A Los Angeles Nonprofit’s Call for Homeless Housing Solutions Draws 40 Shelter Ideas—and Counting

A Los Angeles Nonprofit’s Call for Homeless Housing Solutions Draws 40 Shelter Ideas—and Counting

By Lucy Wang
The Rapid Shelter Innovation Showcase crowdsources rapidly deployable shelters to curb growing homelessness amid the pandemic.

On any given night in Los Angeles County, more than 66,000 people are sleeping on the streets. That number is expected to grow amid rising unemployment, increasing evictions, and the pandemic’s interruption of dozens of planned homeless housing projects.

In a bid to safely bring the unhoused public indoors, Los Angeles–based nonprofit The Housing Innovation Collaborative (HICo) has launched The Rapid Shelter Innovation Showcase—an open-source, online platform for rapidly deployable shelter solutions to the homeless crisis worsened by COVID-19.

While Connect Homes may be better known for their high-end prefab designs, the prefab home builder has also launched Connect Shelters, a line of state-approved shelters aimed at addressing temporary and permanent housing needs. The flexible units—priced at $30,000 per bed—comes with individual bathrooms for each bed as well as separate plumbing and mechanical systems to prevent contamination.

Endorsed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the ambitious initiative invites anyone around the world to submit their temporary or permanent shelter designs—from conceptual prototypes to on-the-shelf products—so long as the structures can be designed, built, and operated in 90 days or less.

Produced in Los Angeles, Jupe is a flat-packed prototype "chassis" with off-grid capabilities and an estimated setup time of just two days. Each 111-square-foot modular unit can be equipped with IoT equipment and includes two beds for an estimated cost of $7,500 per bed.

Hamburg-based modular home company coodo has submitted coodo 32, the flagship series for their line of eco-friendly mobile homes. Each 322-square-foot contemporary structure has an estimated $62,500 cost per bed.

"This is a first-of-its-kind, open-sourced innovation initiative to address the homeless crisis," says Charly Ligety, a founding partner of HICo. "We seek to highlight a wide variety of solutions, from proven products and technologies adapted from prior emergency shelter applications, to the next generation of shelter concepts in their early prototype stages. We hope the Showcase helps usher in a wave of new and improved rapid shelter solutions for communities in need."

A collaboration between cityLAB and Kevin Daly Architects, the Backyard BI(h)OME is an award-winning prefabricated ADU prototype that sets up in 19 days for an estimated cost of $30,000 per unit. The micro-dwelling was first unveiled in 2015 to combat L.A.’s affordable housing shortage.

Currently, 40 shelter designs have been uploaded to the Showcase and are available for public viewing online. All entries include a cost-per-bed estimate and an approximation of the number of days needed for deployment. At the time of writing, submissions range from $195 to $125,000 per bed, a wide gulf that marks this as a first step in discerning which solutions are most viable. 

Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group, URBAN RIGGER is a scalable, floating dwelling system built from upcycled shipping containers. The first URBAN RIGGER, a floating student residence, was deployed in Copenhagen harbor in summer 2016. The estimated cost per bed is $41,667.

Boise-based indieDwell’s container-based housing offers a flexible housing solution that can be almost entirely finished off-site for a fast setup time of 18 days. The estimated cost per bed is $25,000.

"All too often, we see a communication gap between the housing industry and the people producing the most compelling and innovative ideas for new solutions," says SCI-Arc research coordinator Erik Ghenoiu. 

"The Showcase provides a platform where this much-needed conversation can take place, and a place to glimpse the future, which we can only hope will be an epochal and disruptive advancement in the business of housing production." 

New Las Vegas startup Boxabl submitted Boxabl Casita, a customizable modular ADU that costs approximately $50,000 and can be set up in just one day. The basic 375-square-foot unit is designed for up to four beds.

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