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Is small beautiful or another trap?

I am in two minds about the latest attempt by the city of Seattle in Washington State, USA, to tackle homelessness.

I am in two minds about the latest attempt by the city of Seattle in Washington State, USA, to tackle homelessness. it has built a number of ‘tiny house’ estates where people who were previously in hotels or other unsuitable and expensive accommodation can live either for free or for very little while getting back on their feet.

An article in Yes! magazine described how this has saved a troubled family, allowing them to live in affordable accommodation with their baby while searching for work. it seems as if the centres are clean and well-run; there is a communal kitchen and residents can work in the security office.

So what’s not to like? Well, as so often with clever architectural solutions to housing problems, it isn’t about the housing. This isn’t a lovely development, it isn’t really a piece of city, it isn’t much more than a collection of garden sheds. But that might not matter. If the residents are really getting support, if this will be part of a process of finding them sustainable homes that they can afford and that are of a decent size, it will be a great initiative. If, on the other hand it becomes a dumping ground, a way of sweeping people off the streets to somewhere less visible, then it could in the longer term offer more misery than hope.

Ruth Slavid

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