A Seattle Nonprofit Is Using Airbnb's Model To Put Prefab Tiny Homes In Backyards To Shelter The Homeless — see What They're Like

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A tiny home outside.

A tiny home.
Facing Homelessness and the Block Project
  • Tiny homes are increasingly being used to shelter people in cities like Los Angeles.
  • Seattle’s Block Project sets up tiny homes in peoples’ backyards to shelter the city’s unhoused residents.
  • See the 128-square-foot tiny homes, which have a bed, bathroom, and kitchen.

From the $26,000 build-it-yourself tiny home kits that sold out through 2021 to a tiny home in California that recently sold for over $1 million, it seems like the public just can’t get enough of these downsized living opportunities.

The exterior of the Coexist Traveler build among trees and outdoor seating

The exterior of the Traveler.
Coexist

Source: Insider (1) (2)

Since the start of 2020, people across the US have dished out millions of dollars for tiny homes to use as backyard offices, vacation homes, and an opportunity to live minimally.

A tiny home with blue skies behind it

A tiny home.
Joey Hadden/Insider

Several nonprofit organizations across the US have been launching “tiny home villages” that function as transitional shelters to house people without homes.

Tiny homes at the Chandler Street Tiny Home Village.

Tiny homes at the Chandler Street Tiny Home Village.
Brittany Chang/Insider

Last year alone, Los Angeles — in partnership with nonprofit Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission — opened seven multi-million-dollar villages that now successfully shelter hundreds of the city’s residents.

Two of the houses, painted blue.

The Tiny Homes Village in Los Angeles, CA.
Ted Soqui for Insider

Source: Insider

But Seattle nonprofit Facing Homelessness and its tiny home arm, the Block Project, is taking a slightly different approach.

A stand with the Block Project outside of a warehouse that reads Fabrication House. People are standing wearing masks.

People with Facing Homelessness and the Block Project.
Facing Homelessness and the Block Project

Think of the Block Project as an Airbnb program, but instead of inviting strangers into your home, you’re letting strangers stay in your backyard long-term.

People outside wearing face masks while building a tiny home.

The nonprofit building a tiny home.
Facing Homelessness and the Block Project

According to Jennifer Tee, the deputy director of Facing Homelessness, Airbnb model’s — specifically strangers staying in peoples’ homes — helped pave the way for the Block Project’s success.

People smiling at the camera next to a tiny home outside.

A tiny home.
Facing Homelessness and the Block Project

“When we put the notice out for the first time, we were overwhelmed by the response of people who wanted to get involved with the Block Project,” Tee told Insider.

People ruffling a yellow fluffy material inside of a warehouse.

The workspace.
Facing Homelessness and the Block Project

The nonprofit’s idea to create tiny home shelters was first conceived in 2016, well before the string of tiny home villages started appearing in Los Angeles.

People posing next to wooden panels.

The workspace.
Facing Homelessness and the Block Project

“We’re expanding at the rate of community,” Tee said, noting that the nonprofit wants to have 18 tiny homes in operation by the end of this year.

Someone posing for the camera outside while they help build a tiny home.

Facing Homelessness and the Block Project.
Facing Homelessness and the Block Project

“What we’re hearing from our residents is ‘we want to have a permanent space we can call home, be stable, and really settle,'” Tee said.

People outside wearing face masks while building a tiny home.

The nonprofit building a tiny home.
Facing Homelessness and the Block Project

Homeowners who lend their backyards to the Block Project sign a renewable five-year “ground lease” to lease 500 square-feet of their yard to the nonprofit.

People outside wearing face masks while shoveling dirt into a wheelbarrow.

The nonprofit building a tiny home.
Facing Homelessness and the Block Project

But if Block Project does begin requesting payment, a person’s rent will be decided on a “sliding scale” that factors in income and the duration of their stay, according to the nonprofit.

People wearing masks building a tiny home on a bright cloudless day.

A tiny home.
Facing Homelessness and the Block Project

“The closer people come to learning about an issue, the closer people come to understanding a person’s experience, and the more inclined they are to understand a bit more and want to do something about it,” Tee said.

A tiny home among trees and plants.

A tiny home.
Facing Homelessness and the Block Project

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