Tiny Tuesday: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

One by one, a Los Angeles man is building micro-houses to give to the homeless. One by one, the city is taking them away.

As this NPR story reveals, Elvis Summers has built dozens of 6-foot-by-8-foot dwellings. Each includes solar panels, a camping toilet, wheels, and (perhaps most important for the intended occupants) a lockable door and dry roof. City Hall has deemed the houses a safety hazard and LA sanitation workers have confiscated three of them.

A spokesperson justifies the city’s actions as follows: “These structures, some of the materials that were found in some of them, just the thought of these folks having some of these things in a space so small… it really does put their lives in danger.” Though the spokesperson doesn’t go into detail, I’m imagining things like bare lightbulbs, space heaters, and hot pots, which could start a fire. There’s also the risk of electrocution or suffocation in a confined space.

This is another story where I’ll encourage you to form your own opinion. The city claims to have its citizens’ best interests in mind, but throwing a tiny-house dweller back on the street is hardly in that person’s best interest. Then again, what if the existence of a particularly flammable house puts an entire neighborhood in danger? Can LA find a constructive way to solve the safety problem without prolonging homelessness – perhaps by specifying legal locations to park the houses and working with Mr. Summers to develop a more agreeable design? Or is tiny housing an inappropriate solution entirely?

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