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Tiny Homes: A Big Solution to Homelessness?

February 21, 2020 | by Anna Orendain

Categories: Affordable Housing, Homelessness

Tiny homes have been a hot topic lately, but they’re not just trendy as a dream home or the latest in luxury living. Organizations and governments around the country are harnessing tiny homes’ big potential to help house the Americans that most need an affordable place to live.

Writing for Shelterforce in 2019, Sharon Lee, the executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), reported on progress made in LIHI’s efforts to use tiny house villages as transitional housing for residents of Seattle experiencing homelessness.

According to Lee, Seattle/King County’s January 2018 Point-in-Time Count found 12,112 men, women, and children experiencing homelessness. The unsheltered population in Seattle alone accounted for 71% of this county-wide statistic. So when a new Seattle mayor, Jenny Durkan, took office, she made it a priority to rapidly rehouse the city’s unsheltered population in an innovative, cost-effective way.

LIHI, one of Seattle’s partners in the rapid rehousing effort, says that each tiny home costs just a couple thousand dollars to build. A village itself needs just four to six months to be constructed and an annual budget between $60,000 to $500,000 to provide anywhere from 20 to 70 people with housing and access to supportive services that will help them get back into a stable and more permanent home.

The Seattle Human Services Department notes that the villages have been incredibly cost effective. Spending on tiny house villages makes up less than 3% of the City of Seattle’s homeless response investments, yet the initiative accounts for almost 13% of all city-supported shelters.

City officials also observe that while many people they find living on the streets, such as couples and families, usually won’t agree to move into a temporary homeless shelter, they will agree to move into the city’s tiny house villages. While the city’s shelters typically house men and women separately, Seattle’s tiny homes allow for families to find housing together.

A Tiny Home Village in Texas

While Sharon Lee states that LIHI’s collaboration with the City of Seattle is meant to provide the unsheltered with a bridge to permanent housing, a nonprofit here in the heart of Texas has developed a permanent community of tiny houses (and RV homes) for Austin’s chronically homeless population.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF) began in 1998 as a social outreach ministry that used food trucks to travel the city and provide food, clothing, and other much-needed items to Austinites in need. After years of serving and speaking with their neighbors in need, MLF came to understand that one of the major causes of homelessness is a catastrophic loss of family. Alan Graham, founder and CEO of MLF, put the nonprofit’s stance on the issue into these words: “This is a human issue that requires a human response.”

With this in mind, MLF built Community First! Village in an effort to provide Texans coming out of chronic homelessness with affordable, permanent housing while also surrounding them with a support system that will help them use their individual talents to support themselves.

TSAHC’s Commitment to Ending Homelessness

Because it is our mission to meet the housing needs of moderate to extremely low-income Texans, TSAHC has been working to help alleviate the needs of Texas’ unsheltered residents.

In 2019 alone, TSAHC sponsored Texas Homeless Network’s statewide Texas Conference on Ending Homelessness and partnered with LISC San Antonio to host a Permanent Supportive Housing training meant to help developers navigate the process of creating PSH units.

Through the Texas Foundations Fund, TSAHC also provides local nonprofits with grant money needed to provide supportive housing services to Texans at risk of homelessness. To learn more about our TFF program, we recommend reading the previous blog entry found here.


On the House blog posts are meant to provide general information on various housing-related issues, research and programs. We are not liable for any errors or inaccuracies in the information provided by blog sources. Furthermore, this blog is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney.

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