotel rooms that there's almost none left."

Katherine West, who said she's been homeless for more than six years, took a tour of the micropad and fell in love with it. "I have no place to sleep except for a piece of cardboard and a dirty old blanket," she sighed, with tears welling up in her eyes. "It gets cold out there on the streets."

Kennedy says he wants to lease each unit to the city for $1000 a month. City officials said that's on par with what it costs to rent a room in an SRO, which has no bathroom in the unit.

The modules are shipped from China and come with two units to a crate with a hallway in between. They are then stacked on top of each other to form the blocks of a building.

According to Kennedy, the micropads would cost a fraction of time and cost to build a new shelter.

Some city leaders told KTVU they applaud the idea, but that Kennedy needs to come up with private land in order to construct the modules. According to officials, Kennedy's initial proposal was to build on city land and the city wouldn't go for that.

Kennedy said his idea has met with opposition from the city because of pushback from labor unions and politicians. He said the unions are concerned that construction would be done abroad and not here at home.

But he added that 2/3 of the construction costs to assemble the modules would be from local workers.

"I'm frustrated because we can provide thousands of units like this to the homeless in San Francisco but we're fighting the politicians and the unions. I think we're going to prevail but it's been a battle. I've been knocking on the door to supervisors and the mayor for the last 9 months."