The City of Oakland is facing both a housing shortage and a homeless crisis. The Pocket House is a prototype designed for the City of Oakland and built by the students of Laney Community College.
Nation wide, up to 14% of community college students experience homelessness, and at Laney College the percentage is estimated to be much higher. California has the highest number of people experiencing homelessness in the country and the City of Oakland has declared a shelter crisis.
The cost of homelessness can be high; the City of San Francisco spends $80,000 per person per year in police, ambulance, hospital and emergency services for the chronically homeless. At less than half of this annual cost, the Pocket House has the potential to save the city emergency services fees, while enabling a lease to own model within the economic means of many people experiencing homelessness.
New bills and changing accessory dwelling unit regulations have opened the door for innovative housing solutions. Recent Assembly Bill 932 will expedite local approval of temporary supportive shelters on public land; the bill creates a pilot program allowing cities to adopt local standards for housing habitability, zoning and construction approval for temporary homeless shelters.
Constructed through a joint effort between Laney College students and staff, the Pocket House was developed using collaborative software to be a reconfigurable, iterative model.
The homeless crisis will not be solved by architecture. The success of the project hinges on participation. The inclusion of students in the production of these houses in addition to the development of a coalition of politicians, policy makers and community members is the first step in developing a project that exists, not only as an object, but as a movement.