Bridging the Opportunity Divide

Portland is About to Get Tons of Tiny Homes That Can Shelter the Homeless

September 17, 2014
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Portland is About to Get Tons of Tiny Homes That Can Shelter the Homeless
Tammy Strobel/Flickr Creative Commons
These family-friendly homes cost just $12,000.

On any ordinary night in Portland, Ore., an estimated 4,000 people sleep on the city’s streets or in shelters, according to the Portland Housing Bureau.

This year, as the Rose City passes its deadline for the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, a growing number of locals are growing frustrated with a lack of solutions.

Which is why local entrepreneur Tim Cornell decided to repurpose a project designed for Haiti and retrofit a blueprint for urban areas such as Portland. Cornell’s company, Techdwell, builds tiny, economical homes that can be assembled in just a day’s time with limited construction experience.

The houses, which include just a small kitchen, a bathroom and a couch that turns into a bed, costs about $12,000 to build and can also accommodate families, according to Fast Company.

Thanks to Cornell’s persistence, this type of residence may soon be available to Portland’s large homeless population in less than a year. After months of zoning processes and meetings with citiy officials and community boards, Techdwell’s plan is expected to pass a final zoning approval. Should the plan get the green light, the city will break ground on the first tiny home community in February 2015.

“I said, look, we can do a community — 25 homes, 40 homes — in an infill lot, making it look acceptable,” Cornell tells Fast Company. “Not a camp, not tents, but aesthetically pleasing. Just do something — here’s a plan that’s feasible.”

The company is already selling homes to individuals looking for a simpler way of life, with eco-friendly features including solar panels, rainwater collection and composting toilets. Cornell is also in talks with Washington state officials to start erecting homes for disaster victims in the wake of the devastation left from recent wildfires and floods.

Of course Techdwell’s model is not the first of it’s kind. Similar projects for homeless have cropped up in Wisconsin and Texas, as well as New York state.

As Portland’s decade-old program to help the homeless expires, maybe Techdwell’s vision is the key to a future plan that’s affordable and sustainable — increasing its chance of success.

MORE: Social Enterprise Incubator Hatches in Portland, Oregon

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