City of Elk Grove to Explore Possibility of Using Tiny Homes to Address Homelessness

Elk Grove City Council Member Pat Hume expresses support for exploring tiny homes as part of addressing homelessness in Elk Grove. |   ...

Elk Grove City Council Member Pat Hume expresses
support for exploring tiny homes as part of addressing
homelessness in Elk Grove. |  

November 10, 2017 |

In a notable departure from their usual handling of citizen suggestions, the Elk Grove City Council seemingly embraced an idea presented by a member of the public on how the city could expend a portion of a $5 million grant from the State of California to address homelessness.

During their Wednesday, November 9 meeting, the city council decided to examine an idea presented by Elk Grove resident Lynn Wheat. That idea would be the development of so-called tiny homes.

In her presentation during public comment (see entire presentation below) of the discussion of how to use the money, Wheat suggested the city examine utilizing the parcel located on the northeast corner of Sheldon and Power Inn roads for the affordable housing development. Although the property is privately owned, Wheat said the city could nonetheless pursue the development.

"I'm aware the city does not currently own this site," she said. "However I do believe the city is able to negotiate an incentive as has been done with other projects." 

Wheat added the city could partner with the architectural program at the Winn Center at Consumnes River College and provide numerous opportunities for students, and spur the creation of jobs. Wheat added the center could provide centralized services to help families transitioning and offer a greater sense of esteem.

"There are all sorts of possibilities for tiny homes," she added

After hearing over an hour an a quarter of staff reports and public testimony, Council Member Darren Suen made an immediate motion to approve staff recommendations. Pushing back on Suen's quick motion was Council Member Pat Hume who said he wanted more discussion on Wheat's suggestion. 

"I'd like to have a little discussion on this if we may," Hume said.

In his discussion, Hume said he thought Wheat had a "fantastic idea with a lot of promise" and that it should be vetted. 

Hume noted the tiny home program at Cosumnes River College, the building trades academy at Elk Grove Unified School District's Sheldon High School, and various building trade unions apprentice programs could be tapped as resources in the development of that community.

"Rather than buy two houses at one million dollars, I would estimate...the wholesale cost to build a tiny home would be in the twenty to forty thousand dollar range," he said. "We could get a fleet, quote-unquote, of a dozen tiny homes."

Hume went on to say that he had a specific parcel in mind that already has the availability of utilities. He then suggested that the city hold of on the $1 million purchase of two residential units and explore the idea.

Council Member Stephanie Nguyen noted that on her recent trip to Austin, Texas she visited a tiny home community there and she thought it was amazing. She pointed out that the tiny homes were built by individuals who were allowed to own it and for families, there were larger mobile homes.

"It did not look like a homeless shelter in any way," Nguyen said. "It was a really looking community and the people valued it and took care of it because they took some pride in ownership into it."

In his comments, Mayor Steve Ly expressed skepticism that the community would be willing to accept a collection of tiny homes in their neighborhoods. 

"Let's be realistic here," he said.

Nguyen replied that based on what she saw in Austin, she would be willing to have that in her neighborhood.

Except for holding back $1 million to explore the development of tiny homes, the city council approved the staff recommendations. Those recommendations included $1 million be expended to fund a mental health clinician for 10 years; $500,000 for a full time problem-oriented policing officer with the Elk Grove Police Department; $2 million for the purchase and operation of two residential dwellings for so-called "navigation hubs."  

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