San Jose proposes 80 'tiny homes' be built to address housing crisis

San Jose city officials are proposing another step towards solving their city’s homeless problem. What could be considered a “promising real estate listing” was put on display at City Hall Monday.

“This is going to be bridge housing. It’s temporary housing,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo, D-San Jose.

Flanked by city officials and dignitaries, the mayor and the housing department director pushed for the construction of 80 so-called tiny homes.

Two sites are proposed to help ease the burden of caring for upwards of 4,300 homeless residents in the city. One is off Berryessa and Mayberry Roads. The second is on Felipe Avenue, under the I-280 and U.S. 101 interchange.

Each insulated, emergency sleeping cabin, is 80 square feet, with extra storage and electrical outlets for phone charging. Communal shower and bathroom facilities would be brought into each site.

“Bridge housing communities are designed to be interim housing sites that are safe, healthy, and provide a dignified environment,” said San Jose Housing Department director Jacky Morales-Ferrand.

Habitat For Humanity will use volunteers to build the tiny homes from mostly recycled materials. San Jose State engineer Dr. Fred Barez has been experimenting with similar design specifications to make this type of construction more energy efficient and comfortable.

“Construction is very easy. It’s not a big deal at all. We have done it here. We have built two or three of these,” said Dr. Barez.

As many as 120 working people will rotate into and out of the tiny homes for three months at a time, as they transition into permanent housing..

“These people will not be chronically homeless. These people will have work histories, or currently working,” said Andrea Urton of HomeFirst, a non-profit that operates housing and shelter sites across Santa Clara County.

Some homeless advocates commend the city for doing something, but… say this effort falls far short of the overall need.

“San Jose has a long history of doing good projects for the poor, but not even nearly meeting the need. More people will die and be in the streets again before they build those tiny homes,” said Scott Wagers, a homeless advocate who’s also a pastor with CHAM Deliverance Ministry.

The city council still has to approve funds for this project which will cost about $1.6 million. But if that happens then the first of two transitional housing villages will be right here by June 2019.