The City of Los Angeles seizes tiny houses from the homeless

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D.C.'s Boneyard Studios Tiny House Village. (Inhabitat / Flickr)

D.C.’s Boneyard Studios Tiny House Village are tiny houses for the middle class. In Los Angeles, similar (though illegally sited) houses for the homeless are being seized by the city. (Inhabitat / Flickr)

Tiny houses—be they Brutalist or just twee—are seen by some as a lifestyle option for Pinterest de-clutterers, and by L.A. advocates as a small step towards solving their city’s homelessness crisis. The City of Los Angeles, however, disagrees.

In South L.A., city officials are seizing “tiny homes” that belong to homeless residents. After the City Council passed a tough “sweeps” ordinance last year, the city was more easily able to categorize the diminutive dwellings as “bulky items” that could be confiscated immediately.

Elvis Summers, a formerly homeless L.A. resident who built and donated the houses, removed seven of them in advance of the city’s cleanup. Summers had placed the houses on 110 Freeway overpasses for homeless people to use in lieu of tents. In all, he’s built and sited 37 homes, with help from $100,000 in donations and a network of volunteers.

“It’s not a permanent solution, but nobody is doing anything for shelter right now,” Summers told The Los Angeles Times, adding that the houses should not be destroyed, but returned to him. “They keep just saying we need permanent housing, but it never happens.”

The structures, some advocates for the homeless say, are a safer, cheaper alternative to having homeless people camp on sidewalks. Connie Llanos, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s spokesperson, says the mayor is intent on getting homeless people into shelters or permanent housing. For its part, the city did not offer alternative accommodations upon seizing the houses.

Although housing choice vouchers and supportive SROs are proven solutions for housing the homeless, cities and individuals outside of L.A. are turning to tiny houses to meet demand. Last year, a Nashville pastor built six cheery, 60-square-foot tiny homes for the homeless that are parked next to his church. In Portland, Oregon, 60 people reside in Dignity Village, a community of small private homes made out of mostly recycled materials.

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