Nov 16, 2022 - News

Philly's first tiny house village for homeless slated for 2023

A rendering of Sanctuary Village’s tiny house community proposed for Northeast Philly.

A rendering of Sanctuary Village’s tiny house community proposed for Northeast Philly. Rendering courtesy of Harman Deutsch Ohler Architecture

Philadelphia's first foray into providing tiny houses exclusively for those experiencing homelessness is set for next year.

Why it matters: Around 4,400 people experience homelessness on any given night in the city.

Driving the news: Nonprofit Sanctuary Village plans to build 12 individual homes — measuring 12-by-8 feet each — as part of the first proposed phase of a tiny house community on city-owned land in the Holmesburg neighborhood of Northeast Philly.

  • The community will offer temporary, transitional housing for women ages 55 and up.
  • The pilot project, developed and funded by Sanctuary Village, is estimated to cost less than $500,000 and is expected to break ground in the spring.

The big picture: Tiny house villages geared toward addressing homelessness have been popping up in U.S. cities, most notably in Seattle where more than a dozen villages are operating.

  • While the strategy is a low-cost option to move people into permanent housing, some villages have drawn complaints around illegal activity and ended in fighting between residents and management.

Zoom in: Under Philly's plan, each tiny house is rent free and will include an outside porch, along with electricity and heat, but no plumbing.

  • The development near Pennypack Park will have shared spaces for bathrooms, cooking and storage.
  • Social services will be provided on site, along with a community van for transportation.
  • Plus: The location could scale up to 28 units, depending on funding.

Between the lines: The project is one of two tiny house communities proposed in the city.

  • Mosaic Development Partners, a Black-owned firm, is developing the second project in the Mill Creek neighborhood of West Philly. It'll provide permanent housing for a minimum of 26 people experiencing homelessness, per Mosaic's website.

What they're saying: The city's housing affordability crisis has reached such a pitch that officials are experimenting with new approaches, Liz Hersh, the city's director of the Office of Homeless Services, told Axios.

  • Hersh said she became convinced of the potential success of tiny house villages after seeing similar developments in Seattle.
  • "Having their own little space and being part of a community — that was a game changer for them," Hersh said of chronically homeless individuals living in tiny homes in Seattle.

Cathy Farrell, board president of Sanctuary Village, told Axios she believes Philly's tiny house villages will be the first on the East Coast.

  • "It's a model that works and it's cost effective," she said.

What's next: Farrell anticipates that the first tenants could move into the village this summer.

avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Philadelphia.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Philadelphia stories

No stories could be found

Philadelphiapostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Philadelphia.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more