A new bill proposed in the California legislature wants to explore a new solution to housing the state’s unsheltered individuals: relocatable housing units.
The bill was proposed by California Sen. Josh Becker (D-San Mateo), and would lay down the groundwork for moveable “opportunity housing units” to be placed on vacant, unused land.
Senate Bill 634 was authored in concert with Becker’s team, nonprofit housing developer DignityMoves, and two other organizations aiming to reduce homelessness in California.
The problem with housing California’s homeless, according to the bill’s authors, is the cost and time required to buy land and build permanent structures.
In a press release issued by DignityMoves, the nonprofit argues that cities and counties are working hard to meet the challenges set by the state to meet housing requirements, but traditional obstacles slow down the process. Meanwhile public entities have “thousands of parcels of excess land not currently being used,” the organization said.
One of the possible solutions to help the homelessness crisis, which is proposed in the bill language, is the existence of “opportunity housing.” Relocatable housing units have already been deployed in cities like Santa Barbara and San Francisco, and SB 634 would make that type of housing and land acquisition easier and faster to scale across the state.
The bill will “pave the way for new housing by asking public entities to make unused land available and convert these otherwise squandered assets into what California desperately needs – more low-income housing,” DignityMoves said.
Elizabeth Funk, CEO of DignityMoves, said response to these relocatable communities in cities where they’ve already been deployed has been “overwhelmingly positive,” and the nonprofit thinks more can be done by replicating the existing model.
Funk argues that “opportunity housing” is a great solution for getting around the cost of acquiring land and building structures and the hurdles associated with constructing shelters.
Because the units are being placed in temporary locations, the homes don’t have the same impacts on zoning or environment standards, meaning they can be set up at breakneck speed, instead of being bogged down by bureaucracy.
An opportunity housing project in San Francisco received final permit approvals in less than three weeks, DignityMoves said.
With affordable homes across California in short supply, and thousands of federal housing vouchers going unused, SB 634 aims to fill in the crack that many low-income Californians find themselves falling in.
“There is a missing rung on the housing ladder: nothing exists between shelter and ‘affordable’ housing,” Funk said.