Real Estate News

Tiny homes are trendy. Could they also help the homeless?

Allen Warren is thinking small when it comes to housing affordability.

The Sacramento city councilman and residential real estate developer is planning to build a new housing community in his north-area district featuring 50 “tiny homes” – detached dwellings ranging from 240 to 500 square feet with prices starting at just over $100,000.

“This will be one of the most affordable new housing communities in California,” Warren said of the project that he’s tentatively calling Tiny Town.

Unlike the quirky tiny homes that are mobile and showcased on cable TV shows, these will be permanently located on concrete slabs on a 2.5-acre parcel on Rio Linda Boulevard. Plans call for a community building and a park at the center of the complex ringed by the 50 houses.

None of the homes will have garages and residents will be encouraged to use public transit and bicycles that will be included with the purchase of each residence, Warren said.

Warren, whose New Faze Development company is currently at work on several more-conventional residential projects, said he was motivated to address the severe shortage of affordable for-sale and rental housing in the area.

Those drawn to the project could include “working people, new college graduates, even teachers,” Warren said, but added that the prices could be low enough to lure some currently homeless families.

“You’d be surprised at how many homeless people have incomes,” he said, but still can’t get living quarters because of resistance from landlords and because of spiraling housing costs.

Though the project is not aimed specifically at the homeless, Warren said it could serve as a model for public initiatives aimed at serving that population.

Joan Burke, director of advocacy for the Loaves & Fishes homeless assistance group, said she was pleased to hear about the project, noting that tiny homes are a “very practical way” to provide affordable hosing for the homeless and others with limited incomes.

“We have such a severe housing crisis. This is exactly the time to provide creative solutions,” she said.

Burke said another group, a faith-based nonprofit called E49 Corp., is building tiny houses for the homeless under the sponsorship of various churches. The first four of what will be about 20 such homes are set to be occupied in mid-July in a community at Grove and El Camino avenues in North Sacramento, said Tammy Vallejo, president of E49.

Those homes will be offered as rentals, starting at $200 a month, she said.

The New Faze project would be the first such community in this area to sell tiny homes at market rates.

Warren said he is in the process of completing the purchase of the land for Tiny Town at Rio Linda Boulevard and Las Palmas Avenue and is working on design, layout and entitlement issues. The plan is to start construction in the spring and have the project done 12 to 18 months later.

Warren said the homes will be similar to those built for more traditional projects – just smaller. Much smaller.

The tiniest units will resemble studio apartments with kitchen, sleeping and common space in one open area. The larger units will have one or two separate walled-off bedrooms.

The smallest ones would sell for just over $100,000 with the larger units priced in the “mid-$100,000s,” Warren said.

All will be built on slabs, with “stick-built” construction. “It’s not prefab,” he said.

Warren said he expects the project to appeal to a “large pool” of people eager to get brand new housing in an area that’s close to amenities.

But he’s clear about the key attraction.

“The most appealing part will be the price,” he said. “The affordability will be the driver.”

Bob Shallit: 916-321-1017

Related stories from Sacramento Bee