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Could tiny homes be the solution to sheltering Chicago’s homeless?

Tiny homes are more than a design fad, they could be a practical solution to a social need

Tiny homes have been all the rage in the last few years for design-focused millennials looking to live with less. They’re affordable, practical, and give younger folks with less means a sense of ownership that is otherwise not possible with traditional homes. However, some believe that tiny homes could also help those who are in need of shelter the most: Chicago’s homeless population. According to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, there were nearly 126,000 homeless in Chicago during the 2014-2015 school year—a substantial number of people who need help. This year, AIA Chicago and Pride Action Tank helped lead design contests and design summits to further explore the use of tiny homes in Chicago to help shelter homeless youth. According to AIA Chicago, more than 250 submissions were received for this year’s Tiny Homes Chicago competition.

These contests and summits weren’t just for show, nonprofit groups and designers want to see these projects come to life. However, costs and the city’s existing zoning rules could prove to be a challenge to groups looking to build tiny homes for the needy. Chicago Tiny Home Summit panelist and zoning attorney Danielle Cassel tells the Tribune that it’s difficult to come up with innovative solutions when we’re living in a "regulated world." However, the city is aware of such plans and appears to be receptive, architect Jeff Bone of Landon Bone Baker Architects tells the Tribune. And to help keep costs down, some designers have looked to solar power and salvaged materials to help construct and power the tiny shelters.