Oakland Councilmember Says Tiny Homes are One Answer to Student Homelessness - NBC Bay Area
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Oakland Councilmember Says Tiny Homes are One Answer to Student Homelessness

With 14 percent of Oakland's community college students in unstable housing situations, the tiny homes could be a stopgap until permanent affordable housing is built

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Tiny Homes Could Help House Community College Students

    With 14 percent of Oakland's community college students in unstable housing situations, one Oakland City Councilmember believes tiny homes could be a stopgap until permanent affordable housing is built

    (Published Monday, Sept. 17, 2018)

    What to Know

    • 14 percent of Laney College students self-identify as homeless or housing insecure

    • Oakland City Councilmember Abel Guillen spent two nights in a "tiny home" he hopes will help relieve the dire need for student housing

    • Guillen is asking churches with large parking lots to open up a corner for a few of the tiny structures

    Arriving with a suitcase, a backpack and a few bags of groceries, Oakland City Councilmember Abel Guillen appeared more ready for a weekend getaway than a press conference — and that's exactly the point.

    Guillen was preparing to spend two nights in a "tiny home" erected by Laney College carpentry students in the parking lot of Oakland's West Side Missionary Baptist Church — a 137 square foot structure with two beds, a kitchen and a full bathroom — and a surprising amount of closet space for its size.

    "If I'm asking students to live here, then I should try it out first, to make sure that it in fact is comfortable, and people can live here comfortably," Guillen told reporters as he hung towels and filled an ice cube tray in the unit's bite-sized kitchen.

    The tiny home — and an even smaller unit behind it that houses an extra bedroom — is situated next to the church, using water and power that used to supply an office trailer on the same spot. Pastor Ken Chambers said he's hoping to inspire other churches to open up their own large and often-vacant parking lots for a few of the tiny homes, in order to help solve a problem many don't realize exists.

    A survey conducted by Laney College showed that roughly 14 percent of Oakland's community college students self-identify as housing insecure or homeless — including many who couch surf or sleep in their cars, Guillen said. Community colleges traditionally haven't had dormitories because students typically live at home with their families — but the Bay Area's housing crisis is changing that reality, forcing some families to leave Oakland, and leaving students scrambling for a place to live while they finish their studies.

    Guillen said while tiny homes are not a permanent solution, they could be an immediate help in what's become an urgent crisis, until more affordable housing can be built. He's joining Chambers in the search for large parking lots around the city where the living units could be scattered — a few here, and a few there — to house dozens or even hundreds of community college students.

    Watch the video above to see what life is like in 137 square feet — and explore the 360 photos below!

    The tiny homes come in packages of two — a “medium” and a “small,” both towable on the back of a truck. They hook up to the church’s power and water in this parking lot. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

    The tiny homes come in packages of two — a “medium” and a “small,” both towable on the back of a truck. They hook up to the church’s power and water in this parking lot.

    The kitchenette features a sink, an inductive stove, a refrigerator and a fan that extracts hot air and lets cool air in. Every inch of extra space has been made into drawers and cabinets — including under the stairs and under the bed. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

    The kitchenette features a sink, an inductive stove, a refrigerator and a fan that extracts hot air and lets cool air in. Every inch of extra space has been made into drawers and cabinets — including under the stairs and under the bed.

    The bathroom has all the comforts of home: a shower, toilet, mirror and linen closet — but no sink. After all, the kitchen sink is just two steps away. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

    The bathroom has all the comforts of home: a shower, toilet, mirror and linen closet — but no sink. After all, the kitchen sink is just two steps away.

    The larger of the two tiny home models has a second full-sized bed in a loft above the bathroom. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

    The larger of the two tiny home models has a second full-sized bed in a loft above the bathroom.

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