Sunday, December 29, 2013

Occupy Madison Build

Betty Ybarra moved into the first tiny house built by Occupy Madison (OM) Build this week.  Previously living in a tent, the 98 square foot structure is built on a trailer and includes a living space, bathroom, and kitchenette with a material cost of around $5,000.  This work by OM Build provided Ybarra with her first experience in home ownership.  But they still face a major hurdle.  Local regulations require that this tiny house, registered as an RV, move every two days.

Photo courtesy of OM Build

Similar to Opportunity Village Eugene, OM Build is a pragmatic, citizen-driven approach to housing the unhoused that has transpired since the Occupy movement of 2011.  While the movement began as an effort to draw attention to large-scale corporate greed at the national level, in Eugene, Madison, and several other cities, the protest camps quickly took on a new, local dimension after providing a safe place to be for the city's homeless population.  The projects overlap in many ways, and we had a chance to meet a few of the organizers and builders when they visited the village here in Eugene this past month.  With two structures completed thus far, their vision is to find land on which they can site a community of these affordable, tiny houses.

Their approach is unique in that it provides the unhoused with a permanent home that they can take with them.  With minimal costs to maintaining the structure, this certainly appears to be an economically sustainable way to reduce the common tendency of falling back into homelessness once securing permanent housing.

Now, Madison's zoning regulations just needs to be brought up to speed with this cost-effective response to a seemingly intractable issue.  The curb appeal of the tiny house movement just might be enough to make it happen.

The story recently received coverage on the Huffington Post: "Occupy Madison doing for homeless people what government wont do".  Also, see the video by RT America below:

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