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Could Tiny Houses Help Alleviate Homelessness In Chicago? City Explores The Idea

By Stephen Gossett in News on Sep 19, 2017 9:42PM

Low Income Housing Institute helps construct tiny houses for homeless people in Seattle / Facebook

The city is at least exploring the possibility of using tiny houses to help reduce homelessness in the Chicago.

The City Council on Tuesday held a hearing to discuss the topic—which still remains only a proposal at this point. At the meeting, Anthony Simpkins, of the Housing Bureau of the city’s Department of Planning and Development, told a committee that the city is exploring issues such as cost, location, design and whether or not the houses would be constructed using public finances, according to the Tribune.

At the same time, the project appears to have an early ally in the Catholic Charities. Eileen Higgins, vice president of the Archdiocese of Chicago-affiliated organization, said at the hearing they want to build seven tiny homes to provide shelter for homeless veterans on lots near 79th Street and Emerald Avenue, in Auburn Gresham, where they already have an infrastructure for homeless support.

The hearing took place just one day after the city displaced several homeless people in Uptown, who had been residing in a so-called tent city beneath a viaduct, after a judge ruled last week that a bridge repair and new-construction project could proceed. The hearing however was the followup to a resolution introduced by Ald. Ed Burke (14th) back in May, which called for representatives of the Mayor's Task Force to Reduce Homelessness to testify on the concept's feasibility.

Cities like Portland, OR and Berkeley, CA "are testing ‘out-of-the-box' solutions to a chronic problem that all major urban centers face. I see no reason why Chicago should not also think and act innovatively," Burke said in a release at the time of the introduction of his resolution.

His resolution cites "320-square-foot homes that are a low-cost and quick way to provide a home for homeless individual" and states that Seattle's Low Income Housing Institute "builds these homes for as little as $2,200, afforded through public or non-profit funds."

Simpkins however reportedly said the Seattle model would not directly translate to Chicago, if a pilot initiative is indeed launched.

"If we were to develop our own Chicago model specific to our climate, we would require certain features not contemplated in...the Seattle model, like heating for the winter season," he said, according to the Sun-Times.