Three dozen "tiny homes" would be built for — and with the help of — teens aging out of foster care, under a plan that advanced Monday at City Hall.
As many as 36 tiny homes would be built near E. Capitol Drive and N. Humboldt Blvd. through a partnership with developer Gorman & Co., Pathfinders Milwaukee Inc. and the Milwaukee County Housing Division.
The City Plan Commission on Monday unanimously approved rezoning the land for the project.
The tiny homes would be built on land west of the Milwaukee River owned by the Milwaukee Area Technical College on N. Humboldt Blvd. They would provide housing for young people ages 18 to 25, especially those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.
"This is a group that, if caught early enough, these are not people that need long-term permanent housing," said TimBaack, the president and CEO of Pathfinders.
Baack said the location was key because the site is only a 1-minute walk from Pathfinders' main office on N. Holton St.
The tiny homes would be single-level, between 300 to 350 square feet. Each would feature a bathroom and kitchen. As many as 12 tiny houses would be built each year, planners said.
"We thought that was particularly important for this population of young adults — who we are teaching to live independently and successfully when they complete the program and to re-integrate into the community — we thought it was important that they have essentially an apartment unit of their own that is fully functional," Baack said.
The project would provide job training opportunities for residents in trades like carpentry, plumbing and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning work. MATC students could also be involved in designing and building the homes.
The tiny homes site would also include a community garden and bike racks.
The county Housing Division and Pathfinders have been working on the project for more than a year.
The ordinance approved by the commission changes the land use zoning from industrial-light to a general planned development for residential development. A detailed plan development still needs to be approved by the commission for the project to be built.
"In the two years since we launched Housing First there has been a 40% decrease in the total number of homeless individuals living in Milwaukee County," said County Executive Chris Abele. "We've made such a great deal of progress on chronic homelessness that we can now begin to have a forward-thinking strategy on preventing homelessness, particularly with vulnerable young people. Partnerships with community organizations like Pathfinders and good business partners like Gorman will continue to be an important part of that success."
The program follows a "housing first model," said James Mathy, housing administrator for the county Housing Division. He said the county had already committed $100,000 to the development and would be able to use federal and local funds for rent subsidies.
"Housing first is based on the premise, and the evidence strongly suggests that this is true for most if not all people, that without adequate housing it becomes much more difficult if not impossible for someone to be trained and get a job and keep a job," Baack said. "So housing really needs to come first."