After Legal Battle, L.A. Cracks Down on Tiny Homes for the Homeless


March 4, NPR

Tiny houses, microhomes, shacks: No matter their name, small wooden structures have become a talked-about method of combatting homelessness in cities along the West Coast. However, Los Angeles is beginning to target unauthorized structures for removal from city streets.

We’ve covered legal and ethical issues associated with microhomes recently, as the dialogue surrounding these structures heats up in Los Angeles and elsewhere. Small structures as housing for the homeless have been embraced in some cities, including Portland, whose mayor has discussed plans to build permanent tiny structures to house homeless residents. However, the appearance of un-zoned, mobile structures—each about the size of a small shed—has troubled Los Angeles officials and residents.

In August, L.A. City Council member Joe Buscaino introduced a motion to remove tiny homes from public areas in the city, citing the homes’ lack of water or sewer service, low visibility to drivers, and impact on surrounding communities. Buscaino said of the mobile structures, “These shacks are not the solution to end homelessness in our city.”

Earlier, in 2015, the L.A. City Council passed an ordinance cracking down on street encampments and allowing the seizure of “bulky” items, such as furniture, in public spaces. The L.A. senior assistant city attorney has stated that microhomes qualify as such structures, and, while the city has been slow to enforce the ordinance, removal of microhomes has picked up recently with the removal of three microhouses and the tagging of others in preparation for their confiscation.

Those supportive of the city’s actions express concerns about insulation, about proximity to restrooms and other basic measures of livability for the structures, and about L.A.’s liability should a tiny home resident become injured in a public area. A recently approved plan to increase funding for permanent supportive housing is seen by some as a better alternative for handling L.A.’s homelessness crisis.

Opponents of the removal say that microhomes offer much-needed emergency shelter for individuals living outdoors. The activist behind L.A.’s Tiny House Project, one funder of unauthorized tiny houses, has said that the need for housing is too immediate to address through the planned changes to the city’s services for homeless residents. Elvis Summers, who has built dozens of six-by-ten-foot structures for homeless people in L.A., told TakePart that, “There are human beings suffering right now. People need emergency shelter right now.”—Lauren Karch

  • Rose Webster

    It is criminal for the city to have confiscated and destroyed three of these Tiny Homes. The “city” is not above the law. When citizens invest their own money to help others, the city has no legal right to relabel someone’s property (that has been gifted to them) as “bulk trash.”

    “Public property is property that is dedicated to public use and is a subset of state property.” The homeless ARE members of the public too; not vermin, not criminals. (Approximately 1 in 4 are US veterans who served to protect our freedoms).

    The Tiny Homes have a two windows and eight vents. So the city’s claim they are not ventilated or safe enough is ridiculous. How can sleeping under a bush or on a park bench be “safer”?

    It’s outrageous that the city is concerned about “liability [money] should a tiny home resident become injured in a public area” but NOT concerned about homeless people dying in the street.

    Ammendment 4 of the Bill of Rights,”The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”


    Ammendmen 5 of the Bill of Rights, “No person… shall be be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

    Plus, the city has violated the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights Articles 1, 5, 12, 17, 24, 25, 29, and 30.

    It is not criminal to be homeless. And property, however small, is still legal property.

    This egregious act against humanity will cost the city much more of taxpayers money than simply working with Summers would have been. He and his team have been trying to work WITH the city all along.

    Want to help? Sign our petition (from anywhere in the world):

  • blue crane

    Damned if we do something to help those less fortunate and damned if we don’t. There is a large sector of our country that simply wants these people swept away to some mystical land where they will remain unseen and uncared for. Take the tents away, take the tiny houses away, outlaw sleeping on public lands, outlaw panhandling, gentrify the SROs, vilify and ridicule and blame the victims of an economic system that seems to reward only the elite: And then call it a Christian country.