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Tiny housing making big impact on combating homelessness in America

The fight to end homelessness in this country is a massive undertaking. About 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness each year, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. Alleviating this problem in a meaningful way will surely require a multi-faceted effort involving federal, state and local governments, non-profits and the private sector.

Here's one possible component of the solution to this giant issue: tiny homes. Across the U.S., organizations are using tiny houses and apartment homes, which typically range from 100 square feet to 500 square feet, to provide shelter for the homeless.

For instance, the nonprofit American Family Housing recently opened Potter's Lane, a 16-unit community in Midway City, Calif., to house homeless vets. The property features 480-square-foot apartment homes made from energy-efficient shipping containers.

Across the country, in Newfield, N.Y., the nonprofit Second Wind Cottages, relying heavily on donated materials and volunteer labor, built a community of 12 tiny homes that house homeless men. Residents pay rent as they are able to help defray the community's operating expenses.

Other examples of similar communities include the Tiny House Village in Seattle and the Community First! Village in Austin, Texas.

Advocates of these developments note that they are comparatively cheap to build, and constructions costs often are further mitigated through the use of materials and labor supplied for free by area businesses and residents.

Can the multifamily industry incorporate tiny apartment homes for the homeless into their communities? It's certainly something to think about. With its ample resources and vast supply of creative and intelligent people, the multifamily industry should not be shy about stepping up to the plate to help address this critical issue, and tiny apartment homes might be one way to do that.

Another Piece to the Puzzle

Shelters to Shutters (S2S), a Fairfax, Va.-based nonprofit, offers another way for the apartment industry to reduce homelessness. S2S currently works with 23 apartment management companies – including such large operators as AvalonBay Communities and Equity Residential – to place people experiencing homelessness in onsite, entry-level jobs and provide them with housing at the same communities at which they work.

Overall, these apartment companies have moved more than 100 people out of homelessness in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, South and Texas. And they've gained hardworking, loyal associates in the process. The job retention rate for S2S participants is 92 percent while the average industry turnover rate, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council, is 31 percent.

S2S provides its apartment management partners with pre-screened, job-trained candidates for entry-level positions such as maintenance technicians and leasing agents. The organization focuses on the 70 percent of the homeless population who are situationally homeless due to a life-altering event such as job loss, medical or health emergency, divorce, domestic abuse or the loss of a primary income earner.

Whether it's through tiny homes, working with nonprofits like S2S or some other method, the multifamily industry can make a real difference in the fight against homelessness. I strongly urge you to consider how you and your apartment company can do just that.

 

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