Some Cities Might Build Tiny Houses in Parking Lots — Here’s Why

published Aug 22, 2023
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It’s no secret that housing costs have risen significantly. Coupled with the impact of global inflation, major U.S. cities are among the most expensive places to live in worldwide. New York City tied with Singapore as the most expensive city in the world in the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)’s 2022 cost of living survey, followed by Los Angeles, California in fourth place, and San Francisco, California in eighth place.

With these factors at play, it’s no wonder that homelessness is also rising in America at a rapid rate — The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the number of unhoused people in the U.S. has risen by around 11 percent in 2023, the largest spike since the government began tracking comparable records.

With these daunting statistics in mind, it’s no wonder that new nonprofits such as DignityMoves have begun brainstorming creative, sustainable housing solutions. Launched in January 2022, the organization has since built dozens of temporary housing units in a San Francisco parking lot. Crucially, the project was significantly less expensive than similar city government initiatives — as the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out in a recent article, a city-funded affordable apartment in the city can cost as much as $1.2 million. Although DignityMoves’ units are by no means permanent housing, they cost an average of just $32,000 per unit, according to Fast Company.

Building in a parking lot also helped DignityMoves build interim housing quickly.

“Land is expensive,” DignityMoves founder and CEO Elizabeth Funk told Fast Company. “So we set up a model to borrow land and only take it temporarily.” The nonprofit’s housing can also be taken apart and rebuilt elsewhere, should a lot become inaccessible later.

So far, Funk said at least 30 people who have taken up residence in one of the San Francisco lot’s homes have gone on to find permanent housing. DignityMoves isn’t exclusive to the Bay Area, either — 17 similar communities are currently in development across the United States.