Tiny-home villages for the homeless have retained the idea of everyone having their own tiny structure to sleep and find privacy in, but have, for the most part, consolidated bathroom, kitchen, and recreational space into one or two communal buildings with some combination of plumbing, electricity, and heat. In many ways, they are a multi-roof version of the old-fashioned urban SRO (single-room occupancy) hotel or boarding house, with separate bedrooms but shared baths and kitchen, that provided the working and nonworking poor with affordable living options in so many cities before gentrification turned those properties into boutique hotels or market-rate apartments…

Heben called today’s tiny-home villages “an early example of something that’s coming,” as both environmental concerns and income inequality put pressure on low- and middle-income Americans to find ways to live more cheaply. “People see that a lot of us will be living like this in the future.”

In this regard, they may be solutions that not only alleviate homelessness, but also prevent it by creating more affordable housing. They provide an option below the lowest rungs of market rent, which in cities such as Portland and Eugene can start around $700. In the gap between such rents and low-income units (such as those subsidized by the federal Section 8 program), for which there are often long waits, homeless people often have no options except for shelters — which afford no privacy and, more vexingly, usually kick people out between early morning and late afternoon — or the streets.

To that end, Heben is helping to develop Eugene’s Emerald Village, a larger model where more sophisticated cottages will cost between $10,000 and $15,000 apiece to build and residents will have to put in up to $200 monthly but will also accrue equity in their cottages. At Opportunity, teams spent about four hours building each cottage. “It’s just putting jigsaw puzzle pieces together,” Heben said. An Emerald cottage’s shell alone will take about a day, with further construction needed to finish it out, and each one will be pre-insulated and hooked up with water and electricity.