The Elk Grove City Council on May 29 unanimously voted for city staff to continue to explore the possibility of building tiny homes for homeless people in the city.
The Council also directed staff to seek details about a partnership between the city and a developer on the proposed project.
This direction came during a special council meeting, which included discussions on homeless strategies for Elk Grove.
Tiny homes, which are much smaller than standard-size homes, are typically less than 600 square feet.
Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly expressed a desire to hear more information about the tiny homes option for homeless people in the Elk Grove area.
“I think we should pursue the tiny house possibilities,” he said. “I feel like I need more information on that, but at the same time, continue to explore what we already have that works.”
Vice Mayor Darren Suen said that he would like to see a more detailed plan for tiny homes implementation, including possible sites, operations, costs, and how long people would live in them.
“The capital costs are one thing, but it’s always operations and maintenance that drags you down,” he said. “So, if we’re going to embark on something like a tiny homes model, we better be certain we know what we’re getting into in terms of operational costs.”
Council Member Pat Hume also requested more details.
“I would like to continue to explore the tiny home solution,” he said. “I would like to see a little more detail on potential models.
“I would not like to see any discussion of potential (sites), because as we saw when this was first brought up, that has the tendency to derail it straight out of the gate before you even explore what it is.”
Regarding the city’s efforts to establish traditional housing for homeless families in existing, standard-sized homes, Council Member Steve Detrick shared a concern.
“I never have been in favor of going and buying a half a million dollar home in an existing neighborhood and converting that into transitional housing,” he said. “I just don’t think that’s fair to the people that live there (in those neighborhoods).”
Detrick mentioned that he favors an all-inclusive site for housing homeless people.
He mentioned the idea of having such a place located at the old Elk Grove Airport on Grant Line Road.
“Maybe there would be a feasibility with some tax write-offs or incentives for the owner of that property to be able to have some transitional housing at that facility,” he said.
Detrick also said it is essential to determine why each person is homeless and assist the person based on the cause, whether that be finances, mental health, drug addiction or another issue. He added that the ultimate goal is to help homeless people work their way back into mainstream society and become self-sufficient.
Suen said priority should be placed on assisting homeless people with ties to Elk Grove.
Suen also praised the city’s Meadow House and Grace House transitional housing projects as proven models and said that he is also open to exploring Detrick’s idea of possibly having a homeless facility established at the airport site.
Council Member Stephanie Nguyen said that she is “highly against” permanent housing solutions.
“My idea is that it’s a temporary solution, and that we work with them to get them out of this (type of housing), so we can then bring in others,” she said.
Nguyen mentioned that one of the challenges with the homeless issue is that some people do not seek available assistance prior to becoming homeless.
“One of the things that I see happen quite often is that they don’t come to us (sooner),” she said. “It’s going to cost a whole lot more to assist them than if they came to us when they’re on the verge of becoming homeless.”
Nguyen added that there are many organizations and community members who are willing to help those who believe they could soon become homeless.
Hume stressed that he is in favor of non-permanent housing.
“I agree with Council Member Nguyen,” he said. “I don’t want to give people a safe landing spot,” he said. “I want to give them a smooth runway to take off, to go from. I don’t want them to get complacent in their station in life. Give them hope and provide for that next person who could use those services.”
It was also during the meeting that Sarah Bontrager, the city’s housing and public services manager, told the council that there are 331 homeless people living in Elk Grove.