A Chattanooga board has postponed a request to temporarily place 10 tiny homes in a sanctioned homeless camp at 12th and Peeples streets, which the applicant said makes it unlikely the project can proceed in the allotted time.
"It's probably not mathematically possible or practical," Joseph Basel, the owner of tiny home developer Practical Revolution, said in an interview after the meeting. "It doesn't make sense to do all of that work to only help people for a week or two when the same amount of effort could be put into a larger, more permanent zoning request."
Dallas Rucker, director of the city's Land Development Office, said during the downtown zoning committee meeting Thursday the project would have to get a special permit from an appeals board before returning to the panel for consideration. The downtown zoning board voted to defer the item pending approval from the zoning appeals board.
Basel had intended to replace 10 of the sanctioned camp's existing tents with the structures, which he said have heat, windows, electrical outlets and locking doors. The project would have also acted as a demonstration for organizations interested in placing the company's tiny homes elsewhere in the city.
Even if approved, the units would have only been at the camp until Feb. 1, which is when the city intends to formally close the site. Officials are in the process of moving the residents into permanent housing and are not accepting anymore people at the camp.
There were 33 people living in the camp in August, although that has since decreased to about 20. Of those, six are in the queue for a housing placement through the Chattanooga Housing Authority. The city anticipates all existing residents will be placed in permanent housing by Feb. 1.
"It was already very limited in scope by the nature of the temporary timeline of the site, so we'll just move to a bigger vision, and stakeholders will have to visit other communities to see these solutions," Basel said. "If it's up to me, we'll just skip ahead to a viable, long-term zoning request."
Practical Revolution has worked on other tiny home projects across the United States, according to the company's website. It hopes to build up to 50,000 homes in Southern California and is negotiating on land for multiple villages around Washington, D.C., the company said.
Basel said there are too many people sleeping outside in Chattanooga, and he intends to focus his energy on a larger project.
"I have a pregnant friend who's going to sleep in a tent tonight because we are struggling having this conversation in a practical manner from a regulatory standpoint," Basel said. "It's very normal. One of the biggest reasons that we're in this problem is because of zoning laws over the last 50 to 70 years. We have not built or allowed to be built the bottom third of the supply curve of practical housing."