Tiny houses have emerged in the past decade as a promising way to house more homeless people for less money. Now the idea has gained a powerful proponent in the billionaire California real estate developer John Sobrato, who unveiled a proposal this month to build 200 micro-apartments for homeless and low-income renters in Santa Clara.
Sobrato, who has spent much of his career building office space for many of Silicon Valley's technology giants, asked the Santa Clara City Council for exclusive negotiating rights to lease a 2.5-acre plot of city-owned land, three miles south of the San Francisco 49ers football stadium and currently leased to a Hyundai dealership. His plan for the lot calls for a mix of 160- and 240-square-foot units, large enough for a kitchenette and bathroom with shower, which he said could be fashioned out of repurposed shipping containers.
"I think it's time to turn my attention to creating a very cost-effective solution to housing the homeless and very low-income people," Sobrato said at a Dec. 6 meeting of the Council, video of which is posted online. "Instead of sleeping in a pup tent or under an overpass, Santa Clara homeless folks will have a clean, dignified, safe place to call home."