Tiny homes are unlikely to exist in a Chattanooga homeless encampment after a zoning delay

Chattanooga’s board has postponed a request to temporarily place 10 tiny homes in a sanctioned homeless encampment at 12th Street and Peebles Avenue, which the applicant said makes it unlikely the project will go ahead on time.

“This is probably not mathematically possible or practical,” Joseph Basel, owner of tiny home developer Practical Revolution, said in an interview after the meeting. “It doesn’t make sense to do all this work to help people for just a week or two when the same amount of effort could be put into a larger, more permanent zoning request.”

The project must receive a special permit from the Board of Appeals before returning to the commission for consideration, Dallas Rucker, director of the city’s land development office, said during Thursday’s downtown zoning commission meeting. The Downtown Zoning Board voted to postpone the item pending approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

(Read more: Chattanooga officials, groups see need for more supportive housing to combat homelessness)

Basel intended to replace 10 of the tents in the sanctioned camp with structures that he said contained heating, windows, electrical outlets and closed doors. The project would also have served as a demonstration for organizations interested in placing tiny company homes elsewhere in the city.

Even if approved, the units will only be at the camp until February 1, when the city intends to officially close the site. Officials are working to move residents into permanent housing and are not accepting more people into the camp.

There were 33 people living in the camp in August, although this has since decreased to about 20 people. Of those, six people are on a waiting list for housing through the Chattanooga Housing Authority. The city expects to have all current residents placed in permanent housing by February 1.

“It was already limited in scope due to the temporary nature of the site timeline, so we will move to a larger vision, and stakeholders will have to visit other communities to see these solutions,” Basel said. “If it were up to me, we would move to a zoning application that is viable in the long term.”

Practical Revolution has worked on other small home projects across the United States, according to the company’s website. The company said it hopes to build up to 50,000 homes in Southern California and is negotiating land for several villages around Washington, D.C.

(Read more: Chattanooga faces questions, doubts about low-barrier homeless shelter site)

Basil said there are a lot of people sleeping outside in Chattanooga, and he intends to focus his energy on a larger project.

“I have a pregnant friend who will be sleeping in a tent tonight because we are struggling to have this conversation in a practical way from a regulatory standpoint,” Basel said. “It’s very natural. One of the biggest reasons we have this problem is because of the zoning laws over the last 50 to 70 years. We haven’t built or allowed the bottom third of the supply curve to be built for practical housing.”

Contact David Floyd at dfloyd@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.

picture CONTRIBUTED PHOTO / Practical Revolution had hoped to place 10 temporary tiny homes in an approved homeless encampment at 12th Street and Peebles Avenue in Chattanooga. The camp is scheduled to close in February.

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