It isn't cheap for Portland, Ore., to house its sizable homeless population. An emergency shelter room costs $16,000 a year and lacks basic plumbing, and there aren't enough rooms to prevent 2,000 people from setting up shelters under bridges, on sidewalks, and in abandoned lots throughout the city on any given night. So Mayor Charlie Hales' office is trying to get creative and think outside the standard dorm shelter box: The current top idea under consideration is providing micro-homes for minimal rent to help people get off the streets and into jobs.
A task force meets next week to "assess the viability of using tiny homes as a potential for housing houseless people," the director of strategic initiatives tells Time, adding that he hopes the first homes will be ready as soon as February 2015. Architectural firm TechDwell has already pitched an idea for a two-person dwelling made out of prefab materials, featuring separate entrances and sleeping areas and a common kitchen and bathroom. The price tag: $20,000. Each person would have roughly 100 square feet of living space, with the pilot program putting up to 10 structures on four city lots. Residents would pay around $250 to $350 a month in rent, and after an initial $1 million outlay, the project would be self-sustaining, reports KPTV. (Meanwhile, in China, one family appears to have been thrown out of its house with no explanation.)