San Jose hopes community will be receptive to tiny homes proposal

Today we're getting our first look at what proposed tiny home communities in San Jose might be like. The option, intended to combat a housing shortage, was met with public outcry at previous public meetings. But city officials hope people may be more receptive, once they see the renderings. 

Ask a major architecture firm to design tiny homes for the homeless, and this is what you get: 80 to 140 square foot sleeping cabins meant to be both functional and beautiful.
Gensler Architects did the work pro bono for the city of San Jose.

Paul Pannell, design manager with Gensler says, "We felt we also wanted to in the design, give back to the community something that is visually and aesthetically pleasing rather than something that looks like a log cabin in the mountains or something."

But these tiny homes come with a steep price tag. The city is estimating the cost at between $73 and $90-thousand dollars per cabin depending on how many they build.

And they say there are still lots of questions to be answered, before this project gets the green light.

Jacky Morales-Ferrand, the director of San Jose's housing department says, "Can it be done quickly, can it be done less expensively and how does it function within the community?"

Future sites for the project have also been a source of contention. A first round of meetings on the topic brought out scores of residents saying not in my backyard.

And so most of the original sites were off the table.

Next week, city officials go back to the drawing board with 37, mostly new, potential locations.
Some are industrial and many are provided by Caltrans, VTA and the Water District.

Mayor Sam Liccardo says, "There's no question that finding the site is the critical political challenge. But it's important for folks to have a visual, to understand what it looks like before anyone goes running off with pitchforks to city hall."

Home First has been tapped to operate the sites, which would have restrooms, and communal spaces for outreach and services.
They say the residents would be those already on the waitlist for permanent housing.

Andrea Urton, CEO of Home First Services says, "During that time, these people, through this project, will have a safe place to be. So yes this is critical for the health of our community."

But people like Robert Aguirre, who is homeless, say this project is too fancy and it's taking too long to develop.
If approved, it would take a year to build, and he says people need help now.

Aguirre says, "This whole idea of putting it off and trying to design something... we don't have any immediate relief. And that's really what's needed."

The city council is still considering other options to deal with the homeless issue as well, including sanctioned encampments and better safe parking. They will take up all of this at their meeting on December 12th.