Nov 20, 2023 - News

Micro homes could help house migrants in Chicago

Photo of a micro house
The MicroHome in the West Loop. Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

A Chicago company is pushing a solution for sheltering both migrants and the unhoused: micro homes.

Why it matters: Housing and shelter is scarce for the thousands of migrants and unhoused as winter looms.

What's happening: Inherent Homes has developed a prototype to provide an alternative to tents on sidewalks and under viaducts that can be built fast in their Lawndale facility.

Context: Their new MicroHomes are 80 square feet and can house up to six people, Inherent CEO Tim Swanson tells Axios. They include a lofted bed, over 5 feet in headspace and a composting toilet.

  • The home also has a heating system and a system for fresh air.
  • There's no running water or kitchen appliances.

By the numbers: One unit costs $20,000. For the prototype, they've relied on philanthropic funding, but the hope is they could sell them to the city.

What they're saying: "Looks like a house, acts like a house, feels like a house," Swanson said. "It can be set here, and then moved somewhere else. We can reposition these things."

  • "Migrants aren't going to stay in these micro houses forever," Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) tells Axios. "So what are we going to do after they leave? We can use these houses for something else."

Zoom out: Housing solutions like tiny homes, micro homes and tents have been used by cities including Seattle, Austin and Los Angeles.

The intrigue: The prototype was delivered to a parking lot at South Racine Avenue in the West Loop, just blocks from existing migrant shelters. Swanson and his daughter slept there over the weekend.

The bottom line: Swanson believes the micro homes could eventually be used in the over 30,000 vacant lots spread across the city.

What's next: If the city wanted these houses, Swanson said it would take less than a month for production to ramp up and they could produce several units per month.


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