Sixty-four square feet isn’t much. But when that space has a roof, walls, a door, and a lock, it’s a big step up for someone living on the street. It’s also the square footage of the micro-homes on display on Granville Island until November 14, as part of the design project undertaken by industrial design students from Emily Carr University and students from the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Advanced Wood Processing program.
With a recent Supreme Court ruling in Victoria giving the homeless some protection from vagrancy laws and Victoria council just as quickly coming up with stop-gap bylaws to prevent tent cities in their parks, we clearly need to do more than fight in the courts over a person’s right to protect themselves from the elements. Solutions such as Homes For Less may not be the ultimate answer to homelessness, but it’s a creative solution worth trying. Not only could these small spaces serve the homeless, they could also make ideal summer cabins, home offices, or individual living spaces for intentional communities. It’s easy to imagine a savvy entrepreneur, turning these designs into a profitable, eco-friendly niche market. If a commercial market for micro-houses could help finance initiatives (perhaps through royalties or licensing fees) to give homeless individuals an option more palatable than tents in parks, or dangerous, crowded shelters, the students behind this project will have clearly demonstrated the truth inherent in the most-time honoured principle of design. Less is more. In this case, more homes and less needless suffering.